Climate Change Expert Joel Smith visits South Africa

To encourage enhanced dialogue between the United States and South Africa regarding climate change, the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria hosted climate change policy expert Joel Smith August 24-28, 2015.  During his five-day visit, Smith met with South African government officials at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and the Department of Environmental Affairs.  He also met with leaders at the state-owned enterprise Eskom and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Smith is a climate change expert with the U.S.-based public policy consulting firm Abt Associates.  He has been analyzing climate change impacts and adaptation issues for over 20 years.  He has provided technical advice, guidance, and training to people around the world and for clients such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the United Nations.

At a forum hosted by the University of South Africa on August 24, Smith said, “There are a lot of communities both here in South Africa and in the United States that are addressing climate change, but we do have a long way ago.  We’re in this together, and we can’t wait until we have all of the answers before we act.”  Smith noted that many state and local governments are already preparing for the impacts of climate change through adaptation, which is planning for the changes that are expected to occur.

The United States is committed to combating the effects of climate change, and earlier this year announced an ambitious post-2020 target of reducing emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels.  Since President Obama took office, the United States has more than tripled electricity generation from wind, increased solar energy generation by a factor of ten, established the toughest fuel economy standards in U.S. history for cars and trucks, and proposed groundbreaking regulations to cut carbon pollution by 30 percent from U.S. power plants.

Mr. Smith’s visit is one of several academic exchange and professional development programs hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria throughout the year.  These programs, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, promote dialogue and encourage mutual understanding between Americans and South Africans.

For more information: Cynthia Harvey |