The ‘super-wicked problem’ of climate change mitigation in South Africa

soweto-smaller

Soweto, South Africa (A.Nobes, 2015 CC-BY)

(This blog post is a task for the “Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries” MOOC being run by the University of Cape Town. The objective is to give an example of a ‘super-wicked problem’ and possible solutions).

After the landmark consensus to cut the global official warming target to 1.5c at the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21), all countries are under increasing pressure to convert these commitments into action.

In the case of South Africa, as with most developing countries, this may hinge on making some big political decisions at the domestic level, as well as relying heavily on international aid and investment. South Africa is extremely energy intensive for a developing country – mostly generated from coal, which goes mainly into electricity and industry, or imported crude oil, which goes straight into fuel for transport, and so if South Africa wants to meet its INDC targets by 2030 (the Peak Plateau Decline Trajectory) it will need to switch pretty rapidly from coal power stations to green energy or nuclear power, and also switch its transport system to mostly electric by 2025.

This is a big undertaking in itself, but as Hilton Trollip from the University of Cape Town pointed out in his recent interview with SciDevNet, there is a profound difference in opinion between climate scientists and big industry on whether this is actually possible without making sacrifices elsewhere. According to Trollip, economic modelling has demonstrated that it is possible to have economic growth, employment and income distribution AND reach their environmental targets. However, industry voices argue that there has to be a choice between either environmental action or poverty alleviation (through economic growth).

Trollip calls this a battle between political statements vs. actual evidence. Big industry has more power over policy than climate scientists. Civil society groups are still in their infancy – they have won some small concessions – but just don’t have the power yet to challenge big industry and the political status quo.

International aid is a double-edged sword.  Funding for climate research comes exclusively from aid countries, but this is ultimately unsustainable. Those countries also push for economic development as the way to alleviate poverty, but through investment of their own firms in the country. For example, DFID has increasingly been pushing private sector investment as a way of increasing economic growth – this merely subsidises big business growth into developing country markets, and increases their influence over policy decisions in country. The private sector exists to make a profit, and therefore tends to invest in short-term profit through coal and oil, and does not necessarily invest in the domestic job market or community.

South Africa needs to make urgent and radical changes to industrial and transport infrastructure, which will require significant policy change, but there are different actors with different priorities which conflict with each other – climate scientists, politicians, aid donors and big industry. This adds up to a ‘super-wicked’ problem with no obvious solutions, which likely means that neither policy change nor genuine poverty alleviation will occur anytime soon.

Donella Meadows’ “Places to intervene in a system” identifies 12 leverage points for change in complex systems – for example the ‘power of self-organisation’. It’s possible that people will self-organise and mobilise, as they are already doing through civil society, but in bigger numbers – but this is difficult to predict and also engineer! The 2nd most powerful leverage is in changing the ‘goals of the system’. The goals of profit and economic growth mean that the private sector dominates the system and becomes the barrier to change – it is not in their interest to put radical change before profit. Changing the economic system may not be realistic, however. We may need to go beyond this and challenge the paradigm that human prosperity and security is through economic growth. The commitment of 195 countries to reduce emissions at the Paris climate conference may be the closest we get to a paradigm change – that even our world leaders now recognise a more urgent priority which trumps economic growth. However, it remains to be seen whether these grand statements will be enough to force urgent system change in developing countries like South Africa.

References

Pamela Duncan (2015) “Critical mass of states will reach emissions peak by 2030 under climate deal”, Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2015/dec/13/emissions-peak-by-2030-climate-deal-co2

Lou Del Bello (2015), “Climate scientists battle South African industry”, SciDevNet,
http://www.scidev.net/global/energy/multimedia/climate-scientists-battle-south-african-industry.html

Mark Anderson (2015), “DfID to pump £735m into investment arm for private sector projects” , Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jul/17/department-for-international-development-cdc-group-735m-uk-aid-private-sector

Alex Scrivener (2015), “Does the UK government really believe multinationals are the answer to global poverty?” ,Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/22/does-the-government-really-believe-multinationals-are-the-answer-to-global-poverty

Meadows, D. (2009). Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System. Solutions. Vol 1, No. 1. pp. 41-49 – http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/419

 

30 Comments

  1. tita

    nice information

    Reply
  2. Baker ST

    I really like your article. It’s evident that you have a lot knowledge on this topic. Your points are well made and relatable. Thanks for writing engaging and interesting material.

