One of the Durban Local History Museum’s project, the Amandla Liberation Heritage Route, celebrates sites and icons of our struggle for freedom and democracy in Durban and South Africa more broadly. This focus on space and place is important in remembering and preserving our City’s past. The City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) looks to the future and encourages us to take action in the present.
On the 3rd of September 2020, Durban mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, launched the eThekwini Municipality’s CAP at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre. It aims to mitigate the effects of climate change by adhering to the Paris Agreement, which was signed in 2015 by nearly every country in the world. It stipulates the measures governments need to take to stop the effects of climate change that threaten all life on earth.
While the CAP has been officially launched this year, the city adopted it last year and has begun taking action by doing things like installing solar panels on government buildings (Old Fort Road, the Metro Police Building) and ‘green roofing’ on Monty Naicker Street, which reduces the temperature of buildings and manages storm-water runoff. There have also been successful reforestation efforts such as at Buffelsdraai, and the ongoing Sihlanzimvelo river- and stream-cleaning project.
The city plans to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, 80% by 2050 and to construct a “smart electricity grid” by 2050 that will incorporate renewable energy sources and provide electricity more safely and efficiently. By this time, 50% of citizens should be using more carbon-friendly public transport and have increased access to locally-produced food thereby building food security and reducing waste.
The historic launch of Durban’s CAP makes it the first megacity in Africa to commit to a climate mitigation plan that follows the Paris Agreement, and one of only 12 countries worldwide to do so thus far. Durban’s plan is centered on nine ‘thematic areas’; including local food production, renewable energy sources, public transport, clean-ups of polluted areas like rivers, reforestation efforts, amongst others.
In 2019, Durban city was named the greenest city in the world by the first Husqvarna Urban Green Space Index (HUGSI), which measures the proportion of ‘green areas’ in a city, the health of those areas, and also takes into account other projects and measures taken by a city to increase the presence of greenery. The Husqvarna Index states that Durban has 185.8 m2 of green space per capita, and that 60% of the total area of Durban city itself is made up of green space. Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, Deputy Head of Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries for eThekwini Municipality at the time, said that the result was due to the city’s efforts to plant 80% indigenous trees and 20% ‘exotic’ trees.
The Climate Action Plan launched this year is, in many ways, an historic event as we have seen increasingly severe and deadly climate change events; the wildfires in Brazil and the United States, flooding, drought, and locust swarms in southern Africa, the continuing degradation and melting of ice caps and glaciers, and the fact that temperatures have risen so much in recent years that the blizzards and snows of the north pole have turned into rains. Actions like Durban’s adoption of the Paris Agreement as a guiding principle for governance is essential if human life – and all life – is to survive the effects of climate change. Durban has therefore written itself into history by being one of the world-leading cities in this push towards caring for the impact we humans have had on the world.