Durban mayor Zandile Gumede and MEC for Economic Development, Sihle Zikalala launched the festive season programme in Durban on Sunday. Photo: Gcina Ndwalane/African News Agency/ANA
DURBAN - In a world first, Durban has become a home base in global efforts to tackle climate change, with the launch of a special office at the University of KwaZulu-Natal this week.

As Hurricane Florence lashes the US’s eastern coastline and the Philippines braced for the super typhoon Mangkhut, climate change negotiator Dr Debra Roberts said it was something the world was living with now.

“Climate change is happening at present. Hurricane Florence is indicative of the type of events we anticipate, to see that are expected to be more frequent and extreme,” said Roberts.

Africa’s role in tackling climate change has been strengthened by the launch of the “Durban Office of the Working Group II Technical Support Unit, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)”, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville campus.

The IPCC is a global body, under the UN, that provides objective research and data on climate change, and three different working groups undertake the work of the body. Working Group II’s focus is on impact, adaptation, vulnerability and sustainability.

Roberts is co-chairperson of Group II as the representative of the “global south”, which refers to developing countries.

Until now, there had only been one office co-ordinating the work of Group II, based in Bremen, Germany, where the co-chairperson represents the “global north” or first-world countries.

She hailed the establishment of the “global south” office as a turning point for African climate change science.

The office, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs, was established through a memorandum of understanding in 2017 between the governments of South Africa, Norway, Germany, and New Zealand, and is funded by the three countries, with the infrastructure support of UKZN.

New Zealand high commissioner Mike Burrell welcomed the creation of the office and said his country had already started campaigns to tackle climate change, such as planting 1billion trees over the next decade.