International Climate Services Conference 2017

By Candice Arendse and Noel Oettle

The International Conference on Climate Services (ICCS) started in 2011 and has been held in various locations across the world.  Cape Town was the host of the 5th ICCS, which was organised by the Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG) based at the University of Cape Town and the Climate Service Partnership (CSP) of the Climate Service Centre, Germany (GERICS).  It was held between 28 February and 02 March 2017.

The European Commission’s climate services initiative describes the term ‘climate services’ as “transforming climate-related data and other information into customised products such as projections, trends, economic analysis, advice on best practices, development and evaluation of solutions, and any other climate-related service that may be of use for society.” These services include data, information and knowledge that support adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk management. (Reference)

Although work on climate services has gained momentum and developed rapidly in recent years, specifically in Africa, communication and support to users is still lacking.  This affects the ability of countries to respond effectively to the impacts of climate change. ICCS aims to address these shortcomings by focusing on capacity building and sharing ideas and practices that could aid in enhancing user interaction.

The theme of the conference was therefore Innovation and Capacity Building with a specific focus on activities and challenges in Africa. In attendance were climate services users, providers, donors and researchers from across the world who are eager to interact and share experiences on providing and improving climate science-based services.

The design of ICCS5 included a diverse mix of activities, ranging from side events and poster exhibitions to a market place and scientific sessions. The scientific sessions addressed specific topics focused on learning from success and failure; operationalisation of climate services; and capacity building. Participants were able to showcase their work through posters as well as in the Market Place, which was a space for presenting new or improved tools, products, methods, business models and innovative ways of communicating climate services for users and providers. The Market Place housed a variety of organisations, ranging from users to service providers, including various university groups, WeAdapt, the Collective Leadership Institute, and Lushumo. The health, agriculture and education sectors had the largest presence at the conference, showcasing their services and looking for new or improved links and ideas on communication. The Adaptation Network presented the second edition of the Participatory Adaptation Handbook at the Market Place, where it stimulated much interest.

The scientific sessions convened under three titles. Learning from success and failure included an interesting aspect on sharing examples of good ideas, both those that failed operationally and those that worked well.  Operationalisation of climate services focused on development, implementation and evaluation for effective climate services. Capacity building covered a range of subthemes that included knowledge brokering, users, and research.

The conference ended with a world café where participants could discuss topics on and suggest a way forward for innovation and climate services. An interesting matter brought up during the session was that the term “users” remained undefined or unclear throughout the conference, which might be one of the causes for the lack of resolution relating to issues around user needs. Suggestions were made to make future conferences more inclusive by including topics on basic climate change theory and climate change practices from different areas of the world, as well as using appropriate language for different audiences.

Bruce Hewitson of CSAG closed the conference with an inspiring message, encouraging those present to acknowledge and do justice to their abilities to achieve.