Understanding the climate change adaptation policy landscape in South Africa

V. Khavhagali*, D. Reckien, Robbert Biesbroek, Brian Mantlana, K. Pfeffer

*Corresponding author for this work

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Climate change is a key socioeconomic and environmental concern in South Africa. The South African government introduced several climate change initiatives to address the impacts of climate change, resulting in the proliferation of climate adaptation policies across spheres of government. This paper studies different climate change adaptation policies and climate policy paradigms (CPP) to understand the adaptation landscape; it explains and compares the changes in CPP in South Africa over time. We mapped 40 policy documents from 2004 to 2022, which shows 12 national policies, 12 provincial (sub-national) policy documents and 14 metropolitan city policy documents. We then used 12 national policy documents to illustrate and understand the CPP. The research shows that different stakeholders have shaped climate change adaptation policy, both private and public firms advised on climate change policy and there are a number of different funding partners supporting the adaptation policy like GEF, C40 and GIZ. The changing policy environment has introduced new frameworks, objectives and processes. Therefore, more efforts will be needed going forward to guide adaptation policy across national, provincial and local governments. We find that several CPPs have emerged, that is different paradigms encompassing a range of policy goals, framings and instruments. The present National CC Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) mandates adaptation across all levels of government and allows all important stakeholders to address climate change consequences. This NCCAS increases the number and ambition of adaptation policy, encourages integrated approaches, policy coherence and clear direction on how to handle climate risks and impacts in varied South Africa and its global commitment. Changes in policy paradigm enable the use of new policy instruments, including funding and budget mechanisms. Finally, climate adaptation policy has become more ambitious and stringent, requiring all levels of government to plan for climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-472
Number of pages15
JournalClimate policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2023


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