Uganda: MPs Reject Long-Awaited Climate Change Bill

Waves on Lake Victoria.
6 December 2017

Legislators on Wednesday punched holes in the Climate Change Bill despite several months of demanding for it, to protect the ecosystems threatened by population pressures and erosion that affect dependents on natural space.

At a meeting convened by ministry of Water and Environment to authenticate the draft bill held at Ridar hotel-Mukono, MPs and members from the civil society expressed dissatisfaction that despite their proposals in the previous meetings, no action had been taken to improve the draft bill.

MPs through the Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change (PFCC) have since last year been demanding that government expedites the enactment of a law to regulate activities on natural resources to avert the dangerous effects of climate change in the country.

Members however said the draft bill by the directorate of first Parliamentary counsel in the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has left out almost all their contributions yet they are key for a good law intended to protect the ecosystems threatened by population.

The legal framework is intended to help the country mainstream climate change in the country's development processes.

"The first money must come from Uganda when it comes to budgeting and then development partners. There are many funding opportunities but the bill is totally silent on climate change fund," Forum chairperson Lawrence Biyika Songa said.

"Who is going to manage, who is in-charge? It will be useless to tarmac our roads and all of a sudden floods come and destroy them. Its important stakeholders come to give priority to climate change," Songa also Ora MP added.

The members also noted that the enforcement clause other than offences and penalties in the bill was silent, which leaves the law wanting.

Joanita Nakachwa, from the Directorate of first parliamentary counsel and Benard Namanya, a law consultant in their justification of the bill noted that they had consulted at least 27% of the women of the 700 persons consulted to come up with that draft.

However, Kaberamaido Woman MP Maria Gorett Ajilo said 27% was a small number given that women are majority in Uganda and are most affected with climate change effects like floods, drought and mudslides among others.

"We want this law which takes gender seriously. There are a lot of cries that our issues were not captured. Climate change affects a woman more when it comes to famine and drought because she is looked at as the one to cook and provide food for people to eat in a home or water to drink," Ajilo said.

James Okwi from Civil Society noted that it was useless for the department to keep inviting them to such meetings yet they disregard their views on important issues when it came to laws for the country.

Commissioner Climate Change Department in Water and Environment Ministry, Chebet Maikut also admitted there were gaps in the draft bill where the country can respond to climate changes effects.

"We need a strong institutional arrangement to coordinate the country's responses to climate change. The climate change department is not sufficient enough to handle that and that is why a semi-autonomous authority is necessary to enable that in terms of financial resources and technology to deal with climate change, but it's not in the bill," Maikut said.

PFCC coordinator Christine Kaaya however expressed optimism the bill, in its third stage would be finalized early next year.

"Its [bill] coming quite late because we expected it in parliament by October this year. I think the delay for its approval is because of the international conferences since key people had to participate," Kaaya said.

Cabinet directed the ministry of Water and Environment in 2015 to initiate the legal framework on climate change.

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