SA’s climate response needs to be measured against real actions and impact

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

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

Published Feb 7, 2024


By Blessing Manale

2024 will be an interesting year as we go into the national and provincial general election, with barometers of various calibration as we dissect the performance appraisal of the 6th Administration under President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also Chairperson of the Presidential Climate Commission.

This appraisal will be about the past five years, but more about the next five years. But it will not be about how we as a country and our government has over the last five years performed in responding to the global climate crisis and its devastating impacts on our growth, development, and national security.

We will be lucky if it is mainstreamed as a factor in the economic development and social cohesion elements of the manifestos of the various political parties and candidates – after all mother earth won’t be at the polls balloting for the next government.

Despite this stark reality of the non-existent or ignored relation between the body-politic and our climate response, our development challenges, growth ambition and national security are hinged on the climate, energy, and poverty nexus.

We need a real account of all and sundry.

The just transition agenda is new when compared with other development/climate policy spheres. Accordingly, tracking progress towards the transition are not yet well defined. South Africa could emerge as a thought leader, building on SA’s credible reputation and leadership in broader climate reporting, monitoring, and evaluation.

Conventionally, over the past few decades, monitoring and evaluation has focused on “interventions” – policies, programmes, projects, or initiatives, which have developmental aims. It provides evidence about the merit or value of an intervention, to inform decision-making with the aim of furthering developmental goals.

As the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) we will release our debut the State of Real Climate Action Report in April this year, tracking not just climate action but tracking the Just Transition (JT) to a local and granular approach, examining areas such as the Justice elements of our transition and climate action, for example, procedural, distributive, restorative, the impact e.g., employment/jobs, funding (private and public, and impact), skills, innovation, local community economic effects/economic diversification, labour market shifts, Air Quality disease burden, household expenditure on food, fuel levy dividend decrease, disaster collateral damage, just to mention a few.

Communities must bear the evidence of our actions.

An effective JT must consider the differentiated sectoral needs of communities and workers who are adversely affected by climate change, and the geopolitics of low-carbon transition.

As the PCC we are designing a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for Climate Action and such monitoring and evaluation, and reporting further argues that such must be ‘socially owned’, generating evidence for all stakeholders.

It should complement existing monitoring and evaluation efforts through a justice-driven, transformative evaluation approach incorporating evaluative evidence from a broad range of methods, including those generated by communities.

We must report our action as unions, government, and industry in improving the livelihoods of workers in specific sectors and how it could be affected by droughts, floods or extreme weather events, and therefore specific vulnerable sectors must adapt and build resilience to climate change. Justice and vulnerability lie at the heart of our climate action, and monitoring and evaluation of performance information.

Our State of Climate Action report has chosen indicators needed to reflect the need to protect vulnerable communities against the impacts of climate change and devastating weather events across the country, as well as take into consideration the changing economies of cities and towns as they adapt to energy transition across multiple sectors.

Tracking our mitigation efforts

The structural economic changes we must make to decarbonise are significant and have consequences for communities around the country. The failure to transition can lead to job losses, weakening institutions, and physical dereliction of infrastructure.

The rate of climate change surged alarmingly between 2011- 2020, which was the warmest decade on record, and once more proven that climate interventions require sound evaluative evidence to inform decision-making.

However, it has been clearly argued in the literature for over a decade, that conventional monitoring and evaluation tools and approaches are in many ways inappropriate for climate change related initiatives – Hence we in the PCC look forward to the release of the Real State of Climate Action Report next month.

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