City of Cape Town: Collaboratively engaging city stakeholders towards a carbon-neutral future

by Stephen Davis, C40 City Adviser, Cape Town

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that if governments’ response arrives too late, there will be deadly and expensive effects for all. When it comes to tackling climate change there is no difference. C40 member cities in Africa know this and have been responding boldly since 2018, with the ultimate goal of cutting emissions to zero by 2050.

Among this group of African cities, Cape Town, which knows first-hand the consequences of climate change with severe droughts on its back, has emerged as a city that understands stakeholder engagement and collaboration as one of the key triggers for successful climate action.

Following the launch of the City’s Carbon Neutral 2050 action planning process in 2018, officials from the City of Cape Town have been engaging with multiple departments to identify the main focus areas for each of the city sectors.

But before starting any engagement, the City understood that a coherent ‘brand message’ was needed. For its development, the City counted on the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (EDP), an independent, not-for-profit organisation that works with a range of partners to improve the performance of Cape Town and Western Cape socio-economic development system.

With the vision of building a unified, liveable, resilient and smart city by 2050, Cape Town City officials had a clear message to convey: the City’s work on their C40 Deadline 2020 commitment to reduce emissions and prepare for climate change impacts, will drive the implementation of the city sector strategies and action plans. Cape Town’s Paris Agreement compatible Climate Action Plan will be the mechanism to ensure not only that these strategies and action plans take place but also that citizens benefit from a more sustainable and equitable city.

The ‘brand message’ was used as the basis for engagements with selected departments by means of workshops until February 2020 and will thereafter be modified and applied to others as required. These workshops have helped reveal the vision for a carbon-neutral Cape Town held by key departments who were able to share how they are contributing to this vision. Ultimately, the main intention was to foster greater collaboration with each of the main sectors and political structures of the City.

EDP also assisted Cape Town with the development of hand-drawn posters that were used to outline the agenda, present modeling scenarios, and map the climate-related strategies and plans of different sectors strategies in an accessible way. A large table with a number of themes was also posted on the wall to accumulate inputs from the departments on their role in creating a carbon-neutral Cape Town. These accumulated inputs would produce an inter-departmental perspective on a carbon-neutral Cape Town.

In preparation for the workshops, a lot of effort was invested in ensuring that the existing plans and initiatives of the various departments were adequately reflected and documented in some simple but effective hand-drawn graphics.
Even the scenario modelling outputs were hand-drawn on the poster. This encouraged many to speak from a place of understanding and to improvise without the “crutch” of a PowerPoint presentation to fall-back on.

While the launch of the City’s Carbon Neutral 2050 action planning process was successful at obtaining broad buy-in for the idea of carbon neutrality by 2050, it became clear that it was also very important to strengthen internal collaboration. The series of engagements, therefore, explored what the commitment to carbon neutrality means for different departments, which is important for building a unified vision for all internal and external city stakeholders to rally behind.

As part of a suite of public engagement initiatives promoting this unified vision of carbon neutrality, the City recently launched the Cape Town Future Energy Festival, which is a public celebration of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and smart transport using entertaining and informative events. This virtual festival is aligned with the Climate Action Pan goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and encourages the public to be part of the solution and to be energy champions.


About C40’s Climate Action Planning Africa Programme

The future of the African continent will be made in its cities. In 2010, just 400 million people lived in African cities. By 2050, there will be more than 1.2 billion urban citizens on the continent. Several African countries rank amongst the fastest growing economies in the world. African nations, cities and citizens have historically generated the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

They may not have burned the fossil fuels and built the heavy industries which contribute most to climate change, but African cities are feeling the dangerous impacts of a rapidly warming planet. Many of the largest cities in Africa are coastal cities that are exposed to rising sea levels. High levels of poverty, informality and rapid urbanization increase the vulnerability of large numbers of Africa’s urban citizens to rising temperatures, increased flash flooding, and declining food security.

Eleven C40 member cities in Africa have pledged to deliver their contribution to the Paris Agreement on climate change by developing robust, evidence-based, long term climate action plans that align with C40’s Climate Action Planning Framework.

African cities
to deliver action
consistent with
the objectives
of the Paris Agreement