The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Friday launched an open access online climate risk profiling and adaptation tool – the Green Book – to assist municipalities across South Africa to assess their climate risks and implement adaptation measures to develop climate resilient human settlements.
Speaking at the launch, in Pretoria, CSIR senior researcher and project lead Willemien van Niekerk said that the online tool was initially planned as a research book, but evolved into a website.
“What we have today is better than what we started with.”
This tool is the manifestation of a three-year project.
The launch also coincided with International Women's Day. High Commission of Canada international cooperation head Jen Cooper highlighted this as fitting, as the research team that developed the tool included 30 women, more than half of the team.
Van Niekerk indicated that the tool is intended to be an applied knowledge resource for municipalities to address climate change impacts and vulnerabilities in human settlements.
National Disaster Management Centre chief director Ane Bruwer emphasised the importance of this tool for South Africa, stating that the country was susceptible to an array of negative climate change consequences.
“The objective is to assist decision-makers in the local government sphere to better understand the consequences of climate change, and how to respond.”
“The ultimate goal of the Green Book is to contribute to resilient, sustainable and liveable human settlements through climate change adaptation.”
The Green Book is an interdisciplinary effort that combined the expertise of researchers in climatology, demography, disaster risk sciences, environmental sciences, geography, informatics, urban planning, economics, ecology, architecture, anthropology, hydrology and statistics.
The multidisciplinary nature of the tool, combined with the high-resolution scientific evidence, makes this an information-dense research platform about disaster risk and climate adaptation planning on the African continent.
The Green Book forecasts human settlement growth, along with providing quantitative, scientific evidence of the likely impacts that climate change will have on South African towns and cities, up to 2050.
Every settlement risk profile proposes customisable adaptation actions to be considered for integration into local plans and strategies.
It offers illustrative examples of how to adapt to the impacts of climate change as essential components of urban development and management. It also reinforces the idea that sustainable development in urban areas must include disaster risk reduction and climate change actions to reduce vulnerabilities.
The Green Book is structured into three main components.
The first component is a series of interactive national story maps. The user is able to browse through these story maps to learn more about the research methodology, findings and recommendations, as well as to access the technical reports and interactive datasets.
The second component is the municipal Risk Profile Tool – an interactive tool that grounds the adaptation process in scientific evidence of the risks each local municipality in South Africa is likely to face under a changing climate by 2050.
The Risk Profile Tool provides dynamic risk profiles for each municipality and its associated human settlements.
These profiles provide information on vulnerabilities; population projections; exposure to climate hazards; and the impacts of climate change on some of South Africa’s municipalities’ key resources.
The third component is the municipal Adaptation Actions Tool – an interactive platform to support adaptation planning in local municipalities. The Adaptation Actions Tool provides a range of planning and design actions for municipalities to consider, to adapt their human settlements and environments to the likely impacts of climate change, to climate proof their settlements, and to reduce their exposure and vulnerability to hazards, and thus the risk of disaster.
The Green Book also provides information on adaptation planning at a local government level. This includes information on why it is important to plan for climate change; how to deal with uncertainty; and the mechanisms that support climate change adaptation, such as disaster risk reduction, funding mechanisms, capacity building and raising awareness, as well as monitoring and evaluation.
The Green Book contributes to the climate change adaptation policy environment in South Africa.
In addition to the stakeholders and peer reviewers involved in the project, more than 50 researchers from multiple domains and disciplines contributed to the Green Book project.
The development of the Green Book was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada and from the CSIR’s internal funding. The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) was also a partner on the project.
The Department of Environmental Affairs, the NDMC and Santam have, meanwhile, committed to partner with the CSIR on Phase 2 of the Green Book.
“This phase will focus on rolling out the Green Book for implementation in [those] municipalities [that are] most at risk; identifying gaps in research and development of this kind; and building capacity of officials and departments to deal with climate change adaptation.
“Given the risks, there is a great need for proactive investment in disaster risk reduction in South African urban settlements in order to cope with increasing extreme events in future,” said Van Niekerk.
The Green Book, its resources and tools can be accessed online at www.greenbook.co.za