The Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture, entrusted with implementing the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment’s Working on Fire Programme, applauds Minister Barbara Creecy’s submission of the Climate Change Bill to Parliament on October 24, 2023.
The bill, now under parliamentary consideration, aims to curtail greenhouse gas emissions by setting sectoral targets towards achieving zero emissions. It also empowers the national government to allocate increased funding for climate change programmes, especially at the local level, fortifying the resilience of vulnerable communities.
In September 2022, the Working on Fire – Kishugu Project Manager, Trevor Abrahams, presented the Working on Fire inputs on the Climate Change Bill to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.
Emphasizing the urgent need for preparedness, Abrahams forewarned that the escalating threat of climate change is poised to escalate wildfire occurrences significantly. “South Africa will be facing more frequent disastrous fires due to climate change, as recently experienced at fires in the North West Province, where just over 200 WOF firefighters, two helicopters, and one spotter plane had to help in the extinguishing of this fire which burnt more than 90 000 hectares”. (Sept 2022).
Abrahams articulated the connection between global warming and the imminent rise in temperatures over the coming decades, creating drier conditions conducive to more frequent and intense fires. He highlighted the Climate Change Bill as a crucial legislative instrument in mitigating the profound impact on South Africa, particularly on agriculture and marginalized communities. “Extreme weather events, marked by flooding, droughts, and unprecedented wildland fires, are becoming distressingly commonplace. Of particular concern are projections indicating that the developed world may bear the brunt of these adverse effects of climate change,” warned Abrahams.
The recent spate of catastrophic flooding in KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape, and extreme wildfires in North West, Free State, and Northern Cape underscores the immediate and tangible impacts of climate change. AGRISA estimates the agriculture sector’s losses in billions, accompanied by the tragic loss of 12 lives in extreme wildfires.
The Working on Fire Programme’s 5300 firefighters, increasingly deployed to combat major fires outside traditional seasonal boundaries, call for urgent and concerted action to address this escalating threat.
“Legislative provisions should be aimed at addressing the institutional, mandate, and resource basis of this aspect of South Africa’s response to the threat of Wildland fires”, Abrahams said. He further adds that Working on Fire’s response should include specific provisions for developing mitigation strategies and initiatives for addressing the negative impacts of climate change which is already evident.
Abrahams advocates for legislative provisions addressing the institutional, mandate, and resource bases of South Africa’s response to wildland fires, encompassing disaster management, community preparedness, education, and communication.
Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture will be holding a Fire Symposium to be held by on the 8th, 9th and 10th of November at the Skukuza Conference Centre in the Kruger National Park. The theme of the symposium is to emphasise the importance of preventative measures and to foster greater collaboration, within and between states and is intended to provide a platform for greater collaboration on the African continent and international wildland fire forums.
This expands on the 2022 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report ‘Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires’, on that climate change and land-use change are making wildfires worse, anticipating on a global increase of extreme fires even in previously unaffected areas. Wildfire management practitioners, wildfire scientists, weather experts, and provincial and local disaster management practitioners, as well as a host of international speakers, will be engaging in implementing preventative measures in the face of escalating wildfires exacerbated by climate change.
Issued by Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture Communications
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