Cape Town’s Coastal Set-back Line ensures that development does not encroach on the immediate coastal environment, encouraging risk-averse coastal planning that takes into account climatic changes now and in the future.

The Challenge

While Cape Town’s coastline is one of the city’s most important assets, it is also a source of risk, given rising sea levels and frequent storms.The coastline’s complex nexus of social, economic, ecological, and legislative systems is managed by three distinct tiers of government, andthe absence of a city-wide strategic decision-making support framework had aggravated the risks to the coast. The city’s Coastal Set-back Line therefore guides strategic municipal decision-making and promotes sustainable coastal development that ensures the coast will remain a treasured assetfor Cape Town.

The Solution

In 2012, the City of Cape Town developed the Coastal Set-back Line in order to guide the city’s decision-makers to more effectively regulate coastal development and to safeguard the coastline against future climate change risks. Creating the Coastal Set-back Line included both biophysical considerations, such as risks related to sea level rise, coastal erosion, and biodiversity as well as socio-economic considerations such as promoting access to the coast and involving members of the public in the design, thereby improving city resilience and social justice.

Critical to the development of the set-back line was the fact that no legislation in South Africa had previously been designed to resolve and manage existing at-risk infrastructure – both natural and man-made. The implementation of the Coastal Set-back Line will be used to enhance other regulatory mechanisms within the city that address climate change risks. Cape Town’s commitment to coastal protection and ambition for guided decision-making across departments and spheres of government are also reflected in other new policies, such as the Coastal and Sea Defense Decision Framework, which seeks to reduce the risks connected to sea level rise.

Environmental Benefits – The Coastal Set-back Line protects more than 240 km of coastline, securing biodiversity in the local environment.

Social Benefits – The socio-economic potential of the coast can be enhanced through economic development strategies, supported by the Coastal Set-back Line, which will benefit previously disadvantaged communities and help redress entrenched social injustices caused by apartheid.

Economic Benefits – Protecting and enhancing the socio-economic value of the coastline by encouraging development that is set back from the immediate coastal environment will enhance the benefits provided by the coastline.

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments. You can access the full Cities100 2015 publication online here.

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Key Impact
An increase from 32% to 48% of the target audience agreeing that solar water heater installers are trustworthy and competent
Emissions Reduction
14,000 tons of CO2 reduced from solar water heaters by 2015
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