Mayors Voices: Durban Mayor Zandile Gumede leads from the front on measuring emission impacts from energy efficiency initiatives

By: Zandile Gumede, Mayor of Durban, South Africa and C40 Vice Chair for Africa

My city, Durban, has already implemented a number of actions that aim to mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We do this to both accomplish the commitment we made through the Durban Climate Change Strategy and show support for the Paris Agreement. My city is among the committed global cities that have signed up to the Compact of Mayors (now the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy) because I believe that cities play an important role in achieving the pledges national governments have made to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

To fully understand how cities contribute to overall emission reductions, I believe that cities need to measure and report emission reductions from their climate change mitigation projects. Measurement and reporting help us understand potential cost savings from our projects, inform our decision-making processes and help us to identify risks and opportunities of projects. As the old adage goes, ‘You cannot manage what you cannot measure.’

I am currently developing tools that city officials can use to carry out GHG assessments for our climate mitigation projects. Working with C40’s Measurement and Planning team, we convened a workshop to build knowledge and skills of municipal officials on reporting GHG emissions reductions from our projects – using the Durban’s City Health Building Retrofit Project. Through this workshop, the Energy Office convened municipal officials to analyze and calculate the GHG emissions savings from lighting retrofit measures. Municipal officials were able to understand how a lighting retrofit project can lead to GHG emissions reductions through the drop in electricity consumption, resulting in a decreased demand for grid electricity, which is predominantly coal-based in South Africa.

My city is currently undertaking energy efficiency measures across most of its municipally-owned infrastructure which will significantly reduce GHG emissions. The interventions at the City Health Building yielded a successful 50% energy and emissions savings without compromising light quality and recommended lighting levels. The City Health Building project included re-design of the lighting system, comparison of effectiveness of different automatic control systems for lighting, and a staff awareness campaign; these experiences – and their effectiveness – informed energy efficiency measures in other municipal buildings throughout Durban.

Durban’s Energy Office is collaborating with city officials from various departments to demystify climate change and make the topic more accessible. Working on specific projects within the city allows climate change practitioners to engage with city officials and show them how their actions contribute to GHG emission reductions and other climate and social benefits.

Keep an eye out for Mayor Gumede's C40 Instagram takeover next week.