HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsZim: Putting the cart before the horse

Zim: Putting the cart before the horse


It’s good to be back. Of course I missed you so much too. A lot has happened, with events of the last few months stalling all State programmes as a rabid war of words in Zanu PF took centre-stage.


The economy, environment and climate change issues became side stories. Everybody that matters in the Zimbabwean politics endlessly searched – where is power? Some identified the centre of power in the party, and today they are all heaving a sigh of relief after a grueling fight over months trying to outwit each and lend President Robert Mugabe’s ear.

That is not alien to Zimbabweans. But for sovereign man, when you see this happen, you will know that it’s game over for the once mighty ones.

On a day Mugabe opened his party’s 6th elective congress with an omnipotent political bureau meeting minus his once most trusted lieutenant Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Africa was engrossed in the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Lima, Peru over a comprehensive climate change draft agreement for 2015 as the stakes are already high with Africa at the receiving end of the disastrous consequences of global warming.

Most agree that recent negotiations have seen mixed success at best. This year, however, some negotiators think they have some fresh ideas to entice everybody to work together.

In 1997, the conference in Kyoto, Japan, was widely considered a breakthrough, producing an international treaty to limit emissions of greenhouse gases.
But that treaty has failed to slow global emissions. It will expire in 2020, and already some countries have either failed to meet their commitments or just dropped out. In the meantime, no one has been able to agree on a new treaty to replace it.

Hence, Africa is eyeing the 2015 draft from Lima, which could bring an end to the haggling in Paris, France next year. Is Africa committed to the success of the Lima conference, taking place at a crucial moment in our countries’ common efforts to address the challenges of climate change?

Mugabe is the African Union vice-chairman and Sadc chairman. This means he is expected to represent the two missions before the close of the conference this Friday.

I took part at a recent Climate Change Response Dialogue and it came out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has completed a series of landmark reports that chronicle an update to the current state of consensus science on global warming. In the reports, the scientists discovered that on our current path, climate change could pose an irreversible, existential risk to civilisation as we know it, but we can still fix it that is if we decide to work together.

In addition to the call for cooperation, the reports also share an alarming new trend -climate change is already destabilising nations and leading to wars, and Zimbabwe is not immune to the challenges.

Global warming has also been discussed as a ‘threat multiplier’ for recent conflicts in South Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt, and future conflicts, too. Who knows the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe could heighten climate change effects. Indications already are that the rains will be late this farming season amid reports that 2014 is on course to becoming the hottest year in 50 years.

It is important therefore to soul search how long-running droughts have contributed to conflicts in Africa. Disappointingly, climate change worsens the divide between haves and have-nots, hitting the poor the hardest. It can also drive up food prices and spawn “mega-disasters” creating refugees and taxing the resiliency of governments.

When a threat like that comes along, it’s impossible to ignore. Especially if one’s job is national security; environment; water, climate, finance or agriculture among others. Thus, the world expect Mugabe, not only to spell out Africa’s vision and expectations, but Zimbabwe’s given the conference will consider agenda items related to finance, mitigation, adaptation and technology.

Already amidst cautious optimism, African civil society groups are calling for a draft text to be adopted that will commit countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions next year.

A retired US general sometime this year laid out the military’s thinking on climate change in press reports widely distributed, which could be universal, saying: “This is like getting embroiled in a war that lasts 100 years. That’s the scariest thing for us. There is no exit strategy that is available for many of the problems. You can see in military history, when they don’t have fixed durations, that’s when you’re most likely to not win.”

In a similar vein, another general wrote: “The parallels between the political decisions regarding climate change we have made and the decisions that led Europe to World War 1 are striking – and sobering. The decisions made in 1914 reflected political policies pursued for short-term gains and benefits, coupled with institutional hubris, and a failure to imagine and understand the risks or to learn from recent history.”

In short, climate change could be the final stroke of the 21st century.

So, while all eyes were on the political events playing, Zimbabwe hastily came up with a climate change strategy — a political one at best. For how does one come up with a strategy without an agreeable climate change policy? Isn’t a strategy follows a policy? In other words, a fair amount of guesswork!

Let’s put first things first. What is Zimbabwe’s position at the UNFCCC? Was our contribution also included in the Africa position? Isn’t it time for us as a country to look at best ways to extricate the poor from the effects of global warming by ensuring State policy is derived from the climate change policy so that every sector of the economy has a fair share to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Clearly, rolling out a plan with teeth would benefit all our countrymen. Projects that could help lower our carbon emissions, such as a proposed huge investment in solar, could help bring electricity to the millions or so who have no electricity.

What could come out of Lima could be more than anyone promising a goal to appease environmentalists and West. It should deliver progress and hope for Africa. Such a change could bring more economic opportunities, a better shot at education for young people and increased empowerment for women.

Indeed, a global commitment Yes, but we need local commitments too.

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