The World Wide Fund for Nature and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability - Africa launched the Earth Hour City Challenge (EHCC) which is aimed at encouraging cities to submit urban development plans.
These plans should encompass the building of transport, energy and food systems that will result in reduced pollution, more efficiency and increase the standard of living for residents.
"Municipalities across South Africa have been taking steps to respond to climate change and promote decentralised renewable energy for many years, but there needs to be massive up-scaling of commitment and action," said Steven Bland, ICLEI Africa project manager.
The UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has identified extreme weather events as part of a global warming trend that could see a temperature rise of over 5°C by 2100.
"If you look at the trend then I think that's pretty unmistakable and any proper analysis would tell you that we are heading in that direction," said IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri recently in Australia as the body discussed the heat waves that affected the country.
South African cities will be required to register their data on the carbonn Cities Climate Registry until October 2013. Following the date, the strategies will be evaluated so that a city can be announced as the winner by March 2014.
"We call on municipalities to develop energy strategies in the coming year so that South Africa can proudly showcase many more eligible cities taking part in next year's EHCC in 2014 - 2015," said Bland.
"Whether eThekwini Municipality wins or loses the EHCC is irrelevant. Climate change does not know municipal boundaries and it is therefore important that all municipalities, be it metro, district or local, join hands to collectively tackle climate change," said head of the Energy Unit in eThekwini, Derek Morgan.
While climate scepticism is a popular topic in fringe political groups, the evidence points to irreversible climate change with devastating impacts for poor communities if no action is taken.
"No doubt, Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate variability and change because of multiple stresses and low adaptive capacity. Environmental and climatic stress also raises existing inequalities between rich and poor," Stellenbosch University Professor Oliver C Ruppel told News24.
Environmental group Greenpeace said that the scepticism on climate change was not supported by the scientific data.
"The rise of so-called 'climate denialists' is nothing new, even if it is positioned as something that is 'rising in prominence'. The science on climate change is clear: It is human-induced, and the longer we delay action the worse the impacts are likely to be," said Greenpeace Africa climate & energy campaigner Melita Steele.
Sixty-six cities participated in the first EHCC which was won by Canada's Vancouver.