Climate Story Jeffrey Gogo
The mid-term global climate change negotiations start in the Germany city of Bonn today (April 30) for the next fortnight, as the Zimbabwe Government has started to take steps to fulfil pledges made under the Paris Agreement on climate change of 2015.
Renewable energy, agriculture and transport are the key sectors where Government has targeted to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent between now and 2030, without impeding economic growth.
The Bonn conference is expected to iron out issues critical to operationalising the Paris treaty, at the earliest, by December.
The issues include agreement on the need to review country pledges every five years so as to keep up with the goal of curbing global temperature rise at two degrees Celsius in this Century.
It will also aim to reach consensus on details relating to transparency, accountability and compliance in the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
As the name implies, NDCs detail plans of action to halt climate change, both at home and abroad, from each of the near 200 countries party to the Paris Agreement.
Having ratified the global climate accord last September, Zimbabwe, which in recent decades has seen an escalation in the occurrence of deadly climate-related extreme events like drought, floods and heatwaves, is now moving to put its NDCs into practice.
Zimbabwe is not angling for net zero carbon emissions, at least until economic growth comes full circle, or somewhere close.
Regardless, it already is a net absorber, in every sense. The country accounts for under one percent of the global emissions total and its 15,6 million hectares of forest cover take care of a lot of the emissions.
But we can expect to see more solar power, large-scale hydro-electric power plants and more efficient transport systems, particularly rail, as part of its contribution to the global goal of cutting emissions that fuel climate change.
Indeed, Zimbabwe in March added 300 megawatts of hydropower from Kariba to the electricity grid, at a cost of $533 million.
Electricity generated from water now accounts for 57 percent of all power generated locally, according to data from power utility Zesa’s website as of April 27.
This is significantly more than what some industrialised nations are generating as a share of renewable energy in their respective national energy mixes.
In the US, for example, fossil fuels – the number one emitter of greenhouse gases emissions – account for over 62 percent of electricity generation, according to that country’s Energy Information Administration, a government body.
Renewables make up just 17 percent of total generation, with hydropower accounting for just 7,5 percent of that, it says.
Here, some of the less obvious but effective interventions will include, as we have already seen, the outlawing of inefficient light bulbs in homes, schools and businesses, as well as the enactment of laws to improve energy efficiency across industries.
Combined with Zesa Holdings’ prepaid metering programme, the switch to energy saving bulbs could have a dramatic impact on Zimbabwe’s climate change goals, preventing the equivalent of 1 300 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 13 years, according to the country’s NDCs.
Many things have precipitated such changes here. A critical shortage of electricity since around 2003 has forced thousands of households to turn to solar.
And only two percent of investments into alternative energies by Zimbabwean companies goes towards solar, says industry lobby group Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
That still falls far short of what is actually needed to drive change in industry and commerce by using electricity generated from renewables.
Businesses so far haven’t played a significant part in transitioning to cleaner energy, even though they have been one of the biggest sources of emissions.
That’s in part due to a lack of clear-cut national policies for driving renewable energy use in industry, which consumes 64 percent of the national power supply.
Some lights are shining brighter though.
Old Mutual Zimbabwe and E cone Zimbabwe, two of the countries biggest companies, have since announced plans to install 20MW and 250MW of solar power, respectively, for internal use, a move which will both reduce demand on the national grid and ease the national carbon footprint.
At Mimosa Platinum, a company in the country’s Midlands province, 360 solar water heaters installed in staff houses three years ago generate 1.5 MW of power.
So, yes, a good outcome has emerged from the ashes of Zimbabwe’s damaged economy. A happy accident, they say.
When Zimbabwe’s climate change director Washington Zhakata and his team meet their counterparts from across the world in Bonn during the next two weeks, he will likely be negotiating from a position of power: he has action back home to back up his push for change, particularly the urgent need for funding.
Mr Zhakata previously told The Herald Business that Zimbabwe had already started to develop a blueprint for implementing its climate plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions drawn up under the Paris Agreement, with support from the World Bank and the Russian government.
This includes the formulation of a law that will compel companies and municipalities to cut emissions and report these transparently every year, as well as the setting up of an implementation committee headed by the Office of the President and a multi-stakeholder technical committee, to design and oversee implementation of the climate plan across industry and across Government.
“The statutory instrument will guide industry on mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions in a transparent manner, access to data, licensing for climate smart technologies and others,” he said.
God is faithful.