Johannesburg – The Only African City With Lowest Carbon Emissions

What Are The Smart Initiatives Taken By Johannesburg on Climate Change?

Our first blog in the series of C40 cities’ initiatives highlighted the environment-oriented efforts of smart city Oslo, the European Green Capital in 2019.

This time we have come up with a C40 city in Africa which is known to be the only city to have the lowest carbon emissions in the continent. We are talking about Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa and one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world.

As per the World Bank, Johannesburg is among the top 10 big world cities that have the lowest climate-changing emissions. So, we ought to explore how the city is tackling climate change!

Johannesburg Strategic Framework Against Climate Change

Johannesburg efforts against climate change began in 2006 when the city developed its first strategy that outlined the visions of creating a smart city that is backed by development, growth, resiliency and sustainability. The city launched what is known as the Climate Change Strategic Framework (CCSF). The aim of CCSF was to bolster the city to deliver on climate change action across sectors in the municipality and outside involving communities, businesses and citizens.

Going further, the city of Johannesburg made climate action a mainstream process while estimating GHG emissions with a bottom-up approach. The city then used the C40’s modelling tool ‘CURB’ that assists cities and local climate planners in understanding the energy and emission implications in a better way.

In 2009, the city came up with the Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP) that focused on Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Management, flood modelling for flood-prone areas and disaster response. The city of Johannesburg comprises many rivers that run through the suburbs. These rivers cause flooding during the heavy rains in summers.

In 2014, 87% of energy in South Africa came from fossil fuels. Rather than developing an energy-oriented, short-term policy to reduce emissions, the country chose to go mainstream in reducing emissions by involving the entire society and creating a holistic approach.

As a result, Johannesburg allotted $143 million worth green bonds in 2014 for investments in emission reduction. This came to be one of the most significant aspects of the climate change strategy.

The Green Bond

Green Bond was a smart, pioneering initiative introduced by Johannesburg in South Africa to raise funds in order to respond comprehensively to climate change while adhering to sustainable management of resources. Today, the Green Bond is successfully funding projects.

The Green Bond enables the city to show its commitment towards environment while receiving financial returns that are market-related. Effectively, it has provided the city with an innovative funding source that can help improve and facilitate the implementation of its climate change strategy. Undoubtedly, the green initiative is helping the city to further lower its carbon emissions.

Today, smart cities around the globe are facing a big challenge in securing finances when they aim at green urban development or any other climate-oriented initiative for that matter. Therefore, the Green Bond in Johannesburg has helped in overcoming this barrier by providing the required funding and tapping into a new field of socially responsible investors.

The Green Bond has helped the city with the much-needed finance for projects in different sectors including energy, waste, water and transportation. It has been funding in the rollout of 42,000 building smart meters, 43,000 solar water heaters, deployment of 152 hybrid buses and conversion of about 30 diesel buses into biogas. One major project it is funding in involves the extension of The Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit which will pave way for 10 new stations and 5 km walking and cycling path.

In addition, the city’s Green Bond has decreased the cost of local green projects which results in economic benefits. When the bond auction was oversubscribed by 150% in 2014, the city could see bigger potential for future issuances.

The Green Bond Of Johannesburg has become a role model for other smart cities around the world and the city is sharing its approach at the global level.

Waste To BioGas To Energy

How Waste Is Converted Into BioGas?

2011 in Johannesburg witnessed an initiative when the city started converting the methane emissions from landfill waste and wastewater into energy. The city makes productive use of the methane emissions by converting it into a biogas that is in turn transformed into energy at a minimal cost.

Methane gas emissions are more potent than CO2 in polluting the environment. Hence this biogas-to-energy project is aiding in mitigating methane emissions as well as transforming waste into a useful resource.

After a few years of the commencement, the project began supplying 1.1MW of electricity to the Northern Water Treatment plant which is the biggest plant in the city. Later, the city started planning for four more wastewater plants. Moreover, the city is also working on partnering with an energy management service company with an aim to develop biodigesters. These will aid in converting organic waste from five landfills, transform it into biogas and fuel the bus fleet in the city.

Today, the Northern Water Treatment plant is able to save money which it had to spend on purchasing electricity from the local power utility. This project comes as hope for combating climate change by warding off potential environmental contaminations from the landfills and negative health impact on citizens.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognised the Johannesburg initiative as a Clean Development Mechanism project. The success of the project is the result of a public-private partnership where the municipality provides methane gas to the developer who is in charge of funding and running the project.

Need To Divert Waste From Landfills

Even today over 80% of the waste generated in South Africa ends up in landfills. Besides this, Johannesburg produces 1.6 million tons of waste each year. At present, the landfill sites in the city are reaching capacity with most of the sites having a maximum of three years until full.

The city has set a warning as it is running out of space for garbage. And if nothing is done until 6 years it might risk hitting an ultimate disaster point.

Therefore, Johannesburg residents are urged to separate garbage from recyclable material. Currently, 10% of the waste goes to recycling plants while the city is aiming to reach a target by a minimum of 30%.

To tackle the rising man-made mountains of waste, the city of Johannesburg has launched a waste strategy. The city is promoting the establishment of waste buy-back centres operated by entrepreneurial communities. These community centres buy recyclable waste including paper, cans, glass, plastic from people and then sell it to recyclers. The waste collectors receive a direct cash payment depending on the amount of cleaned waste they drive in.

With such an initiative the city also aims at empowering the underprivileged communities by providing the opportunity to set up their own waste collection business. As per sources, there are seven buy-back centres in the city each with 10 to 15 full-time employees and an additional 30 who get direct benefits from the centres. Each buy-back centre produces up to 45 job opportunities and raises the earning of the waste collectors who get to transform their long-distance travel time into processing and selling waste.

Furthermore, Johannesburg is also working on developing an affordable public transport system with an aim to improve job density and economic growth, promote equality and curb the GHG emissions from vehicles.

The development of the BRT system has already created over 24,600 jobs with ongoing expansion anticipated to bring in extra 18,600 job opportunities.

Although Africa is most vulnerable to climate change (as per 2018 Climate Vulnerability Index) than other continents in the world, C40 cities such as Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, Dakar, Dakar, Dar-es-salaam, Durban, Lagos, Nairobi, Tshwane and Johannesburg among others are showing significant efforts.

In the next blog, let us explore another must-watch C40 smart city’s battle against climate change!