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African universities should step up climate research – Sonjica

By: Chanel Pringle
Published: 10 Mar 10

It was essential to strengthen the capacity of African universities to embrace and be involved in global climate change research, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a South East African Climate Consortium (SEACC) conference, held in the Eastern Cape, the Minister said that government welcomed initiatives that form a partnership to provide a nexus between academia, government and business.

“It is long overdue that partnerships need to be formed with government to provide the knowledge that might guide planners and managers in urban, rural and coastal areas, produce graduates and postgraduates in climate change, share expertise cost-effectively in teaching undergraduates and postgraduates, as well as promote public awareness and inspire actions for sustainability among everyone,” stated Sonjica.

She noted that public awareness of climate change and its solutions was “worryingly low” and that there was a clear need for government to build public support for climate change policies that would also enable the country to deliver on its national objectives.

Sonjica highlighted that a number of efforts to support climate change adaptation research and capacity was already under way, but capacity remained limited.

Universities could contribute to building the sustainable capacity needed to deal with global environmental change in the long term, she added.

“This will contribute to the strengthening of the African voice in international climate change and global environmental change discussions. We believe that African intellectual products should be informed by local needs and should inform simultaneously the development of local and international policy.”

Universities had to speed up their responsiveness and responses to climate change, as they could achieve better economies of scale in using existing organisation, intellectual and financial resources.

“Through [government’s] proposed network with universities, we will build the profile of climate change adaptation as a legitimate focus for scholarship, teaching and research and therefore begin the self-perpetuating intellectual endeavor of continuing to train future generations of scholars, researchers, practitioners and policy makers who will carry forward Africa’s work in climate change adaptation and global environmental change,” said the Minister.

Meanwhile, Sonjica said that government would ensure that it concluded the National Climate Change Policy and White Paper by the end of this year, while a draft Green Paper would be compiled by the first quarter of this year.

SEACC was launched this month to communicate and educate the people of southern and eastern Africa to measurably change behaviour that would lead to sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development.

The consortium comprised the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Rhodes University, University of Fort Hare, the Sustainable Seas Trust and the Wilderness Foundation.

Click the image to enlarge: Buyelwa Sonjica
Buyelwa Sonjica
Posted: 3/12/2010 (4:39:45 AM)

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