A view of Cape Town from Table Mountain.
A view of Cape Town from Table Mountain. Daniel Knieper / Flickr

Climate services – the production, tailoring, interpretation and transfer of high-quality climate information to support planning and decision-making – is a new but fast-growing field. In Africa alone, several national initiatives have been launched, along with regional “Science Service Centres” in West and Southern Africa and several other programmes. SEI launched its own Initiative on Climate Services last year, building on the institute’s long history of capacity-building for climate change mitigation, adaptation and development, including the weADAPT adaptation knowledge platform hosted by the Oxford Centre.

On 28 February–2 March, more than 250 users and providers of climate services from around the world will gather at the fifth annual International Conference on Climate Services (ICCS5), in Cape Town, South Africa. Additional side events will be held the day before and after the conference.

ICCS5 is hosted by the University of Cape Town (UCT) and co-sponsored by SEI, the World Bank and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS). In line with the focus on capacity-building, the co-sponsors are supporting the participation of several delegates from developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“There is great momentum right now to develop climate services in Africa and around the world, but there are also huge unmet needs,” says Sukaina Bharwani, a senior research fellow in Oxford and co-leader of the Climate Services Initiative. “This conference brings together providers, intermediaries and users of climate services to learn from one another, so we can address what’s not working – the limitations, barriers and challenges – and develop more effective services going forward.”

The conference will focus particularly on formal and informal educators in climate science, sustainability, mitigation and adaptation, exploring how to grow their capacities and help them make the most of available climate services. Participants will also explore opportunities for new collaborations in training, capacity development, and education.

Another important aspect of the discussions will be how climate services can enable better decision-making and risk management in the short, medium and long term. This requires not only rapid development of services to enhance access to climate information, but also effective design to maximize the uptake and use of that information.

Bharwani is one of the conference organizers and is co-chairing two sessions:

Effective knowledge brokering
Parallel session, Wednesday, 1 March, 15:45–17:15, Lagoon Beach Hotel, Atlantic Suite 2
Co-chaired by SEI and the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group, this session will explore the role of knowledge brokering in both developing capacity for and improving the utility of climate services. Whereas climate services have been traditionally quite supply-driven, this session will focus on lessons from knowledge-brokering about user-driven services – an emphasis which is now growing the climate services domain. To kick the session off, Bharwani and Julia Barrott will discuss how weADAPT supports knowledge brokering for climate services for users, intermediaries and providers of climate information.

Learning lessons for developing effective climate services: Insights from country-level implementation
Side event, Thursday, 2 March, 17:30–19:00, Lagoon Beach Hotel, Atlantic Suite 1
This session, hosted by SEI and the World Food Programme, builds on a COP22 side event that focused on what makes a good climate service. Participants will further explore challenges, lessons learned, and opportunities for sustainable provision of services, including the need for institutionalize services through networks and platforms, for instance. The format will be interactive, with participants invited to share their own experiences and ideas.

In addition, on 27 February, Bharwani will participate in the CKB event “Co-developing climate services: Brokering climate knowledge from scientists to decision makers and back”. This will be a highly interactive session where participants will be encouraged to co-create climate services that integrate and are responsive to user needs.

SEI will also participate in a “working breakfast” hosted by the Future Climate for Africa Programme on 1 March focused on the Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands (FRACTAL), project, in which SEI is a partner. The project has developed a new approach, the City Learning Lab, to facilitate collaborative problem-solving around issues of urbanization and adaptation, with the first lab sessions scheduled in early March.

A visualization of the geographic distribution of projects across weADAPT climate adaptation themes
A visualization of the geographic distribution of projects across weADAPT climate adaptation themes, April 2014.

Also on 1 March, Bharwani will present in the session “From data and information to knowledge” (13:34–15:15, Atlantic Suite 1), hosted by the Met Office. She will discuss the need for a harmonized language for climate services, and showcase how data visualization can be used to analyse and improve communication in this developing sector.

Finally, weADAPT will be featured in the ICCS5 interactive Market Place, where SEI’s Mònica Coll-Besa will lead a hands-on “user lab” that allows participants to use weADAPT and the UCT’s Climate Information Portal together to support adaptation planning and policy-making.

Learn more about ICCS5 and see the conference programme (external link)

Learn more about the SEI Climate Services Initiative »