The launch of the Durban office of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group II Technical Support Unit (WGII TSU) at the Smart Grid Research Centre on UKZN’s Westville campus attracted more than 60 guests drawn from a broad spectrum of academia, and representatives from local and national government and the media.
The Durban Office of the IPCC WGII TSU, hosted by UKZN’s School of Life Sciences, was established to support South Africa’s first IPCC Co-Chair, Professor Debra Roberts, who was elected together with Professor Hans Otto-Pörtner of Germany to oversee the WGII contribution to the IPCC sixth assessment cycle.
The Office is supported by the Government of South Africa (represented by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), with financial support from the governments of Norway, Germany and New Zealand. UKZN, as host, provides infrastructure and financial support for related postdoctoral research while the office is staffed by two science officers (in natural and social sciences), one administrative officer and two postdoctoral researchers.
UKZN Vice-Chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld welcomed the distinguished guests saying the University was particularly proud of Roberts as the first South African and first woman from the global South to co-chair one of the three IPCC working groups.
‘The launch of this Office and collaboration between the city, UKZN and the IPCC governance structure is an important engagement for the University,’ said van Jaarsveld. ‘It creates a platform to showcase how we can contribute as a university to the IPCC and means that as a country we’re stepping up and saying we take climate change issues seriously.’
Dr Tsakani Ngomane, Deputy Director-General for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, DEA, attended the TSU launch on behalf of Minster of the DEA, Dr Edna Molewa.
Ngomane conveyed the Minister’s hope for the continued contribution of those present and her gratitude to UKZN for hosting the TSU Office as a demonstration of commitment to climate change science on the African continent. She acknowledged the valued contributions of the funding governments and emphasised continued South African government support for the Durban Office of the TSU.
‘South Africa values the role of science in policy decision making and believes in science and rules-based decision-making in international climate change negotiations,’ said Ngomane.
Councillor Nkosenhle Madlala, speaking on behalf of the Mayor of eThekwini, said that ‘strong, effective intergovernmental relations will enable us to share resources and ensure that all available resources for our work to combat the negative impacts of climate change are maximised.’
‘Climate change is a challenge that humanity has no choice but to rise to meet, and it requires sustained coalition building on a global scale,’ said Mike Burrell, High Commissioner for New Zealand. ‘South Africa and New Zealand have large leadership roles to play in their regions and we are proud to be one of the large contributors to this office.’
Roberts described the activities of the Durban Office of the TSU, explaining the IPCC’s structure and its work with leading scientists.
‘The IPCC is one of the largest global opportunities for co-design and co-production between science and policy,’ said Roberts as she highlighted the importance of the roles of governments.
She outlined the past and future activities of the office, the latter including the first lead author meeting of WGII to take place in Durban and a planned African roadshow about the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and progress on climate change work related to cities. She gave special thanks to Mr Maesela Kekana, UKZN’s Professor Rob Slotow, the TSU team and staff in eThekwini Municipality’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD).
Slotow, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the African City of the Future research flagship at UKZN and University Liaison for the IPCC, chaired the event. He said the launch was a culmination of years of activities linking practitioners, government policy makers and academia.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph: Selvan Pillay