New Report: ‘Insurance in a Changing Risk Landscape: Local Lessons from the Southern Cape of South Africa’

A recent research study was conducted by the CSIR, Santam, the Centre of Criminology, University of Cape Town and WWF in the Southern Cape titled “Insurance in a Changing Risk Landscape: Local Lessons from the Southern Cape of South Africa”. The objectives of the study were to understand how changes in Eden’s landscape were affecting current and future risk exposure to wild fire, flood and sea storm; and to understand how best the insurance industry could respond to ensure its own viability, as well as build the resilience of the socio-ecological system as a whole.

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Editorial by David Sattherthwaite: ‘Why is community action needed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation?’

Extract:  When disasters happen, the speed and effectiveness of response depends very heavily on local organizations that represent the needs  of those most impacted and most vulnerable. As the paper by Jorgelina Hardoy, Gustavo Pandiella and Luz Stella Velásquez Barrero notes, it is atthe local or neighbourhood level that disasters happen, lives and livelihoods are lost, houses and infrastructure damaged or destroyed, and health and education compromised. It is also at the local level that many of the disaster risks can be addressed before disasters occur. Much of the responsibility for disaster risk reduction falls to local governments and much of the death and destruction from disasters shows up the failings of local government. The success of post-disaster actions is also to a large extent determined by pre-disaster planning and awareness and readiness within local government and civil society organizations. In this way, community action and partnerships with local government are central not just to minimizing risk but also in responding to impact and shaping recovery in ways that can strengthen local livelihoods and quality of life.

Full Citation: Sattherthwaite, D. (2011). Why is community action needed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation? Environment & Urbanization, 23 (2): 339-349 (Full article available with subscription at:

New Article – ‘Applying a conservation-criminology framework to common-pool natural-resource issues’

Abstract: Protection and management of common-pool natural resources are an international focus of government agencies and nongovernmental organizations. There is concern that an emphasis on protection has inadvertently led to the disenfranchisement of local stakeholders by prohibiting access to natural resources that they have traditionally relied upon. Management of these resources by state actors without local input has exacerbated the social and economic marginalization of poor and/or minority populations, leading to traditional interactions with natural resources being labeled as deviant or criminal. The complex nature of this issue, which lies at the nexus of natural-resource management, criminology and risk, makes it difficult to explore using a disciplinary view. The theoretical concept of conservation criminology is well suited to serve as a framework for this wicked problem. We examine the strain between resource management, environmental protection and local stakeholders’ rights via a case study (Abalone fishery in South Africa) using conservation criminology as a theoretical structure.

Full Citation: Rivers III, L. and Gibbs, G. (2011). Applying a conservation-criminology framework to common-pool natural-resource issues. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 35 (4): 327-346 (Full article available for download with subscription at: 

New Article – ‘Climate Change and Food Security in Southern African Cities’

Summary: This paper explores the links between climate change and food security within the context of the urban transition taking place in Southern Africa. Researchers, planners and policymakers in Southern African cities are already focusing on the impacts of increasingly severe changes in weather associated with climate change. Key issues include how climate science knowledge is used at the level of the city and how the impacts of climate change might affect city functioning at the metropolitan and household scales. What has not been addressed in any detail is the extent to which climate change will affect the food security of the city and its inhabitants, especially within the context of high levels of poverty and widespread food and nutrition insecurity. It is therefore important to understand the linkages between climate change and food security in Southern African cities so that policies and practices can start to ameliorate the negative impacts Climate Change and Food Security in Southern aFriCan Cities through pro-active – rather than reactive –planning and programming.

The paper is divided into four parts. The first part outlines the current state of knowledge on urban food security by providing some background to the emerging urban food security challenge and summarizing the  levels of food insecurity in Southern African cities. The second section examines the latest trends in climate science and suggests that a downscaling from the global and regional level of analysis to the city level is necessary to appreciate the implications of climate change and extreme weather events for urban areas. Thirdly, as a mechanism for exploring the climate change-food security nexus, the paper uses examples that illustrate linkages between the climate change and food security. Finally, it poses questions that may be useful for advancing planning and practice on issues related to urban food security in a changing climate as well as where future research might focus.

Full Citation: Ziervogel, G. and Frayne, B, (2011). Climate Change and Food Security in Southern African Cities,  Urban Food Security Series No. 8. Queen’s University and AFSUN: Kingston and Cape Town (Full article available at here). 

‘Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an Urgent Agenda’

Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an Urgent Agenda published by Urbanization and Global Environmental Change: An IHDP Core Project draws on the work of the 5th Urban Research Symposium that made an  important contribution to the growing body of knowledge and practice in the area of cities and climate change.

The links between cities and climate change were the subject of the 5th Urban Research Symposium held in Marseille in June 2009. Under the main theme, Cities and Climate Change—Responding to an Urgent Agenda, the symposium aimed to advance the state of knowledge on cities and climate change from an applied research perspective. Attended by more than 700 people from more than 70 countries, the symposium featured eight teams of commissioned researchers and approximately 200 research papers selected from more than 500 initial proposals.

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New Article – ‘ Sub-Saharan African urbanisation and global environmental change’

Abstract: Scientific evidence for global environmental change in Africa presents a prima facia case for increased human migration and displacement. Closer scrutiny of the evidence on demographic change, however, suggests that migration and displacement are less important variables in explaining the human dimensions of global environmental change on the continent than is commonly projected. Natural population growth in cities is a more important dynamic in the evolving system of human settlement in Africa and this significant shift in where people live, both now and in the future is overlooked by the emphasis on the potential impact of environmentally induced migration. Even without any movement from the countryside, cities represent the fastest growing sector of the sub-Saharan African population. The existing vulnerability of African cities, with their fast growing populations and weak management means any environmental change is likely to have significant consequences for cities. Taking the sub-Saharan African demographic evidence seriously means that the scholarly and policy emphasis currently directed to GEC migration and displacement might be more effectively redirected to questions of the interface between global environmental change and urban areas.

Full Citation: Parnell, S. and Walawege, R. (2011). Sub-Saharan African urbanisation and global environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 21 (S1): 12-20. (Available for download with subscription at: 

‘Kyoto Protocol: Lifeline or Death at the Global Climate Change Summit in Durban?’

by Trusha Reddy, ISS
“We don’t want South Africa to be the death of Kyoto Protocol,” Minister of Environment, Edwina Molewa said recently, referring to the outcomes aspired to by the incoming South African COP17 Presidency from 28 November to 9 December 2011. But what are the real chances of life for the Kyoto and what are the stakes if we lose it?
 Most countries are calling for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, as the first one ends in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect in 2005, is the only legally binding agreement for greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. It commits 38 developed nations from 2008-2012 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 % below 1990 levels. The US never ratified Kyoto arguing that it would harm its domestic economy. Emerging economies also argued that their first priority is to develop, which requires higher energy use. Countries led by the United States, Canada, Russia and Japan now wish to see the demise of Kyoto and introduce a ‘pledge and review’ system instead of Kyoto’s system of binding targets. The resulting effect of killing Kyoto would be consolidate two separate tracks of the negotiation process, which was agreed to at the COP13, Bali in 2007, one with binding targets, the other with comparable national efforts and a long-term vision.

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