Kent Buchanan

Climate change researcher, department of environmental affairs

Since he was a schoolboy, Kent Buchanan has been determined to have an environmental career, which has matured into a career in sustainable development. “At 17, I left school to study zoology and then I worked short-term contracts and volunteered in various organisations around the world including Tanzania, USA and Korea,” says Buchanan. “I was able to settle into a sustainability consulting position after completing a postgraduate MSc in sustainability science.”

“My biggest influencers have been family members, my childhood and my travel experiences. I was introduced to the bush as a child and that fostered a lifelong curiosity in the natural world. I was fascinated by all aspects of the ecosystem.” “After travelling my viewpoint changed to see sustainability – considering both the environment and society, which cannot be excluded from each other – as my real passion. A turning point was when he witnessed the reef destruction caused by dynamite fishing in Tanzania.

”I decided that such a reef could have been saved if these fishermen had an alternate source of income.” Buchanan has specialised in energy and climate change, and this led to his role in national government. “My aspiration was to work to improve the lives of others and to reduce the impact we have on the environment and a job in government was a natural fit. I have never looked back.” In the directorate in which Buchanan works, he is responsible for researching climate change mitigation to inform policy for the country that is aimed at reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) in South Africa. This research guides policy in all sectors of South Africa’s economy, including business, transport and energy.

He describes his role in working towards lowered emissions as “modelling sectors in terms of their fuel, electricity and fugitive emissions to be able to estimate greenhouse gases through to 2050.” “I also support climate change capacity training to teachers and line departments, providing workshop sessions based on an online tool we use called the MY2050 Calculator.” Buchanan is a qualified expert reviewer for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, representing South Africa as a reviewer of greenhouse gas inventories to assess the quality of countries’ data, methodology and calculations.

“My career plan is to progress to a place where I can make the most positive impact on society and the environment as possible. I take my role as a civil servant very seriously and this is the right place to be to make this impact.”

— Rebecca Haynes

Twitter: @SESAfrika