Climate change threat to global development

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story

STRICTLY speaking, the world has a very good idea of what is needed to keep climate change at bay – end fossils fuels use, accelerate renewable energy use, plant trees, and others.Equally, we know what is precisely needed to build resilience against dangerous climate impacts, particularly for African farmers – efficient irrigation systems, access to cheaper funding, effective early warning systems, etc.

The interventions are many, but they have their limits. And nowhere else have these limitations played out more openly than at the annual UN climate talks, which have been taken place for the past quarter century, with little to show for the efforts.

However, a new spirit of optimism and hope has swept through the world with the coming into effect of a global climate accord called the Paris Agreement agreed by 195 countries in France last December.

The Paris Agreement, which targets to cap global temperature increase at two degrees Celsius by 2100, entered into force on November 4, hardly a year after it was agreed. It needed 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of world emissions to ratify the treaty for it to become effective.

The threshold was reached early last month, in an unprecedented quick turn-around for a deal that was initially targeted to come into effect only in 2020.

Zimbabwe has yet to ratify the Paris Agreement although it has started the process of ratification.

The Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri moved a motion in Parliament to that effect last month. But until the ratification takes place, Zimbabwe will not be bound by the accord.

Now, as the world journeys into the future, starting with the annual climate talks that opened in Morocco yesterday and ends on November 18).

Just how much will the Paris Agreement help to influence the speed of action needed to safeguard the world, and those in Africa at the forefront of climate impacts.

Already, US presidential hopeful Donald Trump is causing anxiety in climate change circles.

Mr Trump, a climate change denialist, has promised to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement if he becomes president, and with that action pull all the decades of progress on climate action down into the abyss.

Veronica Gundu, deputy climate change director in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, speaks to The Herald Business from Morocco where she is part of the Zimbabwean delegation attending the negotiations.

Q: What are Zimbabwe’s expectations from COP22 and what message and contribution are we bringing to the meeting?

A: Zimbabwe expects all the discussions at the conference to uphold the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in line with the respective capacities of parties as enshrined in the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The principle takes into account the historical differences in GHG emissions with the developed countries that have emitted more in the past expected to contribute more towards addressing the climate challenge.

Q: The country is facing a severe drought that has left 4 million facing hunger. How important is it that COP22 delivers on measures and actions that limit damage for African countries facing some of the harshest realities of climate change?

A: The (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 22nd meeting has to kick-start a fast-track process of crafting the rule book in which the modalities, procedures. Africa will also launch an Africa Adaptation Initiative which seeks to mobilise resources more resources and technology to scale up agriculture and improve the agriculture systems in Africa.

Zimbabwe’s participation in this initiative is paramount. The need for scaling up systematic observation, strengthening of early warning systems and enhance climate services and applications modelling are critical to address the 2015/2016 El Nino induced drought.

Q: The Paris Agreement enters into force on November 4, and Zimbabwe is yet to ratify the treaty. What is at stake if the country drags its feet on ratification?

A: Yes, Zimbabwe has yet to ratify the treaty but has shown its intention to do so through the head of state and government signing the Agreement in April 2016. Currently the Government is looking into the Agreement and its implications on the country.

Once due process is done, the country will make its decision on whether to join or not. At the moment, the only consequence of not ratifying is that we cannot take part in the discussions of the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, but can still shape discussions through the conference of parties to the UNFCCC, meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, session of the subsidiary body for Implementation and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement.

The issue on how the rule book will be structured for Zimbabwe was very important and now with the understanding of how nationally determined contributions will be handled under the agreement, are becoming clearer and the ownership that we have on NDCs can give us enough guidance to recommend ratification.

Q: In what way do outcomes from the annual UN climate negotiations impact the man on the street at home or communal farmers, for example?

A: Our national policies and strategies in fighting climate change and making Zimbabwe a climate resilient nation are partly influenced by the international climate agreements that the country enters into. The outcomes will therefore partly determine the national and local government planning and even budgeting processes. Some of the outcomes will require legislation and regulations towards promotion of renewable energy, climate smart agriculture and disaster risk management which will directly impact the common person.

The talks seek to broaden funding opportunities through the UNFCCC funding mechanisms; the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility. These funds provide resources for the transformation of socio-economic activities towards increasing climate resilience for ordinary people in developing countries.

The numerous events that take part alongside the conference provide an opportunity for capacity building and knowledge sharing for key government officials involved in climate change policy formulation and planning. This increases the Government’s ability to formulate and implement the best possible strategies to tackle the challenge locally.

Q: The climate negotiations have faced criticism for being endemically incremental at a time the world is burning. Is the world entering a phase of rapid climate action with coming into effect of the Paris Agreement? How?

A: The increase in the scale of the negotiations is a welcome move as it shows the seriousness that all countries are now attaching to climate action and addressing the climate change. It also reflects the transition of climate issues from being seen as environmental to developmental and economic.

Climate change is now recognised as the greatest threat to global sustainable development. The Paris Agreement mandates all Parties, developed and developing, to take action through their own nationally determined contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It calls for private sector involvement and is closely tied to the 2015 to 2030 SDG framework which aims to involve everyone in defining the global development pathway. The nationally determined contributions are tied to economic development which presents a new dimension to climate action in developing countries. Those countries that lag behind will eventually find themselves with economic challenges related to technology that is not compatible with the rest of the world and with production standards not acceptable to others. In that way, the Paris Agreement will definitely enhance climate action in all countries.

God is faithful.

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