How Cape Town is affected

Cape Town has already been affected by many significant disasters and events associated with weather conditions in the past two decades. These include extreme events such as:

  • the Cape Flats floods in 1994 and 2001;
  • the Lourens river flooding in 2013;
  • the Manenberg wind storms in 1999 and 2002;
  • fires in the Joe Slovo informal settlement in 2000, 2004 and 2005; in Lourensford in 2013 and South Peninsula in 2015
  • severe storm surge events in 2001, 2007 and 2014
  • and recurrent and recurrent severe droughts in 2002-2005.

A 2008 sea-level rise risk assessment conducted on behalf of the City of Cape Town concluded that within the next 25 years, there is a 85% chance that 60,9km² of the city (2% of the Metro area) will be covered by sea for a short period. The expected loss of property value alone was estimated at just under R20bn (when it was written in 2008). Infrastructure damage is also a great inconvenience to services, and costly to fix or replace.

The damage to infrastructure caused by extreme events will have a significant and increasing financial impact on both the City of Cape Town and its citizens

Other ways in which Cape Town is being and will be affected by climate change include:

  • increased water stress in the city due to reduction in rainfall and increased evaporation (caused by increased temperature)
  • rainfall patterns showing greater volumes falling in shorter periods, which significantly increases the risk of flooding
  • a rise in sea-level, which will increase the vulnerability of beaches, shorelines and coastal developments and infrastructure to storms, sea surges and erosion
  • increased temperatures, which could lead to food security risks, heat related health risks, and increased energy demand for cooling in summer, affecting energy security
  • more frequent and intense wildfires, impacting on insurance, lives, infrastructure, agriculture and biodiversity
  • damage to health, well-being and livelihoods, through changes in air pollution and loss of social networks caused by disruption and dislocation from events like fires and floods mentioned above

What the City is doing to address climate change?

The City of Cape Town is committed to tackling climate change challenges head on and building a more resource-efficient and resilient future for our city.

Cape Town has been a pioneer in the area of local energy and climate action, being the first African city to publish a regular State of Energy Report (published in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015) and adopt an Energy and Climate Change Strategy in 2006 (a component of the City’s Integrated Environmental Policy), whilst also actively engaging in international climate reporting platforms.

As part of its increasing commitment to implementation, the City adopted an Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) in 2010 and has made important institutional advances to coordinate energy and climate change response across the municipality.

The Action Plan has 11 objectives, with targets and detailed implementation plans involving 40 programmes and more than 120 projects. It addresses resource efficiency, poverty, green economy, adaptation to climate change impacts and reducing carbon emissions, across a wide range of programmes and projects that the City either drives or partners on. It is a living document that establishes a clear programme of action, while at the same time reflecting ongoing developments.

A number of the ECAP targets have been achieved and exceeded, including keeping city-wide electricity consumption below 2007 levels and achieving a 13% reduction in energy consumption in Council operations so far. Many of the larger City buildings and almost 20% of street lights have been retrofitted with energy efficient technology, and every single traffic light in Cape Town has been upgraded to super-efficient LED lamps. The City continues to monitor and update the ECAP targets, projects and programmes whilst identifying new priority areas for action.

Traveling toward sustainability is a shared responsibility and requires long-term dedication. With the help of our residents, the business community and civic organisations, we can make our city a more sustainable and more habitable place, together.

For more information on the ECAP objectives and what the City is doing, see:

City of Cape Town Moving Mountains Report
City of Cape Town State of Energy Report