Sustainability and Just Transitions
Gauteng’s development not only depends on and is shaped by natural resources, but the way in which development has occurred has degraded ecological systems and natural resources, and failed to take cognisance of natural resource limits. In the context of global environmental change and the planetary boundaries that are being reached, it is increasingly clear that society in general needs to improve its resource efficiency, reduce resource consumption, shift towards low-carbon development, minimise harmful waste, and protect critical ecosystems. Urban areas, like Gauteng, play a critical role in shifting these practices – the way in which they develop fundamentally shapes socio-ecological dynamics. Gauteng faces the real challenge of realigning its development trajectory towards environmental sustainability, while reducing poverty and inequality: in short, transitioning towards a just sustainability.
This research theme, which continues from GCRO’s well-established programme of research into environmental sustainability challenges and transitions, seeks to expand the evidence-base into the coupled socio-ecological dynamics within city-region. Unless environmental and resource limits are taken into account in development efforts now, they will rebound in various ways to bring a hard stop to development prospects in future. Recent climate change projections highlight the likelihood of increased frequency and intensity of extreme events, which could lead to increased disasters. Recent concerns over Gauteng’s water security, following the day-zero crisis in Cape Town, provide a stark example of this potential.
Projects within this theme focus on some of the key areas of concern within this field in Gauteng, exploring key aspects of the sustainability challenges facing the city region such as water security. Other projects continue to examine possible alternative development paths that might sustain the region’s growing population and economy within the limits of available natural resources. Furthermore, projects deepen the enquiry into the governance complexities at play in pursuing both justice and sustainability as equally important but sometimes conflicting goals. Government visions and plans often present possibilities for concurrently achieving a number of objectives. However, implementation often fails to achieve these goals for a range of practical, political and governance-related reasons that have to do with a failure to recognise and/or successfully navigate contradictions and conflicting rationalities.
Together the projects in this theme aim to sharpen the conceptual understanding of trade-offs between different values, imperatives and rationalities at play in considerations around sustainability and urban development agendas.