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IPW: South Africa’s government urged to prioritise climate resilience

26 April 2022

In this weeks’ Infrastructure Policy Watch, we look at what devastating floods in South Africa mean for its infrastructure priorities and Australia’s leaders are urged to reform domestic energy efficiency standards.

IPW: South Africa’s government urged to prioritise climate resilience
The South African Local Government Association has called for the national government to support municipalities undertaking climate risk reduction. Image credit: Jean v/Pexels

South Africa floods prompt infrastructure resilience calls

Recent flooding in South Africa, which to date has cost over 400 lives, has prompted calls for a new focus on the country’s infrastructure resilience.

Along with the severe loss of life, the floods have caused widespread damage to roads, bridges, homes and other key infrastructure in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

The scale of the destruction has exposed how vulnerable parts of the country are to the impact of a changing climate and the likelihood of more extreme weather events.

The South African Local Government Association has called for the national government to support municipalities undertaking climate risk reduction and prevention measures.

However, the warnings come as another report cautions that South Africa's falling behind on delivering the vision set out in its infrastructure pipeline.

South Africa announced 62 major infrastructure projects in 2020.

In March this year, it also approved its National Infrastructure Plan 2050, linking its development objectives to infrastructure planning and delivery.

Nonetheless, the latest research suggests the awarding of tenders has been slow, leaving many of those major projects behind schedule.

One hope is that the increase in infrastructure spending announced in the 2022 budget will help stimulate activity.

ICE’S view:

Climate resilience is rapidly rising up the political agenda. The IPCC recently warned of the looming impact of irreversible climate change on lives and livelihoods.

Its report emphasised the need for infrastructure investment programmes that support climate-resilient development (joint action on mitigation and adaptation) and the need to act now, as it'll cost more in the long run.

Our recent presidential roundtable on climate resilience also explored the size of the challenge regarding climate resilience and infrastructure.

Australia urged to rethink energy efficiency standards

A report by Australia’s Climate Council has called on the country’s government to rethink domestic energy efficiency standards to combat rising energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.

Many Australian homes perform poorly by international energy efficiency standards, with the report warning that Australians face some of the highest energy bills in the world.

Ministers are due to meet in July to review regulations and the Climate Council is calling for an increase in energy efficiency standards for new homes.

It argues that raising the minimum standard from six to seven stars for new builds could cut residential emissions by 12% in 2030 from 2019 levels.

The council also recommends further incentives be developed for homeowners to undertake energy efficiency improvements to existing homes.

ICE’S view:

Governments around the world are facing up to the rising cost of energy.

In response, it makes sense to prioritise demand reduction with huge opportunities to reduce consumer bills and cut carbon emissions by improving domestic energy efficiency.

However, the UK government’s recent energy security strategy was criticised for offering too little on improving energy efficiency on homes.

It'll therefore be interesting to see what, if any, steps Australia’s leaders take to reduce household energy demand.

Rising costs and skills gaps continue to impact New Zealand

The cost of construction has continued to reach record levels in New Zealand.

In the home building sector, higher wages and supply shortages have pushed costs further upwards in the first quarter of 2022.

A further report by the Civil Workforce Forum has warned that the country faces a skills shortage which could put more pressure on its ability to deliver its infrastructure pipeline.

The report cites an ageing workforce and a lack of training opportunities for new workers.

New Zealand has an ambitious infrastructure pipeline, but the report cautions that parts of the industry will need to increase their workforce by a third in the coming years to deliver it.

ICE’S view:

The latest news from New Zealand continues a trend identified by the country’s Infrastructure Commission in 2021.

The pressures being put on the construction industry underline the need for countries to build resilience and flexibility into their infrastructure planning systems in order to ensure their ability to deliver ambitious pipelines.

In case you missed it:

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch.

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  • David McNaught, policy manager at ICE