Rising to the Adaptation Challenge? Responding to Global Environmental Change in eThekwini and Ugu Municipalities, South Africa.

Hayley Leck

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In response to rising concerns about adverse global environmental change (GEC), or climate change (CC) impacts, adaptation and mitigation measures are being widely implemented. However, much still needs to be understood about how these measures manifest in reality at various scales and the drivers and barriers to action in specific contexts. This thesis uses multiple social science research methods to investigate responses to GEC/CC, with a particular emphasis on adaptation and underlying development contexts, within the neighbouring Ugu and eThekwini local government districts in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. The study’s focus on local authorities and communities is pertinent given that many adaptation and some mitigation actions are ultimately undertaken at local scales. The thesis comprises two main layers of analysis: first, a comparative analysis of Ugu and eThekwini municipalities’ GEC/CC responses and an investigation of the relationship between these municipalities regarding environmental and GEC agendas, and the likely effect of collaboration or lack thereof on GEC adaptation initiatives. Second, incorporating these municipal-scale findings, I explore understandings and responses to climate variability and change and their likely effects within several diverse local study sites across rural-urban continua within both municipalities. The results show that, despite their close proximity, the two municipalities have responded to GEC in very different ways and that municipal authorities, together with their respective diverse local populations, have divergent adaptive capacities. The research also reveals that horizontal inter-municipal collaboration and vertical collaboration between multiple government spheres is weak. The thesis suggests that strengthening such collaboration within a multi-level governance framework can facilitate effective adaptation and address current divergent municipal adaptive capacities. The thesis also reveals the importance for GEC measures to account for the diversity of understandings, responses and vulnerabilities to GEC amongst local populations, shaped by multiple climatic and non-climatic stresses, including cultural beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Simon, David, Supervisor
  • Loftus, Alexander, Advisor
Award date1 Apr 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

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