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Today is World Environment Day – a day that becomes more important every single year given the effects of climate change. This day gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on our relationship with our planet and the long-term effects of our actions.

This day is all the more important this year and in this city because we are facing a severe drought crisis following unusually low levels of rainfall and we need to fundamentally change our relationship with water and the environment as a whole.

The City of Cape Town reaffirms its call for greater collective climate action to implement the Paris Agreement. Last November, I signed the C40 Mayors collective statement which includes the following:

‘As mayors and climate leaders, we see every day the scale of the threat posed by climate change and the impact that it has on the lives of our residents. Gradual change and incremental reforms to energy markets, transport systems, and recycling rates are no longer enough.‘Every resident, business leader, president, prime-minister and mayor must seize this moment to transform our cities. By doing that, we can transform our world’.

In this time of drought crisis, we all need to give greater consideration to

combatting climate change. In Cape Town specifically, we need to have a greater understanding of our behaviour towards this scarce resource. Water is life and we can only save water while there is still water to be saved.

With drought as the New Normal, we have to break out of the old ways of doing things in order to protect our city’s sustainability.

The theme for World Environment Day this year is ‘connecting people to nature’, which is particularly appropriate because it is the loss of this connection that makes us forget that we need the environment in order to survive. We forget that we cannot continue to abuse it and expect something in return.

One of the priorities of our Organisational Development and Transformation Plan is resource efficiency and security and we are changing the way we do things to better realise that. We hope residents will join with us by changing their own lives as well. These can be simple changes – from saving water and reusing grey water, to recycling, to using sustainable building materials.

Sustainability is one of the foundation stones of development and every major decision we face as a city government should begin its assessment by asking what is in the best interests of the city according to a balance of needs.

Cape Town faces the challenges of a fast-growing population, with the highest urbanisation rate in the country. Every person should have access to opportunity, progress, social equality, dignity and respect – but against a backdrop of limited and dwindling natural resources, these aspirations need to be met in a manner which does not deplete Cape Town’s natural capital.

The City of Cape Town is committed to ensuring that everything we do is done sustainably. Sustainability refers to having enough for everyone forever, therefore being able to cater for the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.

The Mayor’s Portfolio of Urban Sustainability is one of our guides in this endeavour. The portfolio, which is published every second year, profiles a range of City projects and assesses them against 12 urban sustainability criteria. It aims to encourage project managers to consider the implementation of sustainability principles in project planning and implementation. The 66 projects profiled to date are varied, ranging from the biological control of invasive weeds to the Wallacedene green taxi rank, from the diarrhoeal disease season campaign to the Kraaifontein Integrated Waste Management Facility, and from the Pelican Park housing development to the Shark Spotters Programme.

We will be hosting special a World Environment Day exhibit at the Civic Centre to showcase this portfolio, which I will officially open on 14 June at 13:00. It is open to all residents and visitors and I encourage people to attend and engage with the information on show. I hope seeing this kind of thinking in action will challenge all of us to relook the way in which we view sustainability. It is not a nice-to-have. It is the New Normal and we must factor this into all our decisions – both at a government and a personal level.

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