As an African-led and pan-African response to the continent’s climate-related development challenges and the knowledge and capacity urgently needed to address these. In this way, our research falls into seven broad themes:

  • Climate-resilient landscapes

    In selected sites in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, we work with stakeholders to examine and consider solutions for enhancing the resilience and sustainability of people and their landscapes to both short-term shocks and longer-term changes.

    Landscapes are effectively social constructs and the outcome of the interactions between people, land and ecosystems, institutions, values, and knowledge. These interactions take place amidst various social, economic, and environmental drivers of change, at different scales of time and place.

    Through this research we explore multiple linkages between social-ecological drivers of change, landscape and ecosystem function, rural and urban livelihoods, adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and gender, intersectionality and human wellbeing.

    Lead: Prof Sheona Shackleton, University of Cape Town

    This work is supported by the UKRI-GCRF SPaN project, and connects with the existing WUN-supported Climate-Resilient African Landscapes network and scoping project.

  • Climate governance

    Research and capacity building under ARUA CD’s stream on climate governance focuses on the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in African societies.

    The National Determined Contributions (NDCs) are the central mechanism to formally implement the Agreement. The ratifying Parties to the Agreement communicate the progress in emissions reductions and adaptive capacity achieved by domestic climate change policies and measures in the NDCs every five years.

    The ARUA CD aims to build institutional, research and negotiating capacity to turn the NDC processes into meaningful national processes, to avoid creating paper dragons in the last minute and to create safe spaces for learning and exchange.

    Our research is largely comparative, between the Southern, Western and Eastern African nodes of the ARUA CD. We aim to understand enabling and constraining conditions to effective climate governance at international, domestic and community levels in climate action towards energy access, mitigation and adaptation that leverage developmental benefits.

    We research policy and regulatory regimes, communication and awareness, and knowledge creation and transfer. We also review and assess local and community level governance mechanisms as a special African contribution to climate change discourses.

    LeadDr Britta Rennkamp, University of Cape Town

  • Climate knowledge systems

    We work to determine the kind of climate change risk and response knowledge system needed in Africa to improve economies, build strong and transformative institutions, and ensure environmental sustainability.

    Without a robust climate knowledge system, adaptation may be only partially effective, or even maladaptive. For such a knowledge system to be robust it must include a network of actors who interact to generate relevant knowledge, to make the knowledge available and accessible to those who need it, and to apply the knowledge to build climate resilience.

    We aim to identify strengths and gaps in existing climate knowledge systems, diagnose their underlying causes, and then develop and test innovations that might fill the gaps. Our analysis is multi-scalar, from national to local levels, with a focus on the ultimate “users” of climate knowledge and those that are most vulnerable to climate change. Comparisons across the multiple case studies in our hub countries should allow for general principles to emerge.

    Leads: Prof Chris Gordon, University of Ghana, and Prof Mark New, University of Cape Town

    This work is supported by the UKRI-GCRF SPaN project.

  • Sustainable energy for poverty reduction

    We explore how to advance poverty reduction and increase access to energy and prosperity whilst avoiding emissions, to set developing countries on low carbon development pathways in the long term. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) sets out to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. As this is only sustainable when it is able to avoid emissions, this approach will help to set developing countries on low carbon development pathways in the long term.

    Access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is crucial to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals – from poverty eradication via advancements in health, education, water supply and industrialisation to mitigating climate change. Energy access, however, varies widely across countries and the current rate of progress falls short of what will be required to achieve the Goal. Redoubled efforts will be needed, particularly for countries with large energy access deficits and high energy consumption

    Sustainable energy technologies are a central ingredient in reducing or maintaining low emissions pathways. The theme sets out to investigate the deployment of sustainable energy technologies that are locally appropriate and accessible to the poor, their contributions to reducing poverty and increasing well-being; and to build the skills and capacity required for their uptake and development.

    LeadsDr Jiska de Groot, University of Cape Town

  • Climate action and social inequality

    We work to simultaneously address poverty, inequality and climate change by investigating the bidirectional relationships between climate action and social inequalities.

    Widespread responses to climate change, particularly in developing countries, cannot occur without addressing inequalities in political, social and economic power relations. Because these relations often reinforce unequal outcomes from climate change responses, different policy and investment choices on climate change can create winners and losers.

    On the one side we aim to understand how social inequalities and political economy shape decision-making processes and climate action outcomes. On the other side we investigate how specific climate adaptation and mitigation actions impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of individuals, households and communities across the income distribution. Based on our findings we will identify specific climate actions that can transform social inequalities by producing livelihood co-benefits for all – but especially the most vulnerable – whilst leveraging favourable outcomes for the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Lead: Dr Britta Rennkamp, University of Cape Town

    This work is supported by the UKRI-GCRF SPaN project.

  • Climate risk management

    We work to quantify and understand the changing risk of climate on water and food security rural-urban continuum in Africa. We bring together expertise in climate and weather risk attribution, statistical sciences, hydrological and agricultural sciences, and economics to: (i) quantify the human influence on both climate risk and hydrological/agricultural system exposure; (ii) to apportion socio-economic damage between these human influences and natural processes; and (iii) to evaluate the return on investment – both financial and human – of mechanisms to reduce the sensitivity of exposed water and food systems to climate change. Close interactions with public, private sector and civil society organisations help to maximise the societal impact of the research.

    LeadsProf Mark New, University of Cape Town

    This work is supported by the UKRI-GCRF SPaN project, and connects with Prof New’s AXA Chair in African Climate Risk.

  • Climate change teaching and learning

    Improved education, more supported lecturers, and engaged and empowered scholars all contribute to the creation of a new generation of researchers  that is better capacitated to navigate the tensions and complexity  of developmental challenges.

    We review existing masters-level curricula in climate change and development in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa to reflect on what nurtures graduates to be able to advance a transformation to more equitable and sustainable pathways. We use social learning workshops on the teaching of climate change to cross-fertilise, update and transform curricula across these countries. Furthermore, there are indirect and potentially global benefits from these workshops in terms of Southern and Afrocentric pedagogy entering international courses and education practice.

    We also develop transdisciplinary competencies for Master’s, PhD and Postdoctoral researchers through a Summer School for early career researchers, and offer a programme for supervisors and experienced scholars.

    These activities at their core aim to build the capacity, capabilities, and skills of researchers (primarily early-career researchers) to work in collaborative teams, across disciplines and regions.

    Click here to view our infographic on how we can improve our teaching on climate change.

    Click here to read about postgraduate perspectives on climate change curricula, or watch our video highlighting postgraduate learning experiences.

    Lead: Leigh Cobban, University of Cape Town

    This work is supported by the UKRI-GCRF SPaN project.