Climate change is a problem that affects all of us, regardless of where we live or what religion or culture we come from. Problems related to environmental change are economically and socially complex, so devising solutions that we can all agree on is difficult.
This is especially true in South Africa, where residents living in the same cities come from such diverse backgrounds with different perspectives on issues. However, rather than being a cause for disagreements, our differences in perspective and opinion can also help to produce solutions to climate change.
Multiple contexts need to be considered for climate change solutions
This was a major message that emerged from the first-ever Cities Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting which took place in Canada recently. Science alone cannot provide all the solutions to weather extremes; our social, cultural, economic and historical differences also have a role to play when devising climate change solutions.
By acknowledging that there are multiple perspectives and knowledge types in a city, it becomes possible to build a holistic understanding of complex problems related to the climate. This understanding is used by the Future Resilience of African Cities and Lands (FRACTAL) project.
This project relies on a number of different people from various cities and professions, including ordinary citizens, to advance scientific knowledge about regional climate change solutions. Nine African cities took part in the latest FRACTAL meeting, namely Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Harare, Gaborone, Blantyre, Maputo, Lusaka and Windhoek.
All stakeholders are consulted
The FRACTAL project takes into consideration people’s priorities, their historical backgrounds and religious or scientific beliefs. Key players meet face-to-face to discuss and explore potential climate change solutions that appease multiple contexts.
This process forces researchers to take local knowledge and perspectives into account when devising possible solutions for each city. Each city’s needs and threats are different – where Cape Town might be struggling with drought, Maputo has to contend with floods and rising sea levels.
These methods of data gathering and research place people at the centre of the process. They also acknowledge scientific evidence alongside cultural values, which is important to implement the right steps and educate people about climate change at the same time.
Every city has its own needs and climate problems
Citizens understand climate change in their own context and look for solutions that fit within this context. For example, people from Botswana can teach us about effective communication approaches that support citizen responses, such as through local community meetings called “freedom squares”.
So far, the FRACTAL project is working. Scientists and politicians in Lusaka, for example, are finalising four new policies on water issues faced by the city. They’ve assessed how climate change will affect their own water situation and devised solutions that suit their specific context.
Namibia is also developing the City of Windhoek Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, using local narratives and the input from scientists, engineers and civilians. Such processes help to build better relationships between government, researches and civilians. It also aligns multiple industries and departments on climate change solutions.
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