New Article: ‘Urban Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Action in Durban, South Africa’

Roberts, D. & O’Donoghue, S. (2013). Urban Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Action in Durban, South Africa. Environment and Urbanization. DOI: 10.1177/0956247813500904

Abstract: This paper reflects on the progress made in climate change adaptation in the city of Durban since the launch of the Municipal Climate Protection Programme in 2004. This includes the initial difficulties in getting the attention of key sectors within municipal government, and how this was addressed and also served by the more detailed understanding of the range of adaptation options and their cost-benefits. There is also a better understanding of the potentials and constraints on community-based adaptation and the opposition from some landowners to measures to protect and enhance ecosystem services. The paper ends with lessons learnt that contradict some common assumptions – for instance, what approaches best build support for climate change adaptation within local governments, what measures work and from where lessons can be drawn. It also describes the perhaps unexpected linkages between local action and international influence and highlights the need for international climate change negotiations to recognize the key roles of urban governments in developing locally rooted adaptation and resilience.

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New Article: “Facing the Heat: Barriers to Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in Local Government in the Western Cape Province, South Africa”

Pasquini, L., Cowling, R.M. & Ziervogel, G. (2013). Facing the Heat: Barriers to Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in Local Government in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Habitat International. 40: 225-232.

Abstract: Local government represents a key opportunity for implementing local adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The need for adaptation is most urgent in developing countries, yet most research has focused on the barriers to climate change mainstreaming in municipalities of the global North. This paper presents the results of a study that investigated barriers to action on climate change adaptation in eight municipalities in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Forty-seven municipal actors (officials and councillors) were interviewed regarding the experience of their municipality with climate impacts and adaptive actions (focussing on ecosystem-based adaptation), as well as their knowledge and belief on climate change and adaptation issues. Results show that multiple barriers affect the ability of municipalities to mainstream adaptation issues, from individual-level barriers (such as a lack of understanding of climate change and adaptation options) to regulatory/institutional barriers (such as the problems posed by party politics) to socio-cultural barriers (such as a lack of interest within municipal constituencies for climate change issues). These numerous barriers are not significantly different to those encountered so far in municipalities of the developed world, suggesting that across the globe there are common problems that national and provincial governments need to address in order to mainstream climate change adaptation at the local level (such as changing planning and other laws by which local governments operate in order to recognise climate change impacts). Our research draws attention to a couple of under-researched issues, that of the effects of party politics and councillor qualifications on local government operation and performance, and suggests that much further research should address these topics in both developed and developing countries.

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New Article: ‘Epistemic Institutions and Epistemic Cooperation in International Environmental Governance’

Meyer, R. (2013). Epistemic Institutions and Epistemic Cooperation in International Environmental Governance. Transnational Environmental Law. DOI: 10.1017/S2047102513000010

Abstract: Under what conditions should epistemic institutions (institutions that provide policy-relevant scientific advice) be integrated into international legal institutions – for example, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? Following work in law and economics on the theory of the firm, this article argues that where states will not implement environmental policies absent a collective decision to do so, greater hierarchical control of epistemic institutions by legal institutions may be necessary to ensure the credibility and availability of a usable scientific record. Hierarchy creates credibility because it allows all states necessary for cooperation in the legal institution to oversee the production of the scientific record that provides the basis for international legal rules. Hierarchy thus enhances the effectiveness of international law as a coordination tool, even at the expense of the autonomy of the scientific process. By contrast, where collective action is not necessary because states will unilaterally regulate an environmental problem once scientific uncertainty has been reduced, epistemic and legal institutions should be fragmented to ensure the unbiased production and dissemination of scientific information. In such situations, the credibility of the scientific record is demonstrated by decentralized adoption of science-based regulation.

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New Book: ‘Sustainable Stellenbosch: Opening Dialogues edited by Mark Swilling, Ben Sebitosi, Ruenda Loots’

Description: Stellenbosch faces the same challenges that most South African urban areas face: rapid urbanisation, sluggish economic growth, growing inequalities, unsustainable use of natural resources, deteriorating biodiversity, social problems, unhealthy living, insecure supplies of healthy food, degrading soils, infrastructure backlogs and inadequate urban planning. Continue reading

New Article: ‘Non-metropolitan Growth Potential of Western Cape Municipalities’

Abstract: This paper provides a brief overview of the relevant post-2000 South African policy for regional (provincial) spatial development within the context of the quantitative findings of a study conducted on the growth potential of non-metropolitan settlements in the Western Cape. The findings are presented at municipal level. Five indices (social needs, economic, physical environment, infrastructure and institutional) and 69 indicators were used to determine development potential and social needs for the 24 local municipalities and three district management areas in the province. The potential indicators for each index were subjected to a factor analysis to select appropriate core indicators for inclusion in the composite indices. Based on their overall performance in the various indices, the municipalities were classified into three categories—high, medium and low. The study results prioritise areas according to their developmental potential and social needs at municipal level.

Full Citation: Donaldson, R., van Niekerk, A., du Plessis, D. and Spocter, M. (2012). Non-metropolitan Growth Potential of Western Cape Municipalities. Urban Forum, 23 (3): 367-389 (Available for download with subscription at: 


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