by Blessing Bongani Sibande, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers

Will community service delivery be affected by climate change in the near future? Youth leaders in Mbombela debated how municipal service delivery planning will integrate with climate resiliency, as they celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the NGO which trains and supports them, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers.

The Activate network has been in existence for over a decade since its inception in January 2012. The organisation has trained 4,500 young people to be active citizens, involved in their communities: 39% of the youth network (called Activators) have their own businesses; 44% are involved with combating HIV/AIDS, and 87% are engaging with other youth within the society.

In September, Activators convened at the City of Mbombela to attend the NGO’s provincial imbizo and celebrate being part of its 10-year journey. Activators from across Mpumalanga came together under the theme of, “How climate change affects municipal service delivery”.

The youth activators were given an opportunity to run and lead the session, highlighting challenges that affected municipal service delivery in the context of climate change, such as floods, rising sea levels, man-made pollution, drought, air pollution, water evaporation and so on.

The conversation centred around integrating climate considerations into service delivery planning – such as infrastructure master planning and asset management planning – which is key to climate resilience. Climate change will have significant impacts on levels of service delivery, risks to service delivery, and costs of service delivery.

The conclusion to the imbizo youth narrative was that service delivery planning can help different communities in various ways, such as:

  • Assess and manage risks by determining how climate change will affect services; and how strategic decisions about infrastructure investments, operations and maintenance standards can improve climate resilience. For example, assessing the impacts of sea levels rising, and weighing the costs and benefits of installing coastal protection infrastructure; or rehabilitating a natural shoreline to manage the impacts.
  • Set and adapt service levels that consider and accommodate the impacts of climate change. For example, warming in a cold climate community may lead to an increase in the number of freeze-thaw cycles, which may require changes to the road maintenance service levels.
  • Manage costs of climate change impacts by anticipating changes in service delivery and proactively managing risk or adapting levels of service at opportune times, like the end of the useful life of an existing asset. For example, using future climate projections rather than historic climate data to specify the replacement of an aging HVAC system in a recreation centre during routine asset renewal.

Regardless of the impact, climate change will require reassessing risks, costs, and levels of service and the trade-offs among these for providing different services because the conditions are changing. What this means is that municipalities cannot continue to maintain the status quo, as it may be more expensive in the long term and lead to lower climate change resilience.

Municipalities should plan to evaluate service delivery planning, day-to-day operations, as well as the maintenance and replacement of infrastructure, with climate change in mind.

The young people in attendance also looked at how municipalities could include climate considerations in service delivering planning:

  • Use climate scenarios to understand how demands on infrastructure will change over time.
  • Monitor maintenance and repairs schedules to reflect changing conditions.
  • Update levels of service where needed to reflect climate risks, including type, size, and scale of services.
  • Evaluate and manage changing risks, including the impact of climate change on asset lifespan.
  • Monitor and update environmental programs and service delivery plans as additional information becomes available.
  • Identify and plan for adapting for new opportunities across services.
  • Determine appropriate timing for capital investments for adaptation, leveraging asset replacement, and renewal, as opportunities to adapt infrastructure.
  • Identify the impact of climate change on natural assets and the services that they provide.
  • Rehabilitate or protect natural assets that increase the resilience of service delivery systems.
  • Update design parameters to take into account changing conditions.



Blessing Bongani Sibande is a youth Activator at Activate Change Drivers, a present dad, a NYRI ambassador, an entrepreneur, and a community builder whose passion is servicing his community.

About ACTIVATE! Change Drivers:

ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. Connecting youth who have the skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges and initiate innovative and creative solutions that can reshape our society.

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