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International Climate Change negotiations should address Zimbabwe pressing demands

Rodrick Moyo-Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

Introduction

In a bid to address climate change, Zimbabwe committed to be an active party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through recognizing the convention’s founding principles which include protecting the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations on the basis of equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC). CBDR-RC is a universally accepted principle which provides a basis for differentiating among parties. Climate change mitigation is at the core of the convention although Zimbabwe’s main thrust revolves around adaptation and poverty reduction. This is well captured in the National Climate Change Response Strategy which was enacted as an implementation mechanism to drive climate resilience.Consequently in solidarity with the rest of the international community, the government of Zimbabwe attended the 24th Conference of Parties(COP24) in 2018 with a view of adopting the ‘Paris Rulebook’ so as to operationalise the Paris Agreement which the country has been a party since 2015. Contradictory COP 24 failed to deliver on most fundamental issues such as raising ambition of National Determined Contributions (NDCs) which Zimbabwe benchmarked at 30% per capita by 2030, actualising human rights, and guaranteeing support for developing countries. Instead delegates got more than anticipated in the form of three declarations focusing on the ‘Just Transition’; ‘Electronic mobility’ and ‘forests for climate’.  While these declarations are not new within the climate change arena, little is known about the implications and opportunities provided by these declarations to Zimbabwe.

Community participation a key in climate change adaptation enhancement

Community participation remains critical in any development initiative. Increasing public awareness on climate change issues while promoting the use of clean technologies is very crucial in a high climate risk profile country such as Zimbabwe.

During the 2019, Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba organized by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, climate change and energy issues were mainstreamed. Over36 participants inclusive of Parliamentary Portfolio Chair of the Mines Committee Honourable Edmond Mkaratigwa participated in a hot debate stirred by preparatory whirlwinds swerving across the country as the government positioned itself ahead of COP25 in Madrid from 2nd to the 13th of December 2019.

However, it is disheartening to note that issues related to climate change are not given the attention they deserve, and one economist had this to say;

“Decisions about climate, development ambitions and actions are usually taken by (inter)national governing bodies. These decisions directly affect people’s lives, yet they are often based on numbers, while people’s real concerns are overlooked or dismissed. I do believe policy makers care about the well-being of citizens, but they often lack the ability to put the challenges we face on a human scale said Bryon Zamasiya a representative from the Zimbabwe Environmental Association during the ZAMI side session.

Climate change an environmental threat and public policy problem

Climate change has been termed the biggest environmental threat to ever confront the present and future generations, complex in nature gradually expanding to severities that cannot be precisely estimated. It remains a major challenge affecting developing countries due to the presence of multiple stressors alongside absence of adequate budgetary resources to address immediate demands of adaptation and mitigation actions.

In the ZAMI climate change and energy session Professor Tumai Murombo said that ‘If accorded the platform and relevant information citizens can influence policy, legal and decision-making processes on climate change and energy to respond their needs’ as he further buttressed the need for human centered approach in developmental issues’.

Kowatice declarations and what they entail to community development

During an inter-ministerial dialogue held on the 6th of September 2019 by the department of Climate Change Management sought amongst a plethora of issues to raise climate change awareness across line government ministries. The discussions also focused on the three topical climate change declarations that were tabled by the COP24 Presidency in 2018 and solicitation of recommendations as Zimbabwe moves forward. In the same spirit of incorporating citizen voices ZELA convened the climate change side session with the following being key critical issues observed: 

Driving Change Together-Katowice Partnership for E-Mobility

A report indicates that vehicle population in Zimbabwe increased by 50 percent in just 2 years from 8000 000 to 1 200 000. Notably, the transportation sector in Zimbabwe contributes 12% of Zimbabwe’s GHG emissions as it uses 97% fossilized fuels. Common sense would entice anyone to accept any development to do away with such an enormous contribution however, it’s not always the case as the trajectory has so much more than what they eye can see.

