Meaningful exchanges between decision-makers and researchers on East African Climate at the HyCRISTAL annual meeting
From the 21st to 22nd May 2019 HyCRISTAL hosted its research into policy meeting in Kampala, Uganda. The two-day meeting provided a platform for exchanges to take place between climate scientists, climate researchers and decision-makers on the topic of climate change in East Africa drawing from the extensive research that has been undertaken by HyCRISTAL within the Future Climate for Africa program.
The meeting opened with a keynote speech from Bob Natifu (Deputy Commissioner for Climate Change in the Ugandan Department for Water and Environment). Mr Natifu highlighted the seriousness of climate change for Uganda through its impacts on all sectors. In response to this Uganda is in discussions to mainstream climate change across every sector but the right climate information must be available and suitably applied. Mr Natifu emphasised that it is the research of HyCRISTAL and the interactions at this conference and others alike that will enable this to happen. In closing Mr Natifu stated, “I’m very much encouraged that through todays conversations and the interactions that are going to come out – we shall collectively propel ourselves to practical solutions to save tomorrows climate today.”
Hon. James Acidri, Member of the Ugandan Parliament delivered the final keynote, “In Uganda climate change has become a reality. The days when we used to think there is abundant food and we don’t need to plan for shortage are long gone. We think climate change is still far but it has already started seriously impacting on us.”
Dr Dave Rowell (UK Met Office) gave an overview of the impressive climate science research,“HyCRISTAL has both reduced uncertainty and exposed previously underestimated risks, delivering major new knowledge of future rainfall accumulations and seasonality with explanations of recent drying – the so-called ‘East African Climate Change paradox’. HyCRISTAL has shown how increases in flooding are likely underestimated in all global climate model predictions.”
To share a more detailed picture of impacts with the stakeholders at the meeting, the thematic working groups of; water management, urban water and sanitation, and rural adaptation shared updates on their research. The water management team led by David Macdonald (British Geological Survey) have been supporting the Ministry of Water and Environment to integrate climate change into their plans through work that includes hydrological modelling such as spring assessment and flood risk modelling in Kampala.
The Urban team are looking at the impact of stress on the urban system through a weather related hazard, such as floods and what the current and future related risks are in the context of climate change and how we can interpret these results into useful measures for practical policy responses. Professor Barbara Evans (water@Leeds, University of Leeds) who leads the Urban team explains, “we aim to develop cost-effective interventions that will enable current and future water and sanitation systems to be more resilient to the increased flooding we expect in the years to come.” Priscilla Kabiru of Kounkuey Design Initiative echoed these sentiments in the second keynote address as she presented Kounkuey Design Initiative’s research including on their weather and climate workshops. These workshops provide a space for important climate impact and resilience conversations to happen amongst the community.
Rosalind Cornforth (Walker Institute, University of Reading) provided an overview from the Rural team and emphasised the importance of understanding the resilience of rural communities to inform adaptation responses. Further Hon. Acidri in his keynote emphasised the need to assess vulnerabilities and increase the resilience of communities in East Africa, “Tackling climate change is not only about the predictions but requires clear focus on community and household resilience and understanding livelihood strategies. Understanding the context for future planning is critical.”
A panel discussion was held with five panellists from a range of different sectors to discuss the practical actions that each sector is currently undertaking to address climate change. Following these discussions stakeholders formed groups to discuss the future actions and policy using the HyCRISTAL “Change Frameworks” to consider whatsteps must be taken now to produce the desired result in 40 years time.
The final day of the meeting summarised several other related ongoing projects and then focussed on future planning, research priorities, and ideas of how to inform climate change decision-making in East Africa through active discussions and group work.
In closing HyCRISTAL lead, Dr John Marsham(water@leeds, Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds and National Centre for Atmospheric Science, UK),emphasised the urgent reality of climate change, “Recent weather events in East Africa have highlighted vulnerabilities that will grow as effects of climate change increase. We all look forward to building on HyCRISTAL to ensure that decisions being made now ensure that the region is prepared for the changes ahead.”
The coming months will see HyCRISTAL finishing off its major research activities although smaller activities will continue until at least March 2020. The forward focus will be on publishing final scientific papers and delivering development impact through HyCRISTAL’s pilot studies, as well as communicating the research to a wider audience through forums such as GHACOF, webinars and the conferences, including the African Climate Risks Conference in October 2019. The networks and relationships that have been built up through HyCRISTAL will remain allowing the legacy of the project to continue to have a meaningful impact within East Africa, for both decision-makers and researchers.
HyCRISTAL stands for Integrating Hydro Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa. HyCRISTAL aims to develop a new understanding of climate change in East Africa and to work with the region’s decision-makers to manage water for a more climate-resilient future.
This article was written by Beth Mackay.