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Climate Ambition to Accountability Project
© WWF South Africa Ruan Wolfaardt

While South Africa has a strong tradition of social activism, only a handful of organisations are actively engaged in the climate space. This hampers our ability as a country to make the fundamental changes that are required to move from our heavy dependence on fossil fuels to a zero-carbon economy, within the framework of a Just Transition to ensure that no-one is left behind.

What is the issue?

Situated in one of the world’s 10 climate hotspots, South Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change. Our economy’s high dependence on fossil fuels creates immense transition risks. Yet we are poorly prepared for the transition needed to wean off our dependence on fossil fuels. Further, we have not started taking equity, gender and human-rights dimensions of climate change into consideration.

South Africa’s climate change ambition is consistently rated as poor and our implementation weak. There is limited institutional capacity dedicated towards the implementation of relatively sophisticated – but not necessarily ambitious – climate policy, along with a perceived tension between developmental objectives and climate imperatives.

There are four key challenges that hinder more ambitious climate action in South Africa. These are:

  • fragmented and inadequately capacitated civil society;

  • weak policy ambition, implementation and accountability;

  • limited attention to the human rights, equity and gender dimensions of climate change; and,

  • scantily capacitated youth groups.

What are we doing?

We are working with partners to enhance the capacity of South African civil society organisations to become key players in climate governance in South Africa.

How do we do this?

We have launched the Climate Ambition to Accountability Project (CAAP)  to enhance civil society participation in climate governance. The CAAP is framed around three core actions:

  • We will work to build a strong cross-cutting civil society community (including social partners) to support enhanced climate ambition, implementation, and accountability in South Africa.

  • We will develop a cohort of youth climate champions to engage strongly with climate action and policy processes through “boot camps”, internships and other training modules.

  • We aim to elevate the mainstream debate to include the cross-cutting issues of gender and climate equity and rights-based approaches into national climate policy (both around mitigation and adaptation).

Who do we work with?

WWF South Africa is leading this project with implementing partners South African Climate Action Network (SACAN) and Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ). This work is possible with funding support from the European Union as part of its Climate Change Champions programme.

How did it start?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 2018 watershed report on global warming of 1.5C made it clear that we are running out of time. Based on conversations with partner organisations we realised three things. Firstly, we can’t address climate and societal challenges in isolation to each other – both social inequities and climate change need to be addressed simultaneously. Secondly, South Africa is very good at formulating policy but has weak implementation due to limited human and institutional capacity.

Finally, civil society has a role to play in addressing these issues together, but it needs to enhance both capacity and coordination. Thus, we decided to craft a project that brings together environmental and social justice civil society organisations to tackle climate change with an explicit emphasis on understanding the issues from multiple perspectives.

What are the key goals?
  • Contribute towards the effective participation of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and collaboration between both environmental and social CSOs, labour union bodies and youth groups in climate change governance to ensure enhanced climate policy ambition, implementation and accountability

  • Uplift and motivate civil society, especially emerging youth leaders to demand ambitious climate action from decisionmakers by facilitating exchange of ideas, experiences and resources, and supporting their participation in climate policy processes

  • Mainstream gender equality, rights based approaches, economic justice and youth dynamics into climate policy