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[CAPE TOWN] Africa's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases — South Africa — unveiled plans for a research and development strategy to address climate change this week at a national conference in Midrand.

But, although South Africa's Department of Science and Technology says the strategy will help the country produce locally relevant findings on climate change that can feed into national policies, some local scientists are unimpressed with the conference.

They argue that the government — already accused of being 'anti-science' by HIV/AIDS researchers — is more interested in publicity.

Rob Adam, the department's director-general, said the strategy would be finalised after scientists had provided their input. Research priorities identified so far include climate modelling, long-term monitoring of climate change, and studies of its impacts on society and the environment.

Adam warned that poor countries would come under increasing political pressure to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. South Africa's environment minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, however, told Reuters news agency that US demands for poverty-stricken countries to do so were "much too early".

"But while we put pressure on the developed world we must put our own house in order," said van Schalkwyk.

In a letter published yesterday (19 October) by the Cape Times, Philip Lloyd of the University of Cape Town said "there is something seriously wrong with the meeting. It does not represent the climate change debate in South Africa".

He said that government organisers snubbed invited scientists — including himself — when they offered to share their research.

Lloyd, who recently co-wrote a report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said he noticed no input from the South African government when the IPCC's working group on climate change mitigation met in Canada last month.

Read more about climate change in Africa in SciDev.Net's news focus.

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