22 December 2012

Uganda: We Can't Depend On Foreign Aid for Our Environment


At the Climate Change meeting in Doha, Ugandans put up a spirited fight, but were frustrated by the slow pace of global negotiations. By the time the two weeks long meeting ended on December 7, most of the Ugandans were licking their wounds.

"What do we do?" asked Fred Onyai, the Monitoring and Evaluation specialist at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) who was attending a meeting for the rich polluting countries and the non-polluting countries.

"We can longer rely on external assistance to push our Climate Change or environmental agenda. I have seen enough of this kind of frustration at Rio de Jeneiro, Brazil and now the Doha Climate talks," he added

He said it was time for them to mobilise people to protect the environment and do something about climate change.

Dr. Tom Okurut, the executive director of NEMA agreed with him, but maintains that there is need for multi-national negotiations and agreements because the source of Climate Change is outside Uganda.

He also pointed out that countries willing to give Uganda grants under bilateral cooperation would go a long way in addressing Climate Change and poverty.

Environment trust funds

Davidson Madira, a private consultant, proposed the establishment of environmental trust funds for institutions managing the environment to access money.

He said environment is under funded by Government yet, the degraded ecological systems such as mountains, catchment areas make people who depend on them more vulnerable.

In the past two decades, environmental institutions and authorities like NEMA, National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) have been set up. This, according to Okurut has provided part of the solution to funding of the environment, but a lot is yet to be done.

As for NEMA, Okurut pointed out that they have an environmental fund, which is a pool of fees collected from Environment Impact Assessments and environment audit. Okurut says this would help, but a lot of money that is collected as tax on obsolete equipment into the country is retained by the consolidated fund instead of channeling it to NEMA.

Also efforts to secure forests that act as Carbon sinks or protected landscapes that avoid releasing Green House Emissions would go along away in contributing money for the management of forests.

Need for joint efforts

Paul Isabirye, the head of the Climate Change Policy says Climate Change needs a lot of approaches.

"We had money coming from the Global Environment Facility for the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and the implementation of the NAPA, but the problem is bigger than what the funding is addressing," Isabirye said.

He also pointed out that the proposed Climate Change Policy will help to create awareness among other things and also create avenues for funding not only from Government, but also the private sector. The policy is considering partnership with Civil Society Organisations and religious leaders to promote awareness.

Richard Kapere, the Climate Change Officer says environment management should be stronger. He pointed out that managing protected areas should be enhanced with incentives given to local communities.

Oil is an opportunity for helping the economy to diversify. It can improve environment management since oil is a non-renewable resource and after, biological diversity remain as the "green oil".

Onyai said a strategy and plan for dealing with Climate Change is needed, adding that this would help Ugandans to think globally and act locally about Climate change.

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