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Coalition formed to tackle climate change challenges

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Dr Andrew Muir.                              Photo:SUPPLIED
Dr Andrew Muir. Photo:SUPPLIED

THE Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has established a business coalition to positively impact the city’s response to its projected climate change challenges.

This follows an outcome of its Think Tank initiative, which saw Dr Andrew Muir, a well-respected environmentalist who leads the Wilderness Foundation Africa, being requested to conduct a rapid assessment to assess how climate change will impact Nelson Mandela Bay. Muir actively serves on the chamber’s board as its immediate past president.

Given his findings, the chamber has decided to establish an Eastern Cape Climate Change Coalition to be led by Muir.

The Business Chamber president, Loyiso Dotwana, Chamber CEO Denise van Huyssteen, Volkswagen South Africa CEO, Dr Robert Cisek, and Jacques Vermeulen, the CEO of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, will support him in this role.

“While COVID-19 has radically changed the environment in which business operates, climate change is likely to do the same.

“It is for this reason that we have decided to establish this organised body to begin lobbying all relevant stakeholders to collaborate in taking a more proactive approach in reining in some of the potential climate change impacts, but also to change ways of operating to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our environment.

“As we move forward, our intention is for this to become an effective and active multistakeholder platform,” Muir said.

The study provides an outlook from 2021-2040, and highlights the impact that extreme storm surges, rising sea levels and temperature increases will have on Nelson Mandela Bay.

“Among the key areas of concern is the potential scarcity of water in the years to come, especially for the increasing number of residents in informal settlements. It also delves into the potential collapse of coral reefs and other marine and coastal tourist attractions such as penguin, shark and whale watching, which will negatively impact the tourism and maritime sectors.

“As such, a metro-based climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy must be developed and implemented. We need to put a multistakeholder climate task team in place, which should comprise participation from the municipality, the provincial government, the university, business stakeholders, youth formations, women’s groups and others, to urgently address this threat to our city,” he said. Some of the proposed action plans include spatial land-use planning which must be adapted to prohibit or restrict new construction or infrastructure along areas predicted to be affected by sea-level rise and or flooding.

“It also suggests that the municipality should ring fence vacant land that might be at risk of climate change impacts free from development.

Furthermore, Muir recommends that the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and the Municipality’s initiative of Adopt a Sub-Station should be expanded to include other vital infrastructure such as roads and water to limit the impact of infrastructural damage due to storm surges.

“The city must have by-laws related to mandatory rainwater harvesting for all new developments and dwellings. Incentives and guidelines for businesses and homeowners should be in place to enable the reuse and recycling of water wherever possible and also to encourage food gardens for food security.

He said that an important measure to deal with rising sea-levels and storm surges would be to be to install and increase the number of soft buffers such as rehabilitating coastal dunes with dune vegetation and giant sandbags.

“Additionally the Baakens River Valley, Swartkops and other river systems in Nelson Mandela Bay must be cleared of all alien vegetation to act as a local carbon sink and natural barrier to flooding events and thereby mitigate damage to nearby built-up areas.”

The procurement of local renewable energy will also become essential to reduce the impact of extreme weather events in terms of damage to power grids and other bulk infrastructure. “This also offers the opportunity to grow local businesses and keep local money circulating.”

Muir said the next step would be to engage with the relevant stakeholders and ensure that there is a common understanding of the serious threat which climate change poses to the province and city. “Once this alignment has happened, we need to implement the required actions and urgently begin to adapt and strengthen the capabilities of our city to withstand the impact of climate change.”


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