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The Green Book: Adapting South African settlements to climate change

the green book: climate change and urbanisation in south africa
The Green Book is an online planning support tool to support municipal planning and the development of climate resilient cities.


The Green Book* is an online planning support tool that provides quantitative scientific evidence on the likely impacts that climate change and urbanisation will have on South Africa’s cities and towns, as well as presenting a number of adaptation actions that can be implemented by local government to support climate resilient development.

The project was designed to look at the components that increase risk, and provide scientific evidence and information that can be used by local government and other role-players, to better understand local risks and vulnerabilities and to respond to these challenges through climate change adaptation actions. The Green Book seeks to facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation into local government planning instruments and processes, in support of the development of climate resilient cities and settlements.

*Follow the links below for more information and further reading.


The research project consisted of 6 workstreams where specific scientific evidence was developed and peer-reviewed. These workstreams included:

  1. Downscaling climate change projections across the country to 8×8 km grids.
  2. Profiling the vulnerability of all local municipalities, settlements and neighbourhoods and predicting the population growth and decline of these areas.
  3. Assessing the impact of climate change on the intensity and magnitude of wildfires, coastal flooding, flooding, and drought; as well as the likely impacts on resources such as groundwater availability, surface water availability, agricultural production, and the economy.
  4. Developing temporally dynamic composite risk profiles for all municipalities and their settlements.
  5. Developing a typology of adaptation actions relevant to local government planning functions and climate risks.
  6. Developing a web-based platform where all evidence and supporting outputs can be accessed.

Story Maps

Between 2016 and 2019, the CSIR and its partners have investigated the anticipated impact that a changing climate and growing urban population will have on the settlements and key resources of South Africa. Users of the Green Book are guided through the research and evidence in a series of 11 story maps (see figure 1 below) that explains the:

  • Vulnerability of South African municipalities, settlements and neighbourhoods
  • The anticipated impact of a growing urban population under a medium and high growth scenario
  • The changes projected for South Africa’s climate under a low and high mitigation scenario
  • The extent of hydro-meteorological hazards in South Africa, and the impact of a changing climate on these hydro-meteorological hazards
  • The impact of a changing climate on South Africa’s economy, agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector, surface water and groundwater
Figure 1. The 11 thematic Story Maps from the Green Book. Access them on the Green Book's interactive website <a href=

Risk Tool

The Green Book’s Risk Tool provides a simplistic, interactive interface for assessing the vulnerability of individual municipalities. Access the Risk Tool on the Green Book website here.

It provides information at the municipality scale on:

  • Local municipality vulnerability
  • Settlement vulnerability and growth projections (see figure 2 below)
  • Climate information (see figure 3 below)
  • Hydro-meteorological hazards
  • Critical resources and impact assessments
  • Linked adaptation actions
Figure 3. An example from the Risk Tool of the <strong>Settlement Vulnerability and Growth Projections</strong> for Witzenberg municipality.
Figure 4. An example from the Risk Tool of the <strong>Climate Information</strong> for Witzenberg municipality.

Adaptation Actions Tool

The Green Book Adaptation Actions Tool was developed as an interactive tool to support climate change adaptation planning within local government. The Tool provides a range of planning and design actions that can be taken by local government to adapt to the impacts of climate change, reduce exposure to hazards, and exploit opportunities for sustainable development.

The actions are categorised according to:

The range of adaptation actions considered in the Green Book is relevant to town or city, the neighbourhood and precinct scale, and to some extent is erf specific, as it relates to land-use and development control.

The adaptation actions in the Green Book were developed using a framework that ensured each action was:

  • Linked to the mandate of local government;
  • Suitable for urban areas;
  • Associated with local planning functions;
  • Linked to good planning principles;
  • Aligned with mitigation where appropriate; and
  • Provided an economic, social or environmental benefit no matter the level of climate change.

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