Johannesburg is forging ahead as a sustainable city, focusing on resource efficiency

The City of Johannesburg is increasingly feeling the impact of climate change that is resulting in frequent floods, drought, heat waves and extreme thunderstorms.

The city anticipates a significant rise in both temperatures and rainfall in Johannesburg over the next 40 to 50 years. This will have a major impact on infrastructure, health, biodiversity, human settlements and industry as well as food security.

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Leading the change
‘The impact of the choices we make today will be evident in the atypical weather conditions the latter half of the century will experience,’ says Mpho Parks Tau, City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor. ‘To reduce this future impact, the city is implementing adaptation measures as a proactive response to climate changes.’

Johannesburg’s focus is on resource efficiency. This includes the development of green transportation (such as the Rea Vaya rapid bus transport system) in addition to climate-resilient and energy-efficient buildings (for example, Alexandra’s Cosmo City housing project).

Resource efficiency also includes green infrastructure development across the energy, transport, water, waste, housing and building sectors. These green projects include recycling of waste; converting landfill gas to energy to generate green electricity and removing greenhouse gas emissions; installing solar geysers in selected housing developments; retrofitting identified households with energy-saving light bulbs; promoting water conservation initiatives such as water harvesting and greening the city by planting trees.

A liveable and resilient city is one that is climate-proofed against extreme weather conditions through adaption and mitigation. The city’s response to climate change includes promoting proactive development pathways, one of which was the hosting of the C40 Global Summit last year, the first for the African continent.

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‘Climate change is a global problem that affects current and future generations,’ says Tau. ‘Our responses must therefore be collaborative and intensive. Citizens are urged to become part of the solution.’

The choices we make today determine the future of our cities, country and planet. With this in mind, the city recommends that its residents recycle waste and make their own organic compost; use water sparingly, report water leaks and where possible implement water saving mechanisms within households and businesses; use electricity responsibly, investigate alternative sources of energy and switch to electricity saving measures like solar geysers and energy-saving light bulbs; plant trees and grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Green achievements
The ‘perfect storm’ of a growing demand for energy, food and water will also have an impact on Johannesburg. As a member of the C40 Cities group, it is increasing its efforts to combat climate change, conserve its finite resources and guarantee security of the supply of water and energy for all of its residents.

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Through various initiatives, the City of Johannesburg is conducting a green revolution designed to reduce and mitigate climate change.

This includes the installation of energy-saving solar water geysers in homes, retrofitting households with energy-saving light bulbs and introducing water harvesting.

Municipal buildings have been retrofitted with energy-efficient lights with a total saving of 100 tons of CO2. Retrofitting includes lights, cooling and ventilation.

Since 2006, more than 200 000 trees have been planted by the City of Johannesburg. The city now boasts around 10 million trees, making it the world’s largest man-made, urban forest.

In terms of waste-management, the City of Johannesburg separates waste at source or within households. Methane gas from landfill sites is also used for energy provision.

Rea Vaya, Johannesburg’s rapid bus transport system, represents the city’s single biggest investment in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, modern, low-floor, dual-fuel green Metro buses are about to be introduced. They will use biogas and advance the city’s clean fuel and low-carbon economy agenda.

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The city is rolling out 43 000 solar water heaters which will generate the equivalent of 22.5 GW hours of electricity per year – enough to run a small town. It is also installing 42 000 smart meters, geyser control systems and energy-efficiency programmes, in a bid to enhance the city’s energy efficiency.

A second biogas-to-energy plant at wastewater treatment facilities at the Driefontein works will be opened. Over 140 km of water pipes will be replaced as part of a three-year, 900 km refurbishment programme. This will reduce technical water losses from leaks and burst pipes.

A programme will also be instituted to design the city’s ‘future energy mix’. This will include the increased utilisation of gas, the uptake of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems and other alternative, greener energy sources.

First C40 City to issue a Green Bond
The City of Johannesburg has successfully listed the first green bond, COJGO1, which is set to mature in 2024. The bond of R1.46 billion was priced at 185 basis points (1.85%) above the R2023 government bond, which is very competitive and a reflection of the city’s improved financial position.

‘This is the first green bond to be listed in the 2013/14 financial year and marks a historic occasion as Johannesburg became the first city in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group to issue a green bond,’ says Tau.

‘The bond auction was 150% oversubscribed, demonstrating investor confidence in Johannesburg and commitment to environmental stewardship and climate change, while receiving a market related financial return.’

The green bond has provided the city with a funding source to improve and expedite the implementation of its climate change mitigation strategy and move the city towards a low-carbon infrastructure, minimal resource reliance and increased preservation of natural resources. The projects to be financed are green initiatives such as the biogas-to-energy project and the solar geyser initiatives, as well as other projects that reduce greenhouse emissions and contribute to a resilient and sustainable city.

The city is not new to finding innovative funding mechanisms – it also pioneered the first general obligation municipal bond in 2004.

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The man behind the city
Ever evolving, the City of Johannesburg is shaping its future as a sustainable and resilient city – one that cares about its people and their wellbeing. The man behind this vision and its implementation is its executive mayor.

Mpho Parks Tau brings a unique blend of youth and experience to his role as leader of SA’s premier economic city.

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A proficient international speaker, he provides a voice of transformation at international seminars and conferences. In fact, Tau has represented the City of Johannesburg as a speaker, facilitator and presenter at numerous global events such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, UN Habitat World Urban Forum, the Metropolis annual meetings, the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) World Congress, Africities and Economist conferences, to name but a few.

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His main areas of focus are issues of socio-economic development, urban transformation, climate change, energy and youth matters. He has also generated global debate and garnered support for his views and perspectives.

Tau is a member of the UCLG World Council and Executive Bureau, and vice-chair of the UN Habitat’s Global Network for Safer Cities. Through his international role, he has attracted a number of key events to Johannesburg, including 2013’s Metropolis Annual Meeting, the C40 Mayors Summit in 2014 and the upcoming Africities Summit, to be held in 2015.

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