Zimbabwe has seen the impact of climate change on its front doors, increasing frequency of droughts, floods, intense downpours and its related risks on the water, energy, agriculture, health and other critical sectors. It can be hard to adapt to any change, whether it touches your home, health, or livelihood. Herald Reporter Nesia Mhaka (NM) spoke to the director of the Climate Change Department in Zimbabwe, Mr Washington Zhakata (WZ) to get an insight into the country’s adaptation and mitigation plans in the wake of climate change.
NM: Can you briefly tells us what the Climate Change Department has done so far in terms of its adaptation and mitigation programmes? To what extent were the programmes successful?
WZ: The Climate Change Management Department has done quite a lot of work since its operationalisation in the year 2015. The country has made advancements in setting up the policy and legal framework for enhanced climate change adaptation and mitigation. The National Climate Policy, the National Climate Change Response Strategy, the Child Friendly Climate Policy, The Summary for Policy Makers and the Climate Smart Agriculture Manual for Agriculture Education in Zimbabwe are already being used by various stakeholder in implementing their programmes.
Capacity building and dialogue on climate action approaches and strategy formulation is ongoing at all levels of Government. Climate change is a cross-cutting issue and action is not taken by the Climate Change Management Department alone. All Government entities have a role to play. Already we have strong elements of climate change adaptation in the gender policy, renewable energy policy, the education curriculum and disaster management planning.
This means that the department’s programmes are effective and are making sectoral impacts. Together with its partners, the department has played a critical role in attracting climate finance of more than US$20 million from the Green Climate Fund, the Multilateral Fund and Global Environment Facility over the last four years. Project proposals totalling more than US$60 million have been developed and are in the Green Climate Fund project pipeline. This is all being done with a staff compliment of 10. So by all measure, the department is succeeding in carrying out its mandate.
NM: A 2019 United Nations (UN) study estimated that sub-Saharan Africa would alone need climate adaptation finance of around US$50 billion annually by 2050. How much money does Zimbabwe need annually? Is the country receiving adequate funding?
WZ: The amount of financial resources needed for climate change adaptation in Zimbabwe cannot be quantified. The challenge is all socio-economic and such sectors have to adapt. Social infrastructure such as houses, schools, hospital and clinics have to be climate proofed to withstand new record breaking extreme weather events. Economic infrastructure such as roads, railways, bridges and power lines all have to be upgraded to suit the new climate. Awareness has to be raised at all levels and studies have to be undertaken in every sector. Early warning infrastructure for meteorology, hydrology, health, agriculture and disaster management has to be upgraded.
New investments are required in wildlife management, tourism, water-use efficiency and to enable livelihood diversification from rain-fed agriculture. The challenges are many and quantifying the resource requirements for the country is nearly impossible. Zimbabwe is not receiving adequate resources and like the rest of the developing countries will never receive adequate funding from the international climate finance mechanism. It is up to us to mobilise our own internal resources and to refocus the funding that we already have towards climate proofed socio-economic development. Recovery efforts in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Idai required US$250 million. Building long term resilience will require much more finance over the long term. Quantifying it is virtually impossible. The solution is in mainstreaming climate change into development planning including budgeting.
NM: How important is finance in addressing climate change issues? Is it something that can be done by private sector alone? And what is the main source of your funding?
WZ: Climate finance is critical in ensuring that our policies, strategies and plans culminate in real action on the ground. This finance should come from different sources, including central government, local authorities, development partners, private sector, banks and communities. The type of investment determines the type of financing modality. For example, most community climate change adaptation projects do not churn out a profit, but are meant to alleviate poverty and address the impacts of climate change. These are normally funded by grants from development partners, Government, local authorities or bilateral support.
For mitigation projects like improved energy efficiency in large manufacturing entities, the funding could be in the form of loans, equity or reimbursable grants. Currently, much of the direct climate change finance comes from international sources through the United Nations agencies. However, the Government is ramping up its climate finance mechanism. There are considerations to establish a National Climate Change Fund and the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe is in the processes of establishing a Climate Finance Facility. These should enable strategic interventions by Government within the framework of its development plan. Working with the Climate Change Management Department, the Environmental Management Agency has now been successfully accredited by the Adaptation Fund as a National Implementing Entity. This means we can now directly receive international climate finance for small to medium sized adaptation projects from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change financial mechanism. For individuals, Steward Bank already has a financing facility for solar energy for homes. So we are seeing various initiatives which should start to have a profound impact on climate action in Zimbabwe in the near future.
NM: What are some of the developmental projects that you have initiated so far? Which areas, and what were the outcomes?
WZ: The Climate Change Management Department is not mandated with undertaking development projects. Rather it is mandated with ensuring, among other things, that development projects by the Government, private sector, development agencies and other stakeholders are climate proofed. This is to say whatever gains obtained by a development project should not be reversed by climate hazards and extreme weather events, and the project must not contribute towards carbon emissions or if it does, the contribution must be as low as possible. 2019 saw the Department raising awareness for all Provincial Development Committees in climate change and the adaptation planning process. This is meant to fit well with the devolution agenda which is targeted at accelerating local level led development.
NM: What are your adaptation and mitigation plans for this year?
WZ: The year 2020 should see the National Adaptation Planning process being introduced to all districts development committees, rural and urban. The process includes technical capacity building, climate change studies and mainstreaming of climate change into district and provincial development planning in tandem with the on-going devolution process. On the mitigation side, the department will launch the country’s Long Term Low Emission Development Strategy with projections of up to the year 2050.
The strategy indicates actions that Zimbabwe should take in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and highlights which actions will be economically viable for the country and those which are not. In essence, it’s a document meant to guide green growth planning and direct investments towards actions that would best serve the economic interests of the country. During the course of this year, climate change programming will venture into new sectors, in particular, tourism and hospitality, as well as labour and climate finance tracking.