As a cross-cutting, interdisciplinary initiative, the African Climate and Development Initiative is working across numerous fields and faculties to consolidate and coordinate the climate change research that is being done at UCT.  Because of its various aspects, climate change lends itself to interdisciplinary work. On the one hand, there is research on mitigating climate change, and on the other, research on how best human and ecological systems can adapt to the changing climatic conditions, both now and in the future.  To ensure successful adaptation and mitigation takes place, the most up-to-date, relevant, useable and useful climate information needs to be available. With adaptation and mitigation actions being undertaken there is potential for developing and developed economies to move towards a path of low-carbon, sustainable development.

The ACDI focuses on 4 categories of climate change research:


It is unequivocal that the climate is warming, and that a large amount of this warming can be attributed to anthropogenic sources. The effects of unmitigated climate change will be disastrous, and have stimulated international cooperation and action to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst African countries, on the whole, have not contributed significantly to the high levels of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere, it is imperative that they pursue development pathways into the future that are low-carbon and environmentally sustainable.  The ACDI has numerous partners, centres and affiliated researchers working in the field of climate change mitigation. Mitigation related research topics include renewable energy technologies, carbon finance and taxation, and monitoring and evaluation systems for mitigation projects. 

Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation

Whilst climate change can and must be mitigated against, the effects of climate change will undoubtedly be felt in many parts of the world. It is acknowledged that the poor will be disproportionately impacted by the projected climatic changes, as poor communities are often characterised by high levels of economic and social vulnerability, and have high levels of exposure to environmental risks. Furthermore, they often have a very limited capacity to adapt to, and recover from, these impacts. In light of this, the African context is one that can benefit greatly from research relating to vulnerability of ecosystems and people, the impacts that may be felt and options that are available to ensure that adaptive capacity and resilience are increased. ACDI affiliated research in this research category is diverse, but includes research on the impacts faced by various ecosystems, fauna, flora and especially vulnerable people groups. There is also a focus on science communication, ensuring the most relevant and accurate climate science is available, accessible and understandable to those who need to make decisions relating to climate change adaptation.

Climate Science

Climate Science essentially provides the necessary information and platform from which to develop various mitigation and adaptation responses. ACDI affiliated centres and researchers are running climate models and collecting climate data, which provide an increasingly clearer picture of what the future climate may look like. The climate models are also being downscaled to be relevant and usable on a regional and even local scale. This growing database of climate science is ensuring that projections of the future climate are accessible to a large number of users. Whilst there will always be a certain degree of uncertainty, effective climate science can be used to make informed decisions as we move into and plan for an uncertain future. 

Sustainable Development

Africa is a largely underdeveloped continent, with many countries characterised by high levels of poverty and inequality. Thus development and economic growth are imperative in order to reduce these high levels of poverty and inequality across the continent. It is widely acknowledged that development is imperative, and that it must be encouraged and facilitated, however, this must be done in a climate friendly manner, taking into consideration climate change, as it could significantly affect development initiatives and processes. The ACDI encourages research that grapples with the tensions between development and environment, where there are synergies, challenges and opportunities to develop sustainably. These research areas range from engagement with business, processes of urbanisation, governance mechanisms, as well as climate risk and the insurance industry.