Monday, 1 September 2014

Climate Change Response: A Priority Or Option for Zambia?

By Lubasi Wachata 

The 21st century has witnessed the emergence of climate change as one of the world’s greatest developmental challenges. Reliable assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have alerted nations to the inescapable impacts of climate change in the near term and raised the need to respond to climate change impacts through adaptation and mitigation efforts. In Zambia, evidence of climate change impacts can be noted particularly in land-based activities. The Zambia Meteorological Department analyzed climate variability in the last four decades and established that there has been an increase in frequency of extreme events such as floods and droughts, and increases in temperature both cool and warm seasons particularly in the valleys. 

Delayed onset of the rainfall and earlier cessation, resulting in shorter rainy seasons with more intense rainfall has also been noted. The most serious of these have been the 1991/92 droughts and 2006/07 floods in which the latter affected over 1 million people in 41 districts across the country. Though not as severe as the 1991/92 drought, the 2004/05 drought also caused irreversible damage to crops in two thirds of the country and forced Zambia to import food. On the other hand, the 2009/10 floods affected 238,254 people about 39,709 households.

Such climate change related problems are expected to continue to manifest in future thereby calling for adaptation and mitigation measures to abate the situation. The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA-2007) on Climate Change has been developed in an effort to provide reliable and timely data necessary for adaptation measures. In addition, the National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS-2010) has also been formulated to support and facilitate a coordinated response to climate change issues. Its key recommendation is the establishment of the National Climate Change and Development Council (NCCDC) to be a new institutional framework for overseeing climate change activities nationally. This led to the formation of the Interim Inter-Ministerial Climate Change Secretariat whose main objective is to facilitate the establishment of the council and strengthen national coordination of all efforts intended to respond to the climate change crisis among others. 

Zambia is making efforts to respond to climate change impacts through adaptation and mitigation interventions. With respect to mitigation, Zambia’s contribution to the regional greenhouse gas emission level is relatively small although emissions from land use change are on an increase due to deforestation and conversion of forests to other land uses. Thus, the country’s primary mitigation interventions lie in halting deforestation. Studies show that Zambia’s forests cover roughly 66 percent (about 49.9 million ha.) of the total landmass of which 9.6 percent are protected forests under the Forest Department. This is an extensive carbon sink with great potential for carbon sequestration. However, there is a problem to climate change mitigation as forests are under threat from deforestation. Studies show that between 1990 and 2000, Zambia had the highest deforestation rate of about 851 000 ha in Southern Africa. This made the country account for almost half the deforestation in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.  

While forests offer a great potential for climate change mitigation, forestry programmes related to climate change get the lowest budgetary share compared to other departments. Available statistics show that between 2007 and 2009, Water Affairs Department received the largest budget share of (ZMK 38.57 billion) followed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives with (ZMK 13.194 billion). The Forestry Department was the least funded at (ZMK 2.56 billion), with its sister department the Environment and Natural Resources receiving (ZMK 2.949 billion) during the same period. There is need for the government to increase its budgetary allocations to the Forestry Department if the country is to fully utilize its great carbon sink potential. 
 With respect to adaptation, the Zambian Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience (SPCR) has emerged as a key programme in the planned development assistance to climate change adaptation at both the strategic and local level. The SPCR is funded through the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). The programme is administered by the World Bank in collaboration with the African Development Bank and other partners. Currently, two pilot projects are being implemented in the Kafue and Barotse sub-basins of the greater Zambezi basin. The program seeks to integrate climate resilience into development strategies and local plans, strengthen institutional collaboration and partnerships among others.

 While all these mitigation and adaptation efforts should be applauded, it is clear that climate change is not a “Priority” on the agenda for political elites in Zambia. The Zambian government does allocate some funds to the various programmes that deal with climate change but indeed more efforts are needed. For example, ZMK 4 000,000 has been allocated to the PPCR in the 2014 budget. Climate change financing currently depends to a large extent on external funding from multilateral and bilateral donors namely the World Bank, UN agencies and the Finnish Government among others. This, however, does not mean that the government has no interest in the issue at all. On the contrary, national political interest in the climate change agenda is apparent on climate change adaptation through disaster risk reduction and disaster management. 

The government established the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit as a permanently established statutory government agency forming part of the Office of the Vice President. The frequent occurrence of natural hazards such as droughts and floods has usually triggered disasters in Zambia. Their striking and explicit nature makes them not only attractive to the media, but also creates a perfect opportunity for local politicians to show their importance. Responding to natural disasters is thus a matter of priority for the political leadership in an effort to secure support from voters.

Until recently, Zambia had lagged behind in addressing climate change issues. However, the picture is gradually improving. Indeed, the government has made several efforts in formulating climate change policies and institutional frameworks. However, addressing climate change challenges will certainly require financing. Most of the impediments to effective national climate change response are rooted in the inadequate budgetary allocations to climate change related interventions by the government.  Left unabated, climate change has the potential to reverse the well-deserved developmental gains the country has achieved over the decades. Thus, the need for climate change to be at the top of the agenda for the political elites in Zambia can never be overemphasized.

No comments:

Post a Comment