Build Out of Cape Town’s Heat Action Plan

City: Cape Town, South Africa

Reporting to: Director of Risk and Resilience

The Challenge

Cape Town’s metropolitan government is building out a Heat Action Plan as part of a wider strategy to mitigate the impact of climate change on its communities and city services. The City of Cape Town (City) expects to see a rise in the frequency of high-heat days (+35°C) and intensity of heatwaves (+32°C for 3 consecutive days),1 which pose significant risks to public health (especially for infants, the elderly, and others that represent one of the 14 groups identified as vulnerable to heat in the city) as well as to continued service delivery. The impacts of extreme heat can also be both direct, affecting the body’s physiological functions, as well as indirect, by decreasing food security and increasing outbreaks of gastroenteritis, for example. Extreme heat conditions can also alter the transmission of infectious diseases, and affect health service delivery, air quality, and critical infrastructure required for services such as electricity, water, and transport.

Cape Town’s 2022-2027 Integrated Development Plan (IDP), which is driven by the Mayor, pursues resilience as a foundational aspect and the Heat Action Plan is a key resilience program to ensure that the City has suitable plans in place to anticipate and respond to high-heat events in a way that enables continued service delivery as well as augmentation of services to suitably mitigate the implications. Per the City’s Climate Change Action Plan, adapting to the increasing occurrence of high-heat events will be crucial to building resilience (of communities and of City government). City officials also believe that prioritizing responses and actions must be adjusted to address community-level vulnerability (as heat is experienced differently across space and between communities of Cape Town on account of urban form and socio-economic factors – for example, communities living in structures in informal areas are particularly vulnerable). In addition, extreme temperatures put frontline workers at higher risk for heat-related illness, which impacts the City’s ability to deliver core services. As the government works to ensure that the city is equipped to anticipate and react to high-heat events, an embedded understanding of the disparities in community vulnerability will be essential for building an effective and inclusive response model.

The City has established a High-Heat Day and Heat Wave Action Plan (Heat Action Plan) and is working across internal departments and with other stakeholders to ensure preparedness. This plan is the basis of the work but needs to be built out and adapted across functional areas (e.g., Electricity Infrastructure Maintenance, Recreation and Parks, Water and Sanitation, etc.). Embedding an understanding of need (and means) to respond to high heat across the city will mark the success of this fellowship project. The summer fellow will gain an appreciation for the multi-faceted challenges that cities face in pursuit of urban resilience, in light of climate change. They will work with the only city in Africa to have an A rating from the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP).2 Located in the Risk and Resilience Department within the Future Planning and Resilience Directorate, the fellow will advance between two and three actions. These actions would need to be in meaningful areas of impact, where capacity is currently lacking (on account of other competing interests or scarcity), to help implement the Heat Plan in preparation for the 2024/2025 summer season. The fellow will program these actions, onboard stakeholders (both internally and externally), and develop a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework and a communications plan. Primary stakeholders are City officials across multiple line departments who need to adapt their operational plans to cater for high heat events (for instance those working outdoors). Secondary stakeholders are officials exposed to high heat events who will need to respond (i.e., those working outdoors), as well as members of the public who are recipients of support coming out of the plan. The fellow, working together with the Director of Risk and Resilience, will connect stakeholder input, data analysis, financial analysis, and program strategy to answer the following key questions:

  • How should the risk of heat exposure be quantified to determine action to mitigate it?

  • Which are the areas of public health and service delivery that are most at risk to high heat exposure?

  • How should the City assess and prioritize activity based on measures of vulnerability and amongst other competing and complimentary priorities?

  • What are the financial and operational implications of planning for and responding to high-heat events (as well as the counterfactual – of not responding appropriately)?

What You’ll Do

To address these questions, the fellow will engage with key internal and external stakeholders to inform program design and implementation. Through their engagement and research, they will provide key inputs into developing an operational protocol for community and governmental resilience.

Key Deliverables Include:

  1. Working closely with the Risk and Resilience team to conduct a situational analysis to understand the current state. Deliverable: Contextual report on Cape Town’s unique vulnerability and necessity to respond to heat events and identification of two to three actions to build into implementation plans.
  2. Detail activities across specific areas of work as to how/why city must respond, including indicators for measuring progress. Deliverable: Draft response framework across proposed action areas.
  3. Integrating a high-heat response into seasonal planning for city services and embedding activity response framework across city functions. Deliverable: Reactive and proactive communications for internal and external stakeholders and draft monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework leveraging data analytics to measure success of implemented strategies and inform future changes.
  4. Presentation of recommendations for program implementation to key stakeholders, including the Risk and Resilience team as well as executive leadership.

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:

  • Data Analysis
  • Financial Modeling
  • Risk Management
  • Mapping (GIS)
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Policy Analysis
  • Writing and editing




1 Defined by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) as 3 consecutive days when the maximum temperature is 5°C above the mean maximum for the hottest month. It is important to acknowledge that sizable health impacts occur even on isolated days which have high temperatures, but do not fulfil the SAWS definition of a heatwave.



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