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SAIA Bulletin - October 2021






In his letter to the nation dated 11 October 2021, the President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, stated that it is no exaggeration to say that the world is facing a climate crisis of unprecedented proportions. The rapid changes in weather patterns continue to create challenges, not only for our communities within the built environment, but also for business. As it continues to affect us all - one way or the other – its transition is something that we all need to be a part of, from design right up to implementation. 

As the world gathers for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, there exists a window of opportunity to re-examine our trajectory as governments, business, non-governmental organisations, and community, to further mobilise the migration to decarbonised economies. The transitional trajectories must involve the crafting strategies or plans that will not only ensure that we meet our social obligations to our communities, but also enable our economies to flourish. Many South Africans are already feeling the effects of climate change through drought and flooding, which have had a devastating impact on livelihoods. The farming community, for example, has suffered tremendously over the years because of the rapid swings in weather patterns, leading to losses worth hundreds of millions of Rands. 

We were again reminded of these rapid weather changes through the devastation caused by major natural disasters such as those that occurred in 2017, that included the Knysna forest fires, Durban floods, and the Gauteng hailstorms. These disasters exposed the challenges faced by local governments and municipalities, resulting in a severe negative impact on the sustainability of South Africa’s non-life insurance industry as billions of Rands had to be paid out in claims to the affected policyholders.

Given the magnitude of the impact of these weather-related climate change perils in South Africa and globally, their significance can no longer be trivialised. The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) and its members, who are very active in insuring the built environment, are cognisant of the financial implications of climate change and continue to engage and collaborate with government, at both national and local government level in a bid to put together possible solutions to address these risks.

The South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas (2017) by the CSIR in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology clearly outlines some of the critical factors that constrain the adaptive capacity of local governments. One of the factors is a lack of budgeting for the implementation of climate change projects with an assumption that they will be integrated into existing budgets. This points to two possible scenarios; a lack of understanding of the magnitude or scale of the impact of climate change on our communities and business or a lack of clear guidelines and communication from the higher levels of government.

It has increasingly become imperative that local governments enter meaningful and effective partnerships with the private sector, civil society and academia with an aim of getting assistance with the generation of local level information and the implementation of climate change response projects to improve the resilience and sustainability of the communities they serve, as well as that of the non-life insurance industry.

SAIA therefore supports President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pledge to set lower targets for greenhouse gas emissions as part of his drive to decarbonise the economy, in a bid to attain the ambitious plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Source: Viviene Pearson SAIA Chief Executive
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