1 April 2013

Zimbabwe: Climate Change Policy Overdue


THERE is a problem in the country, one that delays corrective action on the effects of climate change.

For years, there has been talk of formulating a national response strategy to climate change (or a climate change policy) to help deal with the effects of the science in an

effective and co-ordinated manner but to date progress has been slow.

That talk started translating into action early last year when the creation of the strategy began. However, Government funding was very thin and the process has stalled. Deadlines have been missed.

Now, there is no indication when the policy will be finalised or implemented. That's what Professor Sarah Feresu told a climate change workshop of the civic society, Government and youths in Harare last Tuesday. The bottom line is that there was no money to proceed with the climate strategy.

"As for timeframe, we are working with no timeframe unless Government had actually budgeted for the process," said Prof Feresu of the Institute of Environmental Studies, who is leading the Climate Change Policy formulation process.

"We are keen on wrapping the process up but finances have been a challenge." In the absence of Government funding, she said they were now extending their begging bowl to organisations such as Unicef and Comesa, which assistance, unfortunately, comes with strings attached.

For example, Comesa has promised funding but after looking at the zero draft, said there was need for more consultation. The zero draft is a framework paper highlighting the concern areas and supporting the cause for a national policy on climate change.

This paper was finalised last November and should have ushered the final draft for implementation in December following a national consultative process.

Professor Feresu said she was hopeful funding would be available in two months by which time the final draft would have been completed.

During this period, several consultative meetings will be held in different parts of the country.

She said they would also aim to come up with action plans for different sub-sectors of the economy with clear-cut budgets on proposed mitigatory projects, after which the second national consultative workshop will be convened.

Just how much is needed to fund the climate change policymaking process? The budget is between US$300 000 and US$400 000, Professor Feresu said.

The key issue is that science will not wait for anyone, not even Government delays. It is important to accelerate the crafting and implementation of the response strategy, as it will provide direction on handling future climate disasters.

In order for the policy to become a reality, Zimbabwe needs substantial supporting measures from the fiscus, and not surrender the financial obligations to multilateral funders.

Although quite helpful, organisations such as Comesa and Unicef may not act with the kind of urgency required to limit the risks arising from climate change, as would a government that owes its survival to the affected people.

The Government needs to take charge and completely take over funding of the climate change policymaking process.

It's only US$400 000, after all. How much more is spent on delegations that attend global climate talks outside the country every year? And with all the negotiations, have the impacts of climate change abated? No.

As a matter of fact, emissions have escalated and disasters multiplied. A report released days before the last UN climate talks in Doha last year showed that global greenhouse gases had accelerated by up to 50 percent since 1990.

At this rate, the World Bank warned the world was on course for an unsustainable warming of four degrees Celsius by thevend of the century.

Agriculture, upon which nations like Zimbabwe are heavily reliant, will suffer most. Government's delay in financing this project raises more questions than answers.

With all that it has done for the environment, much better than what most developing countries are currently doing, it still remains a matter of conjecture whether the Zimbabwe Government is in a hurry to see this policy come to life.

More than anything, it appears these are borrowed projects, probably emanating from the international climate talks or other global climate bodies, which Government does not feel an urgency to support financially.

Yet, the long-term benefits of a climate change policy cannot be compared with the short-term small financial setbacks of formulating it.

The climate change policy is a legal instrument that provides direction for co-operative and well-strategised national responses to climate change. Its absence has scattered efforts of responding to climate disasters effectively and efficiently.

For example, the lack of a policy means that there is no budget for climate change at community, sectoral and national levels. A national policy would make it possible to mainstream climate change into national development targets and limit the challenges being faced in addressing mitigation and adaptation.

The policy would curb business and individual losses from climate-related disasters as well as firmly set the economy on the green growth path.

While the policy will not prevent catastrophes from occurring, it will assist decision-makers integrate disaster risk management into national economic and development planning.

God is faithful.

l jeffgogo@gmail.com

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