Legal frameworks are a solid foundation of advancing tangible climate change adaptation from mere policy commitments as they provide requisite enforceability, an environmental lawyer has said.
Rejoice Svinurayi, in her presentation at the 3rd Annual Youth Symposium, said government has made grandiose pronouncements in climate change policies but have not enacted a law to streamline compliance.
The Youth Symposium running for the third year, is hosted annually by the Advocates4Earth a non-profit, public interest environmental law, climate and wildlife justice organization for the Global South, based in Harare.
Svinurayi gave an example of the National Climate Policy, which guides climate change management and enhances national adaptation capacity which she said can be strengthened through an enforceable law.
She said adjustment of local ecological, social or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli, to foster sustainable development, must ideally be rooted in enforceable laws.
"Legal frameworks, are the foundation of addressing climate change and adaptation. However we have no domestic law advancing climate change adaptation in the agriculture and energy sector is deficient as it is nonexistent.
"There are policies which show that government understands but there is a deficiency in enforcing these policies ad there is no legal basis to enforce these from ordinary people. We need a substantive legal framework to leverage these good policy provisions.
"We need to adjust proactively to climate, we need to ensure sustainable development," she said.
Advocates4Earth, acting litigation and campaigns coordinator, Tanyaradzwa Muzenda said vulnerable rural communities which are disproportionately affected by climate change affects livelihoods.
She said it was regrettable that Zimbabwe is lagging behind regional partners like Kenya which have legislation that guides climate change.
"We need a specific law guiding climate change because this is a global emergency that many other countries have a specific legislation guiding climate change.
"This is about saving lives because it affects livelihoods, if there is a law we can enforce mitigation measures. We need to ensure that we protect the environment for future generation and without a law it is difficult.
"Because we have no specific laws in the country on climate we just imply from policies but they don't have a legal effect, we can't really go to the courts and uses them because they don't have an effect," she said.
As Zimbabwe works towards adapting to adverse effects of climate change and take the appropriate action to prevent or minimize concomitant damage, Svinurayi said there should be enforceable climate change rights.
"Whenever something unlawful takes and there is recourse against such conduct, if people can go to courts and challenge actions of duty bearers or those that violate climate change law it makes people more empowered.
"If there is a law, it gives confidence that there is something which can be challenged through the courts of law, because they are binding and enforceable while policies are mere aspirations and goals," said Svinurayi.
According to the Zimbabwe 2020 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) draft report, sustainable development hinges on adopting climate proof development models, a notion Svinurayi said can be enhanced by a justiciable rights framework.
She said all sectors of the economy will benefit more from a legally binding framework or climate change response strategy, hinged on protecting human rights of marginalized communities.
"Unfortunately, the Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Legal Frame work of Zimbabwe is structured in a manner where policy provides elaborate commitments from the government yet little is extended to legally binding enactments.
"... there is a need for legislation to enact an independent Climate Change Act that provides justiciable rights and binding obligations on crucial sectors of the economy," said Svinurayi.