Launching the “Climate Reality Project” with Al Gore

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Former US Vice-President and climate change lobbyist Al Gore has launched the African branch of the Climate Reality Project, which aims to mobilise individuals and organisations to implement climate change mitigation measures and “spread the truth” of climate change to communities on the continent.

Addressing over 700 delegates at a three-day Climate Reality Project workshop, in Johannesburg, on Thursday, Gore said the African division of the organisation would look to collaborate with “climate leaders”, African governments, nongovernment organisations (NGOs) and scientists across the continent to identify continent-specific solutions to global warming and carbon emissions.

“This is a critical time for Africa. Although the continent produces a relatively small proportion of the carbon pollution driving global climate change, the continent bears a disproportionate share of its impacts.

“Drought, desertification and food shortages are becoming more widespread and the continent faces daily reminders of the dire consequences of inaction. The good news is that, if we act together now, we can solve the climate crisis, [with] Africa already playing a key role in that effort,” he commented.

Strategic African objectives

The African Climate Reality Project would work to achieve several strategic goals on the continent, including  the creation of a network and communication hub for trained Climate Reality Project “leaders” and others in Africa to collect and share information and resources.

Under the leadership of South African NGO Food & Trees for Africa, the branch would also develop wide-ranging communications “assets”, including workshops, events and social channels to “tell the story” of climate change in Africa.

Food & Trees for Africa founder Jeunesse Park, who would head up the activities of the Climate Reality Project’s newly formed African division, said its formation came at a crucial time for the continent, which faced increasing climate instability.

“While this presents us with many challenges, we also have the unique opportunity to not only help millions of Africans to understand climate change, but also to innovate and implement solutions that we can share with the rest of the world,” she told Engineering News Online.

Climate patterns

Also speaking at the workshop on recently, City of Johannesburg executive mayor Parks Tau welcomed the establishment of the Johannesburg-based Africa-focused climate change mitigation project, adding that the city had already implemented various initiatives aimed at “greening” the metropole and enhancing urban energy efficiency.

He added that the recent “uncharacteristic” weather – evidenced by unusually high volumes of rainfall over Gauteng in the last two weeks – was reflective of changes in climate patterns.

“The changing climate has also impacted on our built infrastructure, by overloading stormwater systems, damaging roads and impacting [on the efficacy] of traffic signals.

“Further, in the medium-term, we project a 2.5 °C increase in Johannesburg’s average [annual] temperature and an above 4 °C increase in temperature [over the longer term],” noted Tau.

Energy efficient infrastructure investment

Speaking ahead of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group Mayors Summit last month, the mayor reaffirmed the city’s commitment to develop and upgrade its infrastructure in a manner that supported the city’s low-carbon, energy efficiency strategy.

“The city is aware of the responsibility to ensure that capital investment supports a low-carbon, resource-efficient strategy, coupled with the ability to adapt to climate change impacts.

“Climate-proofing of infrastructure will bring new technologies and opportunities to grow the green economy with associated jobs in support of economic sustainability,” Engineering News Online reported at the time.

Adding that he was cognisant of Johannesburg’s “ageing infrastructure, capacity constraints and backlogs”, Tau said the city would spend over R110-billion on the provision of infrastructure over the next ten years.

In terms of infrastructure planning, Tau said ageing infrastructure would be upgraded, with the assistance of relevant engineering expertise, to withstand extreme weather conditions and climate-related disasters such as flooding, heatwaves, drought, scarce resource supply and service delivery disruptions.

According to the mayor, as part of its effort to become more energy resilient, Johannesburg had invested in and implemented several energy initiatives and projects, including waste-to-energy projects, solar projects and energy efficiency measures at wastewater treatment works.

In addition, solar water heating programmes had been implemented in residential developments, reducing the consumption of electricity and providing more affordable, carbon-emission-reducing infrastructure for residents. http://www.polity.org.za

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