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Moves by South Africa’s big five cities to beat climate change are on show at Sci-Bono. In Joburg’s corner are Rea Vaya and Cosmo City, among others.
CLIMATE change – and what the big five South African cities are doing to fight it – is the subject of an exhibition at Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown.


The City's Rea Vaya busesThe City's Rea Vaya buses are the cleanest on the continentSouth African Solutions to Climate Change, as the exhibition is called, ends on 13 March. Included in the displays are exhibitions on landfill gas and energy projects; commercial wind farms; integrated, sustainable, low-income housing; green municipal vehicle fleets; LED traffic lights; reforestation projects; and reducing energy wastage in municipal buildings, among others.

The exhibition was unveiled at the 15th Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen in 2009. The focus is climate change technologies and projects that have been undertaken by Johannesburg, eThekwini, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town and Sedibeng.

Many of the initiatives taken by these cities have been supported by the government of Denmark as part of the Urban Environment Management Programme (UEMP), which is run in partnership with the departments of Water and Environmental Affairs.

The UEMP and its partner cities have received technical support from Sustainable Energy Africa in implementing their projects. This programme, which ended in 2010, built the institutional capacity of South African cities to improve service delivery to the poor through effective environmental resource management.

Dan Frederiksen, the Danish ambassador to South Africa, says: “Denmark is proud to be associated with efforts to green South African cities. The programme has improved the livelihoods of many poor households in the five big South African metros [Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Cape Town and Sedibeng] and has demonstrated that green technologies can help reduce electricity bills and pollution and thereby create economic opportunities and wellbeing.”

Some 16 technologies and projects implemented in cities to help build climate resilience are being exhibited.

Rea Vaya
One of Joburg’s key interventions, the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit system, represents a major turning point in how the City deals with pollution and greenhouse gases caused by transport.

Rea Vaya buses are the cleanest on the continent, running on low-sulphur diesel that has the most advanced pollution reduction equipment. This reduces the most dangerous health risk from vehicular emissions, nitrous oxides, by thousands of tons a year; particular matter is also reduced by hundreds of tons annually.


The City has installed solar water heaters in Cosmo CityThe City has installed solar water heaters in Cosmo CityIf just 15 percent of car users switched to Rea Vaya, carbon dioxide emissions could be cut by about 1,6 million tons by 2020.

Another Joburg initiative is the Cosmo City Climate Proofing of Urban Communities Programme. This aims to alleviate energy poverty by promoting energy conservation and its benefits by installing renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in low-income housing in Cosmo City, in northwest Joburg.

The City has installed solar water heaters and insulated ceilings and distributed energy efficient lights to 770 RDP homes in the suburb. It has also planted indigenous trees and vegetation on 740 stands. This programme is funded under the UEMP and is supported by the Danish government.

“South African cities play a critical role in responding to climate change,” says the City’s environmental management department. “Rapid urbanisation has increased the vulnerability of urban populations, especially the poor in informal settlements, to floods, storms and sea level rise and other environmental factors.”

It also notes that cities are sites of intensive energy, water and food consumption, and as a result are responsible for a large share of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The National Climate Change Response Green Paper released for public comment recognises the important role of human settlements and the built environment in tackling climate change.

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is the largest science centre in the country. It recently won the 2010 National Science and Technology Forum Award for innovative science communication to a mass audience.

Located in Newtown, it is open daily to all, especially school group. To make group bookings of more than 15 people, or school bookings, call 011 639 8400 or email or

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