Climate Response Fund should significantly impact disaster response landscape in SA

Floods in Franschhoek, Western Cape, last year. Picture: Armand Hough Independent Newspapers

Floods in Franschhoek, Western Cape, last year. Picture: Armand Hough Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 21, 2024


By Blessing Manale

Natural disasters already cost our country hundreds of millions every year and will continue to escalate over the coming years and decades as the frequency and intensity of these disasters increases due to climate change. The costs of these are borne by individuals, communities, and government at all levels.

The window of opportunity to address the climate crisis is closing fast. We are in a state of permanent disaster and at the tip of an existential calamity. This is but true only if we do not act now, with the appropriate political will, financial resources, the right policy instruments and mobilisation of all South Africans and our development partners.

Delivering the last State of the Nation Address (Sona) of the sixth administration, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the decision by the government to establish a Climate Change Response Fund to counter the severe effect of global warming and climate change, which manifest themselves through persistent floods, fires and droughts, and consequently devastate our ability to grow our economy and sustain our livelihoods.

As a commission, we welcomed the establishment of the Climate Response Fund as this response could not have come at a more appropriate time, as we continue to confront the devastating effect of climate change on our environment and its impact on infrastructure, lives and livelihoods.

In the light of our previous calls for increased domestic and international funding for climate action, we commit to actively support the fund mechanism, input on how it can carry its functions efficiently and independently.

The fund should complement mitigation finance

In the context of South Africa’s fiscal challenges, it is clear that most decarbonisation, adaptation, and resilience investments will be by the private sector. However, most of the adaptation response is not going to fund itself in the same way, mainly because of their less commercial value and higher proportions of grant finance.

Taking our cue from our current Just Transition Finance Mechanism conceptualisation, we need to immediately address challenges such as a lack of common understanding of what constitutes climate disaster beyond the immediate weather-related events, co-ordination gaps as well as financial and economic barriers.

We believe that the Climate Response Fund would complement the Just Energy Transition Implementation Plan (JET-IP), which is targeted at climate mitigation investments rather than adaptation efforts, and thus ensure that climate-related loss and damage funding does not become an unsustainable funding stream for municipalities and provinces’ disaster-management mandate.

We need a transformative fund

The fund should be fully conceptualised as an all-of-society response to the escalating risk of climate disaster, which accounts for the largest percentage of losses in South Africa’s disaster risk landscape.

We envisage the fund will bring together all spheres of government and the private sector in a collaborative effort to build our resilience and respond to the impacts of climate change, to support the development of early-warning systems, as well as for adaptation projects to improve the climate resiliency of infrastructure amid the growing threats posed by extreme weather events.

Lessons from the Covid-19 Solidarity Fund demonstrate how when facing a common, clear, and present danger, we as South Africa are able to mobilise financial contributions, rally communities to volunteer, bring on the private sector and secure the solidarity of our international partners.

The fund could achieve this through direct interventions, partnerships, and the introduction of market-changing and innovative initiatives, similar to those our country have deployed for its Covid-19 response and other challenges we had in the past.

Beyond being a disbursement mechanism, the fund provides opportunity for innovation in disaster management and climate resilience in improving climate response quotients at local government level and establishing an understanding of the role of the private sector to support early-warning and disaster responses.

The potential for disaster management and improved climate resilience, particularly for local government and non-state actors, must be explored through this fund.

As the first-ever fund of this nature, the Climate Response Fund should herald transformative climate action in our country through a country-owned partnership that integrates the various climate change and disaster efforts to ensure that response measures and resources are spread systemically.

Blessing Manale is the head of Communications and Outreach – Presidential Climate Commission.