Delegates attending the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at the Durban ICC. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN – In order to have an impact on addressing climate change, new models of governance and various partnerships between different role players were needed, the deputy vice-chancellor of teaching and learning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) told climate experts on Monday.

Professor Sandile Songca was addressing hundreds of delegates at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre as part of the week-long Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II conference, which deals with the global impacts, adaptation and vulnerabilities to climate change.

“As a university, we are aware that having an impact and addressing the problems that climate change presents requires new models of governance and different forms of partnerships among different stakeholders,” said Songca.

To this end, he said, the university continued to collaborate with local government through the Durban Research Action Partnership, which focused on supporting the eThekwini Municipality Climate Protection Programme.

“This partnership, as well as linkages with others, provides real world mechanisms for science-policy inter-phase in addressing societal problems such as climate change. Through this partnership, we are able to ensure that we produce policy-relevant knowledge that can be applied by our local government officials in the context of their work and priorities.”

Nowhere were the challenges associated with climate change felt more than in developing contexts, such as South Africa, said Songca. This could be attributed to a number of factors, including extreme poverty, inequality and the country’s limited capacity to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Songca said that the university’s 2017 to 2021 strategic plan emphasised the need to not only build human capital and conduct research, but to have a strong impact on society.

“As part of the strategy, we have developed four research flagships that strategically direct our research and give focus to having impact in key areas that are relevant to South African society, but also for other developing nations,” he said.

The flagships were social cohesion, which looked to address inequalities and promote nation building, African Health to save lives, Big Data and Informatics for computing solutions, and African City of the Future for creating the most liveable cities. 

“Each of these flagships is strategically linked to societal issues that are either affected by climate change or are required in responding to climate change,” he said.

On Tuesday, some of the delegates will take part in an outreach programme at UKZN.

Said Songca: “It is my hope that your outreach to the university will be a fruitful [one]. I have no doubt that the seeds that will be planted through this outreach, particularly amongst emerging scientists, will grow in the coming years, and will be instrumental in increasing the number of our young people that will respond to the challenge of producing policy-relevant knowledge in our climate change responses.”

African News Agency (ANA)