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Title: Tracking inclusive sustainable development at multiple scales : South Africa's safe and just operating spaces
Author: Cole, Megan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 965X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Nations in the 21st century face a complex mix of environmental and social challenges. Population growth and natural resource use have led to ecosystem degradation and climate change and are pushing the planet towards and beyond its safe planetary boundaries. The global scale, speed of change and increasing complexity require international and regional cooperation. At the same time, human development has been uneven, with billions of people currently facing multiple forms of poverty and deprivation, and inequality within countries is increasing. These challenges are captured in the United Nations 'Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development' and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which represent the first globally agreed framework to address human development and environmental stewardship in an integrated way. The 'planetary boundaries' concept and its extension through the addition of social well-being indicators to create a framework for 'safe and just' inclusive sustainable development, have received considerable attention in science and policy circles. As the chief aim of this framework is to influence public policy, and this happens largely at the national level, this thesis assesses whether it can be applied at the national scale, using South Africa as a test case. A decision-based methodology for downscaling the framework is developed and a national 'barometer' for South Africa is created, combining 20 indicators and boundaries for environmental stress and social deprivation. This barometer maintains the original design and concept of the framework whilst making it meaningful in the national context, raising new questions, exposing data gaps and identifying priority areas for national action. This is the first case study for downscaling the planetary boundaries to the national level in a developing country, and the first national case study for the 'safe and just space' framework. The results show that South Africa has exceeded its safe environmental boundaries for biodiversity loss, marine harvesting, freshwater use and climate change, and that social deprivation is most severe in the areas of safety, income and employment. Trends since 1990 show improvement in nearly all social indicators, but progression towards or over boundaries for most environmental indicators. As national indicators can hide significant heterogeneity, the thesis downscales the barometer further to define the 'safe and just space' for South Africa's nine provinces. The results show significant variation in environmental stress and social deprivation related to climate, population density, economic activities and historical disadvantage brought about by Apartheid. The provincial barometers and trend plots are novel in that they present comparable environmental and social data on key indicators over time for all South Africa's provinces, communicating key challenges and risks and supporting the prioritisation of actions to promote sustainable development. Reducing inequality is a major focus of the SDGs and is reflected in the requirement to disaggregate national data by multiple aspects such as gender, race and geographical location. In this thesis, national piped water access, water use and water stress are mapped and reported at national, provincial, district, municipal, town and ward scales, and urban and rural areas in South Africa. The ward and town data are used to calculate national and provincial Gini indexes and Palma ratios for piped water access and per capita water use. The results show that although 45% of the population has water access in their dwelling this ranges from 0.07% to 100% at ward level, with a high level of inequality (Gini index of 0.36). National per capita water use (including losses) is 208 litres per person per day (l/c/d) but ranges from 8 l/c/d to 2,414 l/c/d at town level, with a Gini index of 0.27. The analysis shows that social factors such as water access and income, and not natural factors such as rainfall or runoff, have the greatest influence on per capita water use. The study provides the first in-depth analysis of per capita water use at the local level in South Africa, and suggests new water indicators that could be used in tracking progress towards the SDGs. For progress towards the SDGs to be monitored, countries must develop their own set of national indicators for all 17 goals and 169 targets. Water is a fundamental enabler of development and SDG 6, 'Water and sanitation for all', is therefore an important goal to measure and achieve. Appropriate indicators can support decision-making and highlight key issues on inequality, unemployment and sustainability. In this thesis, a comprehensive suite of 26 indicators for SDG 6 is proposed for South Africa based on existing national indicators, and additional research on water inequality and water-dependent jobs and income. The Berg Water Management Area in the south-west corner of South Africa is used as a case study to illustrate the results. Figures for jobs and income per cubic metre of water use are calculated for agriculture, agriprocessing, aquaculture and mining, the most comprehensive figures to date for the area. Gaps in the data are identified and methodologies and standards that require development are highlighted. The approaches to measuring inequality and socio-economic benefits of water use are relevant for other countries seeking to measure the role water plays in achieving inclusive sustainable development. Overall, this thesis provides a set of novel tools and datasets to track progress towards inclusive sustainable development at multiple scales in South Africa and around the world, contributing to the global goal to live within the safe and just operating space for humanity.
Supervisor: New, Mark ; Bailey, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available