~ Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil
The Kingdom of Eswatini submitted her ambitious and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in October 2021 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as part of her commitments under the Paris Agreement. The NDC is the country’s climate action plan which is outlining commitments in adaptation and mitigation for 2021-2030 period. Several contributions are laid out in this document including reducing emissions by 14% from 2010 base year, provided external finance and support is received. Under the adaptation component several contributions are stated to improve resilience in agriculture, water, ecosystems and biodiversity, health and infrastructure sectors. While under mitigation, there are commitments for greening the energy, transport, waste, industrial processes and product use (IPPU) and agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sectors. There are also NDC contributions for “cross-cutting” areas of gender, youth and disaster risk reduction.
The NDC will require $950million to $1.5billion to implement and this needs to be financed through external climate finance, government budget, private sector investments and projects run by NGOs, parastatals and other entities. Municipalities have an important role to play as well, and this article highlights the actions that Matsapha Town Council is undertaking with its stakeholders to implement some of the NDC commitments.
Matsapha is an interesting town, being the main industrial estate for the country and considered as an economic hub of the country. Its daytime population is around 45,000, while the night-time population is only 10,000, which means a large number of people work at Matsapha but are resident elsewhere. There are over 700 business outlets in the town and 60 % of the town is wetland. Mancoba Zwane (Environmental Health and Community Service Manager), says, “We are hosting a number of industries which need natural resources for their production of goods. These natural resources could be affected by climate change. Furthermore, the industries produce gases and waste, thus it is necessary to mitigate these impacts which contribute to climate change. If these industries are not managed, their impacts can trigger accidents and the release of toxic substances, fires and explosions, potentially resulting in health effects, environmental pollution and economic losses”.
The Town Council has been undertaking a number of activities that directly contribute towards climate action and NDC implementation. These include (1) Establishment of urban forests, (2) Restoration of wetlands, (3) Initiatives to manage traffic, (4) Reporting of the state of environment, (5) Implementation of waste to energy projects, (6) Establishment of off grid solar mini plants for industries and (7) Development of environmental stewardship partnerships.
Tree planting and wetlands restoration
Planting trees have both mitigation and adaptation benefits. Trees help sequester carbon thereby helping with climate change mitigation. Trees and shrubs improve soil and water conservation, store carbon, moderate local climate by providing shade, regulate temperature extremes, increase wildlife habitat and thereby improve the land’s capacity to adapt to climate change. Matsapha Town Council has planted trees in their green spaces and also around wetlands in partnership with youth and private sector. Wilfred Nxumalo, the Senior Forestry Officer of Department of Forestry said that the survival rates of the trees planted at Matsapha was high (96%).
Khetsiwe Khumalo, the National Climate Change Coordinator welcomed these initiatives and said, “The launch of Eswatini’s national tree planting campaign in September 2020 was done at Matsapha landfill. Eswatini has committed to planting 10 million trees in her NDC and Matsapha Town council is contributing towards that goal. It is great that Matsapha Town is leading in many climate change actions. Town Councils and Municipalities are key partners in the implementation of NDC as they are in charge of future planning for expansion of urban areas. We are looking towards them to develop robust town planning that incorporate climate change in order to climate proof the development of the urban areas in Eswatini”.
Traffic management to reduce GHGs
Reducing the burning of fossil fuels for transport will help reduce the rate of climate change and the severity of the impact of climate change. Matsapha Town is undertaking traffic management to have smoothly flowing traffic in order to reduce congestion and idling of vehicles in traffic jams, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. “A car travelling smoothly at a moderate speed may be more efficient that one engaged in stop start travel”, says Mancoba.
Monitoring the state of environment
Measuring the state of environment is integral to climate action. Last year Matsapha finalized a State of the Environment Study which is reviewed every 5 to 10 years to account for changes in the environment including air quality. Levels of contamination and climate change effects are measured in this study which allows for precise interventions. The study was launched at Earth Hour on 26 March 2022. Such data is essential when it comes to NDC measurement, reporting and verification.
Waste to energy
Landfill and open dumping are widespread in many developing countries, which release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Diverting waste which is thrown to dumping sites and landfills, or burnt in the open, to generate energy can help reduce methane emissions from waste. Eswatini’s NDC encourages clean technologies such as these “waste-to-energy” technologies. Zwane said, “Matsapha Municipality had finalized a feasibility study for waste to energy potential in the existing Municipal sanitary landfill. Demand for more energy and reduced landfilling volumes is encouraging continued growth in waste to energy plants”.
Matsapha Municipality is encouraging the high energy demanding companies to utilise renewable energy such as solar for their use. The companies that have installed solar are enjoying the offsetting of their utility bill. Solar energy is an important option for reducing future greenhouse gas emissions and is part of the NDC.
It is commendable that Matsapha Town Council is implementing both climate change mitigation and adaptation actions thereby contributing to NDC implementation. “If the town does not focus on both climate change mitigation and adaptation actions, we can be easily wiped out in one instance…” says Matsapha Municipality CEO.
Eswatini’s NDC implementation is overseen by Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs and Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, illustrating the clear linkages between environment and development. The focal points for NDC are the Chief Economist and the Director of Department of Meteorology. Duduzile Nhlengethwa-Masina, Director of Department of Meteorology said, “The NDC cannot be implemented by one person. It requires a whole of Government and Whole of Society approach. The role of municipalities in NDC implementation cannot be overemphasised and Matsapha is a good example of this. We encourage all municipalities to continue the good work on climate action”.