Original Research

Aligning SDG 13 with South Africa’s development agenda: Adaptation policies and institutional frameworks

Dumisani E. Mthembu, Godwell Nhamo
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 14, No 1 | a1155 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v14i1.1155 | © 2022 Dumisani E. Mthembu, Godwell Nhamo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 May 2021 | Published: 18 March 2022

About the author(s)

Dumisani E. Mthembu, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
Godwell Nhamo, Institute for Corporate Citizenship, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


The alignment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with national development agendas has gained traction since the ratification of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015. This article investigates how South Africa has aligned the climate action SDG (SDG 13) with its national development agenda, with an emphasis on adaptation policies and institutional framework. This comes against a background where the country has been accused of bias towards mitigation policies that were trigged by the Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios in 2007, which could have quickened mitigation responses to SDG 13. The data were generated through the use of three key methods, namely key informant interviews (n = 21), an online survey uploaded on an online platform called QuestionPro and a realised sample of 103 completed surveys. Furthermore, relevant policy documents were analysed from a critical discourse perspective. It emerged that South Africa has policies and strategies in place to respond to climate change adaptation within the context of SDG 13. However, while policies are in place, they have not translated to real change on the ground and therefore have not enabled the country to have adequate climate change resilience. The policies have not been translated into concrete actions; there are knowledge gaps in adaptation, poor leadership and lack of clear vision for adaptation and poor coordination. Institutions are scattered, with uneven capacity across sectors and different spheres of government; and weakest at the local government level. It also emerged that mitigation was prioritised for a while over adaptation, with a lack of funding and general awareness. The study recommends that adaptation measures should not be undertaken in isolation, instead, it should be addressed within the context of other programmes such as disaster risk management and sustainable development.


SDGs; adaptation; resilience; stakeholders; alignment; climate change


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