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Johannesburg Prepares to Host February's C40 Mayors Summit

 Mandela Bridge Johannesburg
Mandela Bridge Johannesburg

In early February mayors and senior city officials from over 63 leading cities around the world will come together in Johannesburg, South Africa, to discuss the climate change challenges facing their cities, and share news of the actions they've taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This will be the first time the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group Mayors Summit has taken place in Africa.

They will be joined by 700 or so urban and climate change leaders in a series of workshops focused on the themes of resilient and liveable megacities, greenhouse gas measurement and adaptation, and impact and opportunitys.

Key topics covered during plenary sessions will include: 

  • Adaptable and Resilient Cities;
  • Building Liveable Cities;
  • Socio-Economic Development of emerging megacities. 

The Summit will highlight a wide range of successful on-going projects from around the world, including building efficiency standards, sustainable transport and green growth practices and programmes. 

Amongst the highlights will be the release of the second volume of a global report "Climate Action in Megacities", publishing the latest results of a three-year seminal research effort to gather and benchmark data on the actions and powers of cities to address the sources and risks of climate change.

Collectively the C40 Cities have taken more than 5,000 actions to tackle climate change, and the will to do more is stronger than ever. As innovators and practitioners, C40 cities are at the forefront of tackling climate change issues. 

The theme of the 2014 C40 Cities Mayors Summit is 'Towards resilient and liveable megacities - demonstrating action, impact and opportunity'. 

The Summit is delivered by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and will be led by the 108th Mayor of New York City and C40 Board of Directors President, Michael R. Bloomberg, and co-hosted by the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Councillor Mpho Parks Tau, and the new C40 Chair and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes.

"The C40 Cities Mayors Summit offers an effective forum where cities can collaborate, share knowledge, exchange ideas, and forge new partnerships. With new insights gained, cities can drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate issues in future," says Mayor Tau. 

"Hosting the event will be a historic moment for Johannesburg, South Africa, and the African continent. It is clear recognition of the growing role that South Africa plays in finding solutions to the most pressing issues facing the globe," adds Mayor Tau. 

While cities occupy only 2% of the Earth's land mass, they contain over 50% of the world's population, use two-thirds of its energy and generate over 70% of global CO2 emissions. With 90% of the world's urban areas situated on coastlines, cities are at high risk from some climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms. 

Electric buses in São PauloSão Paulo is highlighted by C40 this month for its action on introducing electric buses in special bus-only lanes to combat pollution from diesel engines.

Photo credit: Elisa Rodrigues/SMT

Focus on Joburg

But the world's attention will be focused on the efforts by host city Johannesburg, known affectionately as Joburg, in combating and adapting to climate change.

The city is amongst the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in South Africa mainly from industrial, transport and residential (domestic) activities.  Here at some of the actions it is proclaiming for itself, which indicate that it has a way to go:


  • The city has implemented the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System, the first ever for Africa, which has displaced over 500 taxis and minibuses and is used by over 50,000 patrons daily.
  • They reckon that if 15% of existing car users who live within 500m of the Rea Vaya corridors switched to the new system, there would be savings of 382,940 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions by 2013.
  • With full implementation of Bus Rapid Transit the city would save 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2020.

Existing Buildings

  • Five municipal buildings have been retrofitted with energy efficient lighting with a total saving of 100 tons of carbon dioxide.
  • 104 municipal buildings have been identified to be retrofitted under a larger energy efficiency building retrofit programme. This building retrofit programme will include lighting, cooling, and heating systems.

Waste To Energy

  • At Robinson Deep landfill site, the daily pumping of landfill gas is 1500 cubic meters per hour and should rise to 3000m3 when the flare is operated at full capacity.
  • This translates into 5MW of renewable electricity which will provide power for approximately 4-5000 houses reducing the greenhouse potential of landfill gas by approximately 149,000 tons of CO2 per annum.
  • All five of the city's landfill sites, Marie Louise, Robinson Deep, Ennerdale, Linbro Park and Goudkoppies will, in the near future, be converted from methane gas flaring to power generation sites and will be producing approximately 19MW of electricity which can supply 12,500 medium-size households over 20 years and beyond.

Outdoor Lighting

  • Nelson Mandela Bridge as another City Power's initiatives has been retrofitted with 60 street lights of 9 watts of light emitting diodes (LEDs) which replaced 150 watts metal halide lights in order to save energy and costs.

Tree planting and greening programmes

  • The City has made a significant progress with its greening programme. This includes the 200,000 trees that have been planted since 2006.
  • The project largely complemented the award winning Greening Soweto campaign aimed at developing and upgrading world-class parks in areas such as Soweto, Orange Farm and Cosmos City.
  • These projects have lead to an improvement in air quality in the city, and have acted as a catalyst in developing civic ownership, resulting in a decrease in littering, vandalism and dumping in parks.
  • Furthermore, there has been rehabilitation of the southern catchments, park developments in disadvantaged areas, and the provision of green servitudes and ecological assessments of the City's catchments.

Human Settlements
Cosmo City Climate Proofing Project which involves the provision of low pressure solar water geysers to over 1000 low income households including the provision of energy efficiency lights and planting of fruit trees. The solar geyser programme has been extended to other areas of the CoJ through the City Power Solar Water Geyser Programme (SWHP). The SWHP was launched in October 2012 and is aimed at rolling out 110,000 geysers to poor and low income households over three years.

Actions on climate adaptation

A Johannesburg Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP) for the City was completed in 2009. Adaptation initiatives that have emanated from this Plan include a Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Management Plan, Flood modeling for flood prone areas and Disaster response.

The (CCAP) was recently one of only 29 projects globally nominated for the C40 & Siemens Climate Leadership Award . Guided by the CCAP, the city is mapping flood prone areas, developing early warning systems, and raising awareness in vulnerable communities. It has gone further to integrate the CCAP recommendations into both long-term city strategy and day-to-day operations.

Food and Agriculture

  • Organic food gardens have been started at schools and communities, allowing members to generate income through the production and sale of vegetables.
  • A total of 30 vegetable gardens were developed within the City of Johannesburg, predominantly in schools, between 2010 and 2011.