Climate Change Science Colloquium

Event date: 
2019-11-26 00:15 to 23:30

Background and context
Rationale of the colloquium
Objectives of the colloquium
Key issues
Format of the colloquium / schedule
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Background and context

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, already dramatically impacting natural environments and human communities around the world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was jointly established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988 to:

  • assess available information on the science, the impacts, and the economics of, and the options for mitigating and/or adapting to, climate change and
  • provide, on request, scientific/technical/socioeconomic advice to the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

During a summit in Paris in December 2015, organized under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement which includes a commitment to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;” (Article 2.1.a). To inform governments, the Paris meeting invited the IPCC to provide reports to assess the implications of the goal and how it could be achieved. Ninety-one coordinating lead authors, lead authors and review editors from 40 countries, helped by 133 contributing authors, prepared three Special Reports as follows:


Rationale for the colloquium


President Ramaphosa, in his statement to the UN Secretary General in the context of the recent UN Climate Action Summit held on 23 September 2019, made clear South Africa’s intention to revise our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to take into account the latest science as reflected in the Report.

Updating our NDC presents an opportunity to facilitate clarity on means of implementation, transparency, and understanding of future NDC(s), as well as on NDC accounting, adaptation components, and the enhanced transparency framework. The estimated period for submitting an enhanced NDC to the UNFCCC is the 3rd Quarter 2020, and implementation for the NDC should commence by end-year 2020.

As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement, South Africa has certain obligations which have been incorporated into the National Climate Change Response Policy as well as our Nationally Determined Contribution.

The Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries DEA, as the lead Department in the co-ordination of the national climate change response, requires to consider the complex implications of these reports for our national climate change response, and undertake collaborative engagement, planning and management in order to identify critical areas for prioritization in our climate response implementation

In this regard, the Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development branch is convening a 1 day colloquium which will bring together the line function branches in the Department to engage and synthesize the policy and implementation implications of the IPCCC Special Reports on 1.5 degrees; Oceans and the Cryosphere and Land. South African science experts contributing to the development of the above reports will be invited to the colloquium to present these reports.


Objectives of the colloquium 


The Climate Change Science Colloquium set to provide a platform for departmental engagement enabling:

  • Information sharing on the scientific findings on the impacts of climate change and their implications for policy making and implementation;
  • reflection on the adequacy of the mitigation and adaptation targets and actions as set out in climate change response/related policies, plans and initiatives
  • collaborative planning with a view of informing the review of our national climate change response policy and scaling up of the implementation of climate change response initiatives that will have a positive catalytic impact on our Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement


Colloquium content (key discussion issues)

Climate change affects different sectors in different ways, and at widely different spatial and temporal scales. Adapting to the impacts of climate change must draw together solutions that address this complexity by identifying responses that span social, economic and political boundaries.

The 1.5 degree Celsius Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on 1.5 degree Celsius came about as a request from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC's ultimate objective and its related legal instruments is to “achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with climate system”.

In this context, the UNFCCC through its landmark Paris Agreement agreed to an objective of holding the increase in the global temperature to well below 2 degree Celsius above-pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. Furthermore, by decision 1/CP.21 paragraph 21 the UNFCCC invited the IPCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. The IPCC special report was commissioned and delivered to the UNFCCC in 2018.

The IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry

This report was prepared in response to a request from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). At its Eighth Session in Bonn from 2-12 June 1998, SBSTA requested a report examining the scientific and technical state of understanding for carbon sequestration strategies related to land use, land-use change, and forestry activities and relevant Articles of the Kyoto Protocol.

The report discusses the global carbon cycle and how different land use and forestry activities currently affect standing carbon stocks and emissions of greenhouse gases. It also looks forward and examines future carbon uptake and emissions that may result from employing varying definitional scenarios and carbon accounting strategies, linked to the Kyoto Protocol, within the forestry and land-use sectors.

The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC)

The 51st session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 51) adopted the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) ON 25 September 2019, and accepted the underlying report.

The SROCC assesses the latest scientific knowledge about the physical science basis for, and impacts of, climate change on ocean, coastal, polar and mountain ecosystems, and the human communities that depend on them. It also evaluates their vulnerabilities and adaptation capacity, as well as options for achieving climate-resilient development pathways. The report’s SPM, which the Panel approved line-by-line, aims to tease out some of the key findings of the longer report in such a way that policymakers can easily comprehend and use them.

According to the report, global warming has already reached 1°C above preindustrial levels, with: profound consequences for ecosystems and people; a warmer, more acidic and less productive ocean; melting glaciers and ice sheets causing increased sea level rise; and coastal extreme events becoming more severe. The global ocean, the report notes, has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system, with consequences now visible in increased ocean acidification, stratification and loss of oxygen.


The Colloquium Format


Approach Discussions in the colloquium will take a full day and follow the following format:

  • Session 1: Content presentations on the IPCC Reports and discussion – 3 reports and discussion time (3 hours )
  • Session 2: Focused conversations to distil implications of the reports for climate change mitigation and adaptation (2 hours)
  • Session 3: Plenary Feedback, consolidation of actions and the next steps (1 hour)


The colloquium will be a DEA event led by the Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development branch, attend by DDG’s, Chief Directors and Directors of the line function branches as follows:

  • Oceans and Coasts
  • Biodiversity
  • Chemicals and Waste
  • Environment Programmes
  • Forestry
  • Fisheries


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