Tafadza Dhlakama stated out that this declaration entails a transition to a low carbon economy, in particular the development and progressive deployment of zero emission vehicles should ensure real economic, health and environmental benefits for all. Similarly, the inter-ministerial dialogue proposed for its adoption as it is in line with the country’s transport master plan and the e-mobility promotion being spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority.For this to see the light of the day an integrated global approach, involving national and municipal policy makers together with investors, business leaders and consumers is needed.

E-mobility feasibility for Zimbabwe

A community representative posed a question on whether Zimbabwe is ready for the declaration and if there has been enough research to validate the feasibility of adopting the electronic vehicle. Hon Mkaratigwa on behalf of the government indicated the risk of remaining with the conventional mode of transport which would be at a cost considering that most developed countries and other major car manufacturers have already set phase out dates for petroleum powered vehicles. A paradox faced is that the country is endowed with lithium reserves from which it can generate a lot of money through trade in the race of upscaling climate action through cleaner modes of transportation. However, such to be attained could mean appending the declaration. Consequently, there is a clarion call therefore to balance the projected potential booming lithium industry and its governance with environmental protection and human rights attainment.

Solidarity and just transition

In his presentation Action Aid-Zimbabwe’s representative, Darlington Chidarara highlighted that a Just Transition of the workforce, safeguarding and creating sustainable employment and decent work are crucial to ensure public support for long-term emission reduction. Transitions must be both fast and fair if they are to obtain the social approval required to reach the targets enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

Implications

Looking ahead, the just transition provides a strategic opportunity for the climate change agenda to become better connected with people’s daily priorities. As the Polish President of COP24 observed: “In the long term, the implementation of a solidarity-based transformation will help to generate and maintain public support for policies to reduce emissions.

Katowice Ministerial Declaration on Forests (DFCC)

The Forest Declaration highlights the key role forests must play in limiting temperature rise to 1.5˚C, and emphasizes the need to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. This is a micky mouse act which showed signs that Poland hopes to use carbon offsets from forests to delay efforts to reduce emissions. Pledges to accelerate actions to ensure that the global contribution of forests and forest products is maintained and further supported and enhanced by 2050.

Facts about forests in Zimbabwe:

Forests and woodlands cover close to 42% of Zimbabwe’s land area and are found in communal areas, on private land, in national parks and protected forest areas. Communal and resettlement areas have 67% of the country’s forest and woodlands covering about 10 million hectares. Protected areas constitute 33 percent of forests in Zimbabwe. Forests contribute 3 to 4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Why forests in Zimbabwe

Functions of forests in Zimbabwe

  • Trees contribute to food security,
    • Domestic needs for rural communities,
    • Generation of rural income,
    • Agricultural productivity and ultimately the protection of the environment

Concerns for Zimbabwe

Forests ability to deliver and sustain livelihoods has declined over the years due to deforestation. The main cause of deforestation has been the conversion of forest land to agricultural land accounting for 80% of the deforestation rate. Tobacco curing using firewood accounts for 15% of the total deforestation rate, while the 5% remainder is due to use of firewood for household heating and cooking. Other major direct causes of forest degradation are human activities which include overharvesting of industrial wood, veld fires and infrastructural development such as dam and road construction, both legal and illegal mining operations and illegal settlements. Consequently, for Zimbabwe, it is a noble thing to join the DFCC since it can assist the country in meeting its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Conclusion

The Katowice partnership for electromobility creates an opportunity for Zimbabwe given the significant amount of lithium in the nation, a key ingredient for lasting batteries. Zimbabwe needs to be prepared on the surge of mining entities seeking to mine the resource without bringing value addition and beneficiation in the resourceful country hence the importance of technology transfer.  Similarly linked to the electronic mobility is balancing the need for energy generation based on coal mines and job creation for locals.

Wishing Zimbabwean negotiators and the African group of negotiators all the best as COP25 kicks off soon.

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