How sexy are forests?

The power to police as part of statecraft is a basic attribute of contemporary government that manifests in a vast array of sites of governance, including not only the State itself, but also the community, industry and realms such as war against terrorism and political violence among others.

But the dominant realm of governance that is the mainstay of modern policing – environmental protection, particularly environmental crime management – is not attended to.

The question of whether the police should be involved in environmental protection or have an environmental enforcement component has been critically debated against a backdrop of political, societal, administrative and bureaucratic realities in the country.

The debate came as MPs called for the police to arrest repeat environmental offenders. It is known that many of the offenders may have been ticketed by Environmental Management Agency (EMA), hence the call to involve the police to curb increasing environmental crimes.

Environment and Natural Resources minister Francis Nhema has warned stern action will be taken against perpetrators of environmental crimes. But . . . !

Forest losses have repercussions on livelihoods in general and sustainable agriculture in particular because of various ways in which forests are essential for the provision of many important goods and services.

Environmental crime forms a large component of the environmental security debate. The management of this crime is geared towards protecting the environment – a public good that is international in nature.

The effective protection of the environment therefore calls for a multi-stakeholder effort through which different actors contribute towards the sustainable management of this good.

Hence, an improvement in environmental law management enforcement fraternity relations could be achieved through capacity building and environmental crime, law and enforcement training, which should be the principal strategy to enhance environmental policing capacity of the police.

This should be done with the acknowledgment that different multi-stakeholder actors have their own niches in the larger domain of environmental management and enforcement ie police, judges, prosecutors, EMA and others mandated by law to protect the environment.

The nature of environmental crime calls for co-ordinated efforts with a common synergy throughout the whole governance system.

Environmental Security Programme researcher Phillip Arthur Njuguna Mwanika says every institution along the enforcement continuum has its own role in effective environmental policing, with police being the operational body that has full institutional authority to enforce laws demanded by society.

Such lines of synergy are important in the case of environmental policing.

The debate in the country came as world governments were seriously examining ways to avoid a “regulatory void” in the event the Kyoto Protocol was allowed to lapse without a new replacement mechanism in place in Durban this year. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Christiana Figueres said governments could, and should pick up speed and focus on all fronts.

Beginning with Cancún, governments had launched the most comprehensive package ever agreed to help developing nations deal with climate change and there was need to build on that in the coming few weeks.

What they had not done in Cancún was to achieve the greater political certainty needed to raise current emission-reduction ambitions to the point where they would keep global temperature rise to a maximum of 2°C.

In Durban, therefore, there would be need to take further steps to drive both of those very important trends forward and faster.

Zimbabwe, like her counterparts, should step up the international effort to find solutions to climate change by protecting forests. We need to show greater commitment to achieve success at global negotiations on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases and strengthening adaptation measures.

Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, should also build on Cancún agreements where progress was made on addressing deforestation, climate change adaptation, technology sharing and short as well as long-term financing.

It is pertinent to point out the current climate change mitigation pledges represent only 60% of what is needed to have the minimum chance of limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

We must do better, and soon. The world needs to dramatically increase their level of ambition. Developed countries must take the lead in this effort, but all countries must do their part.
Nhema should use every ounce of his experience, skills and influence to advance action on climate change.

He must help Africa defend the science that shows we are destabilising our climate and stretching planetary boundaries to a perilous degree.

He should help us to identify the new alliances – among public officials, business, civil society and communities – that will make sustainability the rallying point for action in the 21st century for the country. Together, we can build a low-carbon, more sustainable economy – one that can protect the most vulnerable and result in a cleaner, safer and healthier world for all.

But, how sexy are the forests to you so as to avoid deforestation? or follow me on

Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: