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Press Release 
Brilliant Petja  
WRC Climate Change Lighthouse and COP21

The eyes of the world focus on Paris this week as global leaders convene around COP21 and provide all of us an opportunity to reflect on the significance of these talks to our own national context.

“It is important to ensure that the South African water sector is strategically well positioned to respond to a changing climate and its effects, in terms of research and development, and mainstreaming actions for adaptation” says   Dr Brilliant Petja, research manager at The Water Research Commission (WRC).

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human influence has been identified as a significant factor responsible for the warming of the atmosphere and ocean, changes in the global water cycle, a reduction in snow and ice, global mean sea level rise and changes in climate extremes. Evidence shows increased warming over land regions across Africa, consistent with anthropogenic climate change. Decadal analyses of temperatures strongly point to an increased warming trend across the continent over the last 50 to 100 years. By the end of this century, mean annual temperature increase across Africa is likely to exceed 2°C, relative to the late 20th century mean annual temperature, whereas warming projections under medium scenarios indicate that by the last two decades of this century extensive areas of Africa will experience temperature increases which exceed 2°C. This will also be characterized by increased occurrence of extreme climatic events (floods, droughts, landslides, heatwaves, wildfires, etc.), which come with negative implications for infrastructure, health, production and economic growth sectors. All of these negatively influence development affecting water quality and health, coastal zone management, water supply, groundwater recharge and the energy–water nexus, amongst others.

Dr Brilliant Petja says “the WRC, through its Climate Change Lighthouse, provides support to the country and the water sector's response to changing climate through a coordinated focus on adaptive capacity, resilience, improvement of early warning systems, reducing vulnerability and improving the ability to respond coupled with proactive planning. These efforts incorporate research and practise through mainstreaming and site-specific responses, adaptive management, and local-scale planning to incorporate climate-resilient approaches and continual characterization of the climate system while bridging the science–policy interface”.

Building on the work of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, it is expected that the 2015 Paris global climate agreement will provide an opportunity for countries to ensure meaningful action on climate change. This will go a long way in supporting a climate-resilient economy while enhancing stabilization of greenhouse gases through coordinated mitigation efforts. The Parties should negotiate to establish a legal instrument that will support attainment of the United Nations'Sustainable Development Goals.

To find out more about the WRC go to www.wrc.org.za or on the drought www.droughtsa.org.za  or send an email to adriaant@wrc.org.za


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