Climate change: Bearing scars of world inequality, poor legislation

By Gibson Nyikadzino

Zimbabwe and the world are experiencing many negative and unpredictable results of climate change such as increasing and devastating cyclones, hurricanes that destroy the infrastructure in the shores and the worrying fast melting of the Arctic sea ice.

Scientifically, a lack of comprehensive research in Zimbabwe has affected arriving at conclusions that can bolster formulation of working legal frameworks ahead of the 2030 target to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Zimbabwe committed itself to implementing all the 17 SDGs, with special priority given to ten SDGs among them number 13, which addresses climate change issues.

SDG 13 aims at making communities more resilient against extreme weather conditions to reduce damage and death rates during weather hazards.

According to the United Nations (UN), SDGs are a “bold, universal agreement to end poverty in all its dimensions and craft an equal, just and secure world — for people, planet and prosperity by 2030.”

Climate change is a change to the state of the climate system that persists over an extended period of time in addition to natural climate variability.

Human activity is the primary cause of climate change. Activities such as burning fossil fuels, migration, agriculture and deforestation are also significant causes.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that the major impacts of climate change on human health are likely to occur via changes in the magnitude and frequency of extreme events, which trigger a natural disaster or emergency.

Because climate change is explained in scientific terms, despite having climate change strategies, Zimbabwe’s government and lawmakers have failed to come up with a scientific evidence-based climate change policy. According to Rodrick Moyo from the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), Zimbabwe does not have a climate change law besides policies and strategies.

Zimbabwe currently uses the Energy Regulatory Authority Act (Chapter 13:23), the Environmental Management Act, Electricity Act and the Forest Act.

There are several other policies and strategies used among them the National Environmental Policy, Renewable Energy Policy. Strategies include, the National Climate Change Response Strategy and the Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategy (2020 to 2050) among others
“Climate change is mainstreamed in bits and pieces in a number of legislation. This needs to be consolidated so that our approach is timely.

Environmental Rights are included in the 2013 Constitution which sets a foundation for crafting laws addressing climate change.

“Our policies and strategies show that our country is making commitments towards addressing climate and creating a climate resilient country.

“However, going forward we have to develop a comprehensive legislative framework in order to deal with climate change in a more structural way.

“The risk is, without a climate change legislation we may not be able to deal with the detrimental effects of climate change and history is there to remind us as we have performed dismally,” said Moyo.

According to statistics, 97 percent of climate scientists today agree that climate change is real and humans are the catalysts to this phenomenon. Indications from climate experts are that the global temperature has been on the rise on average by 0,85 degrees Celsius since 1880.

“It may sound like a small change, but without urgent actions to reduce the carbon emissions, global temperature is going to rise six degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” writes climate sustainability expert Timothy Yen.

The effects of climate change are already being felt, and Zimbabwe is no exception. Cyclones, floods, heavy rains, droughts and strong winds have been immense characteristics since 2000.

The effects of such remain fresh considering the damage, displacement and death caused by Cyclones Eline, Dineo and Idai and recently tropical depression Chalane.

Development initiatives in more economically developed countries (MEDCs) have contributed to global warming at a faster rate than developments in less economically developed countries (LEDCs) like Zimbabwe.

Grand announcements like the 2015 Paris Agreement have also done little to help LEDCs in evenly and equally fighting climate change, but given room to developed nations secure their environment.

Since 2016, the Paris Agreement has been committing one trillion dollars yearly fighting climate change.

Since the USA pulled out of the agreement, China has been leading in reducing emissions (since it is the biggest polluter) and increased its use of clean energy.
According to the US Department of Energy’s International Energy report, Africa each year produces an average of just over one metric tonne of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide per person.

This translates that the continent contributes the least of any continent to global warming.

“What LEDCs need to do now is unite and demand help from MEDCs since the industrialised countries are responsible for emitting much of the gases leading to global warming.

“Developed countries must give financial as well as material and technological help to developing countries in order for them to effectively deal with climate change in policy as well as development issues at national to grassroots level,” said Pardon Maguta, an environmental and climate change agenda activist.

Maguta noted that climate change is not only restricted to droughts and cyclones, but “heat-waves, extreme cold resulting from temperature drops and energy” among other issues.

Similar sentiments are also shared by Moyo who highlights that the issue of clean energy is also key in dealing with climate change, opposed to use of fossils.

“It is a tight situation for Africa and Zimbabwe whose energy solely depends on coal power stations.

“In the near future it could be more dire considering that most major funders have declared their intentions of stopping to fund coal powered stations.
“We therefore risk having stranded assets.

“A country like Zimbabwe which almost solely depends on foreign direct investment is doomed considering that even domestic resource mobilisation could be a challenge,” Moyo added.

There is nowhere the need to achieve SDGs targets so paramount than in Africa.

The implementation of the SDGs is uneven, and for SDG 13, our generating climate system shows how it threatens irreversible consequences if the government does not act.

Climate change impacts spare no country but strike unequally MEDCs and LEDCs, raising the question how Zimbabwe and other African countries are equipped to respond to these challenges.

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