_: Programme Director,
Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba,
Secretary of the National Planning Commission, Dr Ismail Lagardien,
Deputy Secretary General of WMO, Mr Jerry Lengoasa,
CEO of the South African Weather Service, Dr Linda Makuleni,
Delegates from different countries,
Officials from various departments and organisations,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to extend our warm greetings to all the delegates on behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African Weather Service, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Republic of South Africa. I hope that our visiting delegates have enjoyed the hospitality and tranquility since their arrival in South Africa.
It is gratifying to be part of the road map towards the National Implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) workshop. The approval of the GFCS Implementation Plan at the WMO Extraordinary Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2012, mandated WMO Member States to establish supporting frameworks for climate services at national level.
In response to this mandate, South Africa acknowledges the collective response to the impacts of climate change as guided by the Cabinet approved National Climate Change Response Policy which presents South Africa’s vision for an effective climate change response towards a just transition to a climate resilient and lower carbon economy and society.
I understand that South Africa is one of the countries at the forefront of the implementation of the GFCS, and while we congratulate the WMO and the South African Weather Service, it is my sincere hope that through this workshop, the firsts steps towards a continuous assessment and improvement of climate-related services will be crafted by the South African Weather Service, and also all other institutions present here today, that are relevant to the supply of climate services to our country.
The role that the government, through the South African Weather Service, plays in the adaptation to climate change is becoming increasingly important. The South African Weather Service is one of Government’s essential scientific institutions, providing information and services that have a direct impact on the lives of citizens and their properties, contributing greatly to sustainable development in South Africa.
In light of this, the South African Government would like to commend the World Meteorological Organisation for bringing the necessity of improved and expanded climate and weather-related services, in light of the challenges posed by climate change, to the forefront through the development and implementation of the GFCS. The GFCS speaks to the core of service delivery of weather services around the globe.
With the evident increase in the variability of the weather, South Africa finds itself in a position where it must not only adapt to more severe weather and climate conditions, but also be prepared in terms of potential weather disasters.
During normal season cycles, droughts and floods are inevitable, but the increase in severe weather continues to create more and larger weather and climate disasters than ever before.
Over the past year, South Africa experienced the full impact of severe weather, when, amongst others, veldt fires raged over the Western Cape, and flooding, causing intense damage to property, occurred over the Vhembe District in the Limpopo province. The level of damage in these areas placed a huge economic burden on these regions’ future development and, particularly in Vhembe, the destruction of infrastructure led to intense misery among the community.
In order to be prepared for potential weather and climate disasters, South Africa needs to embrace the various programmes of different national and provincial departments, but most importantly, in the National Development Plan. This Plan acknowledges the probable consequences of climate change to our economy and the well-being of our citizens, and calls for, amongst others, an independent climate change centre, which will serve as a repository of all climate change-related information.
This will then be a source for the public and private sector to make informed decisions regarding the actions required to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
This meeting comes at a critical time of implementation of the National Climate Change Response Policy. The Policy, adopted by Cabinet in October 2011 after a 5 year consultation process, sets out South Africa’s vision for an effective climate change response and long-term, just transition to a climate-resilient and lower-carbon economy and society. It also sets out the strategic objectives for South Africa’s climate change response:
Firstly to effectively manage inevitable climate change impacts through interventions that build and sustain South Africa’s social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity.
Secondly, to make a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations within a timeframe that enables economic, social and environmental development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
This is the policy framework that guides South Africa’s collective effort in responding to climate change and its impacts. It confirms that a successful response requires active partnership with all stakeholder groups, across the spheres and tiers of government, and with the people of South Africa. It recognises that climate change is a global challenge that requires action at international, regional, sub-regional, national and local level.
In summary, the policy calls for all hands to be on deck as we build and transition to lower carbon and climate resilient economy and society, in the context of South Africa’s development priorities. This means that we need to prioritise climate change responses that have significant mitigation and adaptation benefits as well as significant economic growth, job creation, public health, risk management and poverty eradication benefits.
Future climate trends are uncertain and the uncertainty rises steeply over the longer term. This means that as we plan to adapt to the impacts of climate change, we must be able to adjust to changing circumstances and time-frames. So South Africa needs to plan flexibly for a wide range of possible responses.
It requires effective planning for short, medium and long term responses, including (i) early warning and forecasting for disaster risk reduction; (ii) medium term climate forecasting; as well as (iii) long term climate projections that define the range of future climate conditions.
The Global Framework on Climate Services and its operationalisation nationally, provides a useful basis for coordination of climate services to support South Africa’s disaster risk reduction and emergency response work.
An increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will put strain on public resources. In response, more effective disaster management will require improved early warning systems, and improved collaboration with our neighbouring states to share early warning systems that have regional applications and benefits.
We need improved meteorological data and science that firstly enables: early warning systems, secondly enables planning for emergency response; and thirdly provides the information base that enables the prediction of slow onset events. This is the arena for discussions in the next 4 days on the operationalisation of the Global Framework for Climate Services.
To digress briefly to the medium and longer term adaptation response that is directed by the National Climate Change Response Policy. Work is underway to define Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) under plausible future climate conditions and development pathways. This is a complex task which requires the projection of climate change impacts for sectors and an evaluation of their socio-economic implications.
So far this work has focussed on water, agriculture and forestry, human health, marine fisheries, and biodiversity sectors. The process attempted as far as possible to build on past and current research and ongoing sector adaptation planning. Key messages emanating from the LTAS are that climate change will have a significant impact on our health, water and food security.
Extreme events accompanied by disasters are a major concern to our livelihoods. Therefore, key decisions in development planning would benefit from considering the implications of a range of possible climate-water futures facing South Africa. This includes setting up early warning systems, disaster management centres and response measures to address any extreme event or climate change related challenges.
In conclusion, as South Africa seeks to strengthen its capacity for effective planning and co-ordination of an integrated adaptation response, the Global Framework for Climate Services provides a useful framework for enhancing access to data and information for decision-making.
The focus should be on promoting early warning, planning for emergency response, and providing the information base for responding to slow onset events such as shifting rainfall patterns. The key issue is reducing the vulnerability of society to climate-related hazards and mainstreaming the use of climate information in decision-making.
I wish you well during the deliberations on the road map towards the implementation of the Global Framework on Climate Services.