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Institutional dynamics and climate change adaptation in South Africa

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Climate change is a multi-dimensional issue and in terms of adaptation numerous state and non-state actors are involved from global to national and local scales. The aim of this paper is first to analyse specific institutional networks involved in climate change predominantly at the national level in South Africa and second to determine how different stakeholders perceive their role vis-a-vis climate change adaptation. Within the South African context there is a gap in understanding and evaluating how institutional networks operate and thus the findings of this work may help inform and strengthen such relationships in the future. Results showed that few institutions fully understand the implications of adaptation and their roles and responsibilities have not yet been properly defined. Constraints relating to capacity, lack of awareness and poor information flow need to be addressed. Climate change is perceived as an important issue although problems such as poverty reduction and job creation remain national priorities. Most importantly this research has demonstrated how adaptation challenges the hierarchical manner in which government works and a more collaborative approach to climate change adaptation is needed. Adaptation needs to be mainstreamed and institutional networks need to be strengthened in order for adaptation mechanisms to be effectively implemented.

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  1. In accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Articles 4 and 12, South Africa has to submit National Communications to the Convention incorporating a national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions; a description of envisaged steps to implement the Convention and any other information considered relevant by the party (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Booklet 2002).

  2. Minmec is a political structure which facilitates inter-tier communications and is the interface between the Minister and the Provincial members of the Executive Councils (from the National Climate Change Response Strategy for South Africa, 2004).

  3. Mintech is a non-political structure serving as a technical committee that advises Minmec. It comprises of the Director-General and the relevant provincial department heads (from the National Climate Change Response Strategy for South Africa, 2004).

  4. Quote by the Chief Director of the Climate Change Directorate, DEAT (2005).


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Special thanks to all interviewees for their time and comments. Any omissions or errors remain those of the author.

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Correspondence to Ingrid Christine Koch.

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Koch, I.C., Vogel, C. & Patel, Z. Institutional dynamics and climate change adaptation in South Africa. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 12, 1323–1339 (2007).

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