Welcoming Address by Ekurhuleni Executive Mayor, Cllr. Mzwandile Masina, at the Local Climate Solutions Conference, 22 March 2017. Birchwood Hotel & Conference Center
I want to welcome all of you to our young city of Ekurhuleni. We are delighted to be your host city as we discuss the important matter of climate change and the need for cities to respond to it with a sense of responsibility. We participate in this forum and other joint fora of global cities with the understanding that all of us need to act in unity for the sake of building a sustainable future.
As we all know, the matter of climate change is amongst the leading questions of human survival in the 21st century. The world dealt with numerous political threats to human survival in the previous centuries; stretching from the devastating effects of slavery and colonialism, the human degradation that came with World Wars 1 and 2 as well as the ever present threats of nuclear war that were present during the Cold War.
In the 21st century we have similar but unique global political, humanitarian and ecological questions that underscore the need to think about how to build a better and more sustainable global future. Just as we grapple with concepts of sustainable economies, immigration, global terrorism and various shades of nationalism; we also have to know that we pursue these questions in a natural environment that is under severe ecological pressures.
The industrial advances of the past centuries have led to immense growth in overall human wealth. The rise of industrial economies has also seen dramatic changes to the face of the earth. Human activity has led to the shrinkage in natural forests. This has come as a result of deforestation for the building of cities and human settlements as well as the use of timber as natural inputs in various levels of the industrial value-chain. As a result, this industrial activity has overtime affected the pattern of climate change. With the loss of forests, the world lost useful natural filters that absorbed and stored rain water.
Even though Africa is the least contributor to climate change it is the most vulnerable continent to its e ects. According to research, water
will be the main vehicle through which our people on the continent will experience the climate change impacts. These will include poor water quality, drought and the drying up of our rivers. For example, the Lake Chad basin that crosses Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and boarders the Sahara desert has diminished by 95% between 1963 and 2001. The Zambezi River basin, which extends across 8 countries in Southern Africa and the Okavango River have too shrunk in size.
Climate change and human activity are threatening our sustainability. While these continental and global challenges may seem rather insurmountable, I am confident that with such platforms that create the opportunity for social discourse and global partnerships as demonstrated here today, we will in collaboration with our partners develop a framework for addressing these challenges. As a City, we remain committed towards development, but equally the protection and preservation of our natural resources.
As cities around the world we need to be at the forefront of solutions that will ensure sustainable development and the reversal of the rate of climate change. In out context as Ekurhuleni, we are currently considering sustainable ways of rainwater harvesting through
innovative engineering. Our objective with this is to reduce floods during rainy season and to increase our water collection capabilities in order to have high water reserves.
This is only one example of many other possible interventions that we can come up with in our approach to sustainable development and climate sensitivity. With these brief remarks I wish to once again welcome all of you to this important conference hosted here in our young city. I hope you enjoy your stay and that we will all emerge here with better insights on how to better preserve our natural environment for future generations.