Tag Archives: Urban Development

Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD Course – Day 1

SAMSET team members were among 40 participants from municipal governments and research institutions across South Africa, Ghana and Uganda at a continuing professional development course held at the University of Cape Town Graduate Business School, beginning on the 17th November 2014. The course was entitled “Energy and Sustainable Urban Development in Africa”, and ran for five days. This blog will present a series of snapshots of the key themes from each day of the course, discussing critical ideas and points to consider for municipal, district and national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa considering the issue of sustainable urban energy transitions.

Day one of the course sought to provide an introduction and overview to sustainable urban development in the global context, drilling down into issues specific to the African, Sub-Saharan African and local contexts. With current projections forecasting a 4 degree Celsius average rise in global temperatures under a business as usual scenario, immense challenges exist globally on how to mitigate the effects of climate change, and adapt where mitigation is impossible.

Urban development is set to dominate human population growth in the coming decades, and with energy intensities of urban areas growing rapidly in the developing world (for example, South African urban areas occupy 4% of the country’s surface area but consume an estimated 50% of the country’s primary energy supply currently, a global challenge exists in making urban development more sustainable. High-carbon development pathways predicated on fossil fuel use, as used from the Industrial Revolution to today, have proven to be costly, both financially and in terms of environmental and social effects, and the need exists to develop and mainstream alternative solutions to urban development.

SAMSET CPD course Day 1 Image

David Kyasanku from Jinja Municipality, Uganda, presents at the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD course

Municipal governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have a critical role to play in this urban development. Municipal mandates cover a vast array of urban services and roles, from disaster management to provision of sanitation and waste management to spatial planning and transportation. Intimate knowledge of their local contexts, challenges and opportunities also place municipal governments in a strong position to create effective solutions to the urbanisation challenge.

However, there are still issues surrounding the municipal government role in urban energy transitions (a contested terrain). Shifting priorities at both a local and national level for energy create pressures on timeframes for solutions, and a lack of long-term planning was consistently cited as a key challenge at the local level. Stresses, both financially and in terms of capacity through personnel changes, can also contribute to stalling of project implementation. Tailored solutions can also be a challenge to implement, and a key theme of the discussion on day one was the need for community consultation in project design and management, moving to a participatory planning process with local communities to deliver effective solutions in their micro-contexts rather than a centralised planning process.

This blog will provide further insight into the discussions at the CPD course throughout the week, from household energy poverty alleviation to municipal electricity distribution, as well as details from fieldwork and discussions through all sessions.

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Smaller Municipalities Today are Potential Mega Metropolises of Tomorrow: The Need for Climate Change Resilient Approaches

Simon Bawakyillenuo and Innocent Komla Agbelie from the University of Ghana on the recent IPCC “Key Roles of Cities in Climate Resilience” report.

Terence Creamer’s article entitled New report highlights key role of cities in building climate resilience[1] sheds light on the report ‘Climate Change 2014: Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ produced by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II. Quoted in the article, during a post-publication briefing, Dr. Debra Roberts, one of the authors of the ‘Urban Areas’ chapter of the report, warned that “urban areas are at risk and vulnerable to climate change simply because they have so many eggs in the basket in urban areas: the majority of people now live in cities; the bulk of our infrastructure is in cities”. Dr. Roberts noted further that “cities offer us one of the single greatest opportunities for global adaptation, if we get our act together around urban development and any step taken to improve the resilience of urban areas has the potential to greatly increase the global ability to adapt to climate change”. Adding a different dimension, Dr. Bob Scholes, an ecologist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Systems cautioned that adaptation to climate change alone would have limitations, hence, the need to combine it with “early and aggressive mitigation actions” to tackle not only “how much the climate changes, but also how fast it changes”

Indeed, evidence abounds today, manifesting that cities such as Chicago in the U.S.A, Leicester in the UK, and Ekurhuleni in South Africa have made huge investments in retrofit programmes for public buildings as a way of reducing energy use, since energy consumption is a key driver of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Other innovations such as the Bus Rapid Transit system in Mexico City, biogas-powered buses in Lille, France and the solar-powered municipal bus fleet in Adelaide, Australia are all green strategies being introduced into city structures to enhance the mitigation of GHG emission as well as improve the resilience of these urban areas. The adoption of these clean and efficient technologies by the cities, which serve the dual purposes of climate change mitigation and adaption strategies are in sync with Dr. Debra Roberts’ views. Since cities are the highest contributors of GHG emissions, strong leadership and institutional set-ups are required to initiate innovative approaches that will embrace the dual purposes of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of GHG emissions. While existing mega cities will need to reorient their strategies and approaches, the lessons and opportunities, perhaps for local authorities of smaller cities and municipalities are that, they can leapfrog the fundamental mistakes of mega cities by pursuing development agenda that will involve meticulous planning, adoption of policies that will be clean and efficient technology driven as well as improving resilience to climate change.

It goes without saying that today’s mega cities are more complicated, structurally and institutionally compared to smaller cities; which therefore make it difficult to apply the same technologies, processes and scientific approaches to tackling what may seem homogeneous problems facing the two types of cities. Thus, a more proactive approach to building climate conscious cities and municipalities is the need for them to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that are within their means, resource-wise. While mega cities need to integrate more climate friendly technologies into their existing structures in order to upgrade them to climate compatible levels, smaller cities and municipalities, having not developed complicated structures can just begin developing their structures with climate compatible elements, being mainstreamed in them.

The SAMSET project’s approach of supporting municipalities from three countries with varied setups in terms of size, structure and institutional arrangements, with sustainable energy transition paths, is laudable in building climate resilience in the selected municipalities and, therefore speaks to the views of Dr. Debra Roberts. The selected smaller municipalities on the SAMSET project, which are considered alongside other larger cities, are obviously potential mega cities in the future. Thus, these smaller municipalities are well placed in shaping their development trajectories in the right directions and protecting their fragile infrastructure by drawing lessons from the bigger municipalities that have faced numerous climate change issues. In effect, the SAMSET project has an enviable opportunity of impacting positively on climate change resilient approaches of all partner municipalities especially, the smaller cities through building the capacity of their personnel to come up with informed decisions, strategies and approaches to develop clean and efficient technologies.

[1]Available at: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/new-report-highlights-key-role-of-cities-in-building-climate-resilience-2014-03-31