The Durban Adaptation Charter was the key outcome from the Durban Local Government Convention, convened during Durban’s hosting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s COP17/ CMP 7 climate negotiations in December 2011. The Local Government Convention was co-organised by eThekwini Municipality (the local government responsible for managing the city of Durban) in partnership with a range of South African local and national governmental organisations’ departments, and the African Secretariat of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. The Durban Adaptation Charter was originally drafted to serve as an advocacy tool in order to highlight the need for comprehensive and contextually appropriate adaptation in the world’s cities, particularly those of the global South. In addressing implementation, the DAC was developed into a platform to facilitate adaptation action at a local level. A total of 341 locally elected mayors and leaders of local government organisations, representing 1069 local governments in 46 countries, have signed the Charter since 2011 and committed to its ten principles of adaptation best practice, thereby creating a clear mandate for local level adaptation action.

In March 2012, Durban co-hosted a USAID-funded implementation guidance workshop with ICLEI Africa. The aim of the workshop was to better understand cities’ climate change challenges and adaptation needs in order to develop an implementation plan for the Durban Adaptation Charter. The workshop was organised around three key themes: governance, implementation and monitoring and evaluation. Participants at the workshop agreed that it would be important for the Durban Adaptation Charter to be highly visible and have support at the international, national, and local levels. They also stressed the need for dedicated programming, coordinated by a secretariat that would: a) engage with a variety of other organizations, b) be dedicated to promoting the vision and distinct identity of the Durban Adaptation Charter and c) support signatory cities to the Durban Adaptation Charter. The participants further stressed the importance of using existing reporting mechanisms, in order to reduce reporting burden, to track adaptation progress. This workshop strengthened ties between eThekwini Municipality and key stakeholders in USAID, USA EPA, MIT, IIED, ICMA[1] and ICLEI Africa and their commitment to assisting in the implementation of the Durban Adaptation Charter. To facilitate implementation of the workshop outcomes, Durban committed to funding and hosting the secretariat function for the Charter for three years. The work of the secretariat was guided by an international steering committee of experts and practitioners, meeting annually at ICLEI’s Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn, Germany, and opportunistically at other events.

As part of the ongoing partnership with USAID, Durban Adaptation Charter representatives from Durban participated in the ICMA’s USAID-funded CityLinks Programme.  As a result of peer-to-peer learning that occurred during an exchange visit to Fort Lauderdale/ Broward County (Florida, USA) the Durban team learnt about the South East Florida Regional Climate Change Compact and used this knowledge to create the Central KwaZulu-Natal Climate Change Compact (CKZNCCC).   As a result of this experience an implementation plan, known as the Hub and Compact approach, was developed for the Durban Adaptation Charter which focuses on the identification of cities who are leaders in the field of climate change adaptation and pairing cities that share similar climate change adaptation challenges. These paired cities, called Hubs, then participate in a series of exchange visits through the CityLinks Programme to learn about each other’s adaptation approaches. The first two Hubs were Durban and Fort Lauderdale/ Broward County (Florida, USA). Surrounding the Hubs are compacts, that is, sub-national partnerships of neighbouring local and district municipalities that collectively address climate change challenges. This sharing of resources and integration of action provides a mechanism to upscale a climate change response beyond the boundary of individual municipalities.

Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, became the third Hub city, and following exchange visits between the Durban and Dar es Salaam teams and the hosting of a Durban Adaptation Charter East African regional workshop in November 2014, the local government organisations in Tanzania agreed to organise into Compacts in order to facilitate implementation of the Durban Adaptation Charter. In October 2015, Durban hosted a one-day workshop training municipal officials on how to establish and operationalize Compacts in their own Municipalities, raising the potential for the Mozambican cities of Pemba and Quelimane and the South African metropolitan municipalities of Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, Nelson Mandela, Buffalo and Mangaung to establish compacts with their own neighbouring municipalities.  The South African compacts will be coordinated through the South African National Government’s Cities Resilience Forum. The forum is a national government initiative to improve coordination of climate change action within and between the three tiers of government and their departments in South Africa, providing vertical integration of the climate change adaptation response from the local to national level. Late in 2015, during a visit of a ministerial level Ghanaian delegation to Durban, the port city of Tema agreed to consider and lead the establishment of the first Compact in Ghana. A schematic representation of the Hub and Compact approach is provided in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of the Hub and Compact approach in Africa.

Hub and Compact approach

The Hub and Compact approach was submitted to ICLEI as part of its Transformative Actions Programme (TAP), and was presented during the Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris in December 2015 during COP21/CMP11. The ability of cities using the Hub and Compact approach to report on their adaptation actions, guided by the Durban Adaptation Charter’s ten principles, was enabled by the development of an adaptation reporting page in ICLEI’s carbonn Climate Registry (cCR). This became the first local government level adaptation reporting tool. By using an existing reporting platform, the burden of reporting for Durban Adaptation Charter signatory cities was minimised, with cities being able to track their adaptation progress through the generation of annual reports within the reporting process. The relationship between the Durban-based Durban Adaptation Charter Secretariat and ICLEI was further strengthened by a decision to include the Durban Adaptation Charter as a key pillar of ICLEI’s annual Resilient Cities Congress series in Europe and Asia, as well as other international events.

In December 2015, the approval of the Paris Agreement during COP21/CMP 11 changed the international climate change governance landscape significantly, and while less than perfect, marked an important and positive change towards increased climate action by all key stakeholders. Importantly for determining the future of the Durban Adaptation Charter, the Paris Agreement includes a global adaptation goal (Article 7) and recognises the importance of action by ‘non-Party stakeholders’ such as civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities.  As such, the Paris Agreement addresses the two key needs which motivated the establishment of the Durban Adaptation Charter: the need to prioritise adaptation action alongside mitigation action, and to create a mandate for adaptation action at the local and city level. For a detailed analysis read the document entitled COP21 and the Paris Agreement.

Durban Adaptation Charter:

  1. Share this evolving Durban Adaptation Charter narrative with all signatory cities through direct communication, through the Durban Adaptation Charter website, through established partners’ communication platforms and at international events.
  2. Subject the Durban Adaptation Charter’s ten principles to a restructuring process to align with the articles of the Paris Agreement. This should inform whether current actions being conducted for the implementation of the DAC, i.e. capacity building, knowledge sharing, the Hub and Compact approach and reporting, amongst others, are relevant for implementation of the Paris Agreement. A new work plan to guide implementation should then be developed.
  3. Use the Durban Adaptation Charter’s relationship with various international platforms to propose a unified response by local governments that is consistent with the Paris Agreement.
  4. Develop local level partnerships focussed on capacity building and implementation through the Hub and Compact approach. This becomes more important than ever as the global focus moves to ambitious and timely climate action.

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability:

  1. The following set of proposed actions need to be discussed and confirmed by the ICLEI Global Executive Committee. They are, therefore, at this stage, still suggestions for the way forward:
  2. Subject the carbonnClimate Registry to a restructuring process to align with the requirements of the Paris Agreement including the appropriate modification of the adaptation reporting component.
  3. Encourage ICLEI regional secretariats to focus on implementation and collaboration with national governments to strengthen the integration of adaptation action.
  4. In order to assume an adaptation leadership role, the ICLEI World Secretariat will need to develop an adaptation secretariat to co-ordinate the TAP and carbonnClimate Registry initiatives under the banner of the Paris Agreement.
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