    Reply
  3. fateh

    Very beautiful important and significant subjects

    Reply
  4. nassim

    Thank you very much for the information!

    est vraiment instructif et je serai reconnaissant si vous continuez à écrire à l’avenir.

    Reply
    1. nassim

      merci pour ces information

      Reply
  5. kamir bouchareb st

    thank you very match

    Reply
  6. simon
  7. simon

    fll nice article

    Reply
  8. ziane

    I am browsing this website dailly and get nice facts from here all the time.

    Reply
  9. zoulikha

    get nice facts from here all the time.

    Reply
  10. zoli zoli

    I am browsing this website dailly.

    Reply
  11. zoulikha

    I am browsing this website .

    Reply
  12. kamir bouchareb st

    very good thanks

    Reply
  13. Gherbaoui F

    Hi, this is an amazing article, all points are so true.

    Reply
  14. Gherbaoui F

    I am browsing this website .

    Reply
  15. kamir bouchareb st

    thanks for the last information

    Reply
  16. brahim d staps

    Thank you so much

    Reply
  17. kamir bouchareb st

    merci beaucoup pour ce la

    Reply
  18. Mfoklatus

    Возникла необходимость срочного ремонта в доме, а денег не было. Нашел телеграм-канал новые и малоизвестные МФО 2024, где представлено более 20 малоизвестных МФО, предлагающих быстрые онлайн-займы. Приятно, что займ могут получить все от 18 лет, даже с плохой кредитной историей. Заявка была одобрена моментально, и деньги пришли на карту за несколько минут. Это помогло мне быстро справиться с ремонтом. Очень благодарен этому каналу, рекомендую всем, кто ищет быстрый займ!

    Reply
  19. Zajkoahop

    Нужны срочные деньги до 30 000 рублей с плохой кредитной историей? mikro-zaim-online.ru — ваш лучший выбор! У нас есть список новых МФО, которые без проблем и отказов предоставляют займы даже при просрочках по другим кредитам. Минимальные требования к заемщикам делают процесс получения займа быстрым и простым. На сайте вы найдете подробный FAQ, который поможет получить займ на карту онлайн. Посетите mikro-zaim-online.ru и решите свои финансовые проблемы легко и быстро!

    Reply
  20. новые мфо

    Ищете надежный способ получить займ даже с плохой кредитной историей? На нашем канале вы найдете новые МФО 2024, которые предлагают займы от 1 до 30 рублей на срок до 30 дней. Вам нужен только паспорт и именная банковская карта. Оформляйте займ онлайн быстро и безопасно!

    Reply
  21. займ на карту онлайн

    Ищете надежный источник информации о займах? Наш Telegram-канал – это ваш идеальный помощник! Каждый день мы обновляем данные о новых МФО и рассказываем вам про малоизвестные новые займы на карту. Мы делимся информацией о займах под 0% и о том, как их получить даже с плохой кредитной историей. Вы узнаете, что такое онлайн займы и как их использовать с умом. Присоединяйтесь к нашему каналу и будьте в курсе самых выгодных предложений!

    Reply
  22. Samreza

    Саморазвитие начинается с первого шага! Узнай, какие книги по психологии помогут тебе на этом пути. Канал о саморазвитии ждет тебя с полезными материалами и советами. Вступай: https://t.me/s/razvisam/

    Reply
  23. FmoshkaSeefe

    В нашей семье возникли непредвиденные расходы. Снова обратился к проверенному источнику – Займы на карту без отказов онлайн . Выбрал подходящий займ и уже на следующий день деньги были у нас. Это помогло нам справиться с временными трудностями без лишних переживаний.

    Reply
  24. Flomodasicky

    At MCI Clinic, we specialize in cataract treatment with extensive experience, state-of-the-art equipment, and affordable prices. Our skilled professionals perform advanced procedures such as phacoemulsification, ensuring precise removal of the cloudy lens and its replacement with a high-quality artificial one. The surgery is quick, safe, and minimally invasive, providing excellent outcomes for our patients.

    Choosing MCI means benefiting from top-tier medical care without the high cost. We are committed to restoring your clear vision and improving your quality of life through effective, cost-efficient cataract treatments.

    MCI Clinic – лечение близорукости

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *