World Environment Day
5 June 2022
A reflection by ZELA to mark the World Environment Day
The 2022 World Environment Day campaign #OnlyOneEarth calls for collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore our planet. The commemoration of the World Environment Day is of great significance for developing countries like Zimbabwe where the impacts of climate change are adversely affecting society. As the world commemorates the Environment Day, the time is now to begin to self-introspect and critically think about transformative changes to policies and choices to enable cleaner, greener, and sustainable living.
Prioritising a climate change law for Zimbabwe
Climate change is no longer an environmental problem for the future as its devastating impacts are being felt now and could worsen if no corrective action is taken to limit Greenhouse Gas emissions and arrest the rise in temperature to below 1.5 degree Celsius. The impacts of a changing climate include increases in extreme weather events including differential impacts on various sectors of society. The impact of its devastating impacts on the poor and marginalised communities are predominantly felt by communities located in the global south.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the guiding standard for addressing climate change. The main objective of the UNFCCC is to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and promote sustainable development. The Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 seeks to limit global warming to a level below 2 degrees Celsius. This is done through country goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in what are termed nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Countries submit these plans of action and indicate what measures they will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to adapt to the changing context. The Government of Zimbabwe realises the climatic shocks that the country has been facing and there have been moves to address its international commitment to the UNFCCC and its 2015 Paris Agreement. In 2021, Zimbabwe revised its NDC to 40% and unlike the first NDC which covered only the energy sector, the revised NDC make progress towards economy wide NDC to include Waste, Industrial Processes and Product Use, Agriculture, Forestry, and other Land Use sectors. There is also the National Climate Change Response Strategy which provides a comprehensive and strategic approach to climate change adaptation, mitigation, technology, and finance. To supplement this are several policies and strategies which include the National Climate Policy, the National Climate Change Response Strategy, the Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions Development Strategy, and the National Adaptation Plan Road Map. Whilst these may be effective in guiding actions around climate change, missing link is the lack of a climate change law which has a binding effect as opposed to policies. A comprehensive climate change legislative framework is therefore central to the effective adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change cognisant of the fact that there is #OnlyOneEarth.
Transitional solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The energy transition refers to the global energy sector’s shift from fossil-based systems of energy production and consumption including oil, natural gas, and coal to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and lithium-ion batteries. The transition however is not a simple or short-term process. The transition requires structural changes in systems that involve long-term and complex reconfigurations of technologies, policy, infrastructure, scientific knowledge, and social and cultural practices. It is an apparent position with priorities for Zimbabwe that include economic development and growth, environmental sustainability, and energy security and affordable access. Any uncertainty about energy supply can threaten the functioning of the economy, particularly in developing economies such as Zimbabwe. For Zimbabwe, the call is to remodel the energy sector to ensure that there is continued investment, research, and development in renewable energy infrastructure. This would directly balance out energy needs whilst contributing directly to commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Transitions are not possible if climate finance is not deployed efficiently to ensure the achievement of the necessary transitions. The time is now for commitments towards climate financing to be upheld and an accurate tracking system so for countries like Zimbabwe to leapfrog fossil fuels and adopt sustainable technology.
Only One Earth can be protected through sustainable natural resource management
The environment provides resources which need to be utilised sustainably for the benefit of present and future generations. Urbanisation and economic development in many parts of Zimbabwe has been accompanied by increased pressure on the environment and heightened demand for land, infrastructure, basic services, and jobs. Sustainable environmental protection and resilience should be considered as the mining, energy and infrastructure developments, environmental issues, pollution, and contaminated land liabilities may arise through the macro implementation of the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1 aimed at boosting the economy. Notably, the NDS 1 takes cognisance of the centrality of the environment to the attainment of a prosperous and empowered upper-middle-income society and provides for imperative steps so that the environment is sustainably managed for current and future generations. Strategies that can be employed for environmental protection include prioritising the mainstreaming of climate change and related financing in all national programmes; protected area management; ratification, domesticating implementing, and monitoring multilateral environmental agreements; and community-based natural resources management. It is essential to begin to think and learn collectively on ways to manage complexities and challenges that plague our environment and natural resources. It is now critical to facilitate networking and collaboration among different actors in the natural resources sector.
Going forward, to protect this #OnlyOneEarth, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association advocates for:
- The promotion of public participation in all discourse relating to natural resource governance as provided for in Section 13 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe;
- The amendment of the Environmental Management Act to include climate change considerations in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process;
- Sustainable extractive practices to protect the environment;
- Reinforcement of laws that promote sustainable investments in the natural resources sector;
- Diversification of energy sources for a low carbon economy whilst achieving energy security for communities.
- Innovative domestic financing models for climate mitigation and adaptation projects
- Provision of incentives for investors in the renewable energy sector