13 March 2017

Zimbabwe: Church Worries Over Slow Pace of Climate Action

THE impacts of climate change in Zimbabwe will run deeper should authorities fail to tie-up the National Climate Policy (NCP) quick enough, a new study by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has warned.

What would otherwise be strong strategies to curb climate damage are yet to be implemented due to the absence of the policy, according to the study.

"Sectoral frameworks related to climate change are not always aligned as there are contradictions in some instances," says the research, titled: "Ecumenical Climate Change Policy Analysis: Zimbabwe", released some weeks ago.

"There is need, therefore, to (urgently) finalise the NCP so as to ensure a guided implementation and alignment of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in Zimbabwe."

The climate policy, meant to mainstream climate change into national budgets and provide cohesion in climate action, is awaiting Cabinet approval.

Cabinet approval will help minimise the damage - linked to extreme events like floods, droughts and tropical storms.

As we speak, nearly 250 people have been killed in flooding across Zimbabwe after heavy rain fell since December, prompting Government to declare the situation a national disaster.

More than 100 000 people have been battered, officials say, with damage estimated at $500 million incurred, as homes, schools and clinics flattened.

As climates continue to change, extreme events have become a frequent occurrence in Zimbabwe in recent decades, sometimes in back-to-back seasons.

Droughts have been sandwiched in between the tropical storms, with devastating impact.

Technical contradictions

Authors of the ZCC study, Confidence Tendai Bobo, and Tinashe Gumbo, a Great Zimbabwe University lecturer, believe the climate policy's delay is not helping anyone.

But they aren't entirely convinced either, that even after coming into effect, it will be smooth sailing.

"There is likelihood of technical contradictions when the policy is finally approved, calling for the revision of the strategies," the authors protest, without elaborating.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches represents 26 denominations and 10 Christian faith-based organisations.

It has been in operation for the past 53 years, helping churches "to engage in a sustained effort to bring total salvation to all and total elimination of poverty and move towards self-reliance and sustainable development," according to its website.

With the emergency of climate change and global warming, the ZCC has sought to play a more influential role in environmental protection, taking advantage of the huge Christian following in Zimbabwe, estimated at 90 percent of the 13 million population.

The Council has undertaken various initiatives that build community resilience as well as raise climate change awareness, including tree planting and biogas projects, it says.

It has also participated in climate change policy formulation; lobbied Government for community adaptation funding and joined international movements that demand climate justice within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Christian teachings demonstrably embed strong fundamentals about keeping the earth - a creation by God handed to mankind on a platter - in good shape (Genesis 2 verse 15).

In a world consumed by sin, Christians undoubtedly have the wherewithal to bring rapid change in climate action, not only by way of prayer, but real financial, intellectual and physical interventions.

"The church looks at climate change as a serious social justice issue and humanitarian crisis, which is evidenced by food insecurity, water and energy shortages and loss of livelihoods," a ZCC official told me in a previous interview.

Regrettably, the UN climate negotiation system has tended to downplay the Church's important role, resting more on a species over-confident of its capabilities and abilities, which have failed to reverse climate change in the past 25 years of talks.

And yet, the Church and scientists agree on at least one thing: that the current changes in the global climate system are man-made.

Not ground-breaking

The ZCC research was done over four years, taking input from farmers, women, the youth, civic society, academia, Government and others.

But this barely shows in the outcome, not as much as does the review of literature on climate change.

In other words, the study is not exactly ground-breaking. It contains nothing entirely new from what is already known about climate change in Zimbabwe, and what authorities here, with support from the civic society and development agencies, are doing to tackle the dangerous science.

It reflects broadly as a chronological compilation of the different policy and legal frameworks already at work in the country - and a few not-out-of-the-moon thoughts on making climate action more effective.

From Zimbabwe's ratification of the global climate convention of 1992 to a set of plans for cutting emissions and boosting adaptation of 2015, a local contribution by Zimbabwe to the global effort to curb climate change, the ZCC study falls short as a guide for breakthrough scientific research.

There are a few take-home points though. The authors raise concern over Zimbabwe's planned climate change governance framework, saying it could fail because of a lack of funding.

God is faithful.

Zimbabwe

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