Vincent Gono, Features Editor
MANY developing countries especially those in Africa have been struggling with climate change realities that have added to their long catalogue of problems to deal with.
Climate change has increased Africa’s vulnerability to diseases, persistent droughts, natural disasters and poverty in general and the need for the continent to speak with one voice needs no emphasis; it should be a priority.
With research showing that food riots could increase as droughts get more severe with an almost 50 percent food production deficit predicted by 2030, the continent needs not to allow divisions to rock its boat as signs are already showing that the members will need each other more.
Climate change is not only threatening food security but low energy production capacities are putting pressure on forests for provision of cheaper alternative energy.
Although climate change is not Africa’s problem alone, some developed countries such as America have been cynical about the whole phenomenon.
They have been showing a non-committal attitude towards funding Africa’s mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. Russia and China have however been forthcoming.
Globally, China – arguably the largest emitter of greenhouse gas has been honoring its climate targets under the Paris Agreement.
At home it is putting a great deal of work and President Xi Jinping noted in the Governance of China compendium Volume 2 that the country was committed to limiting its emissions.
“We must take effective measures to promote ecological progress and address growing resource constraints, serious environmental pollution, and ecological degradation and be pragmatic and solid in our work so as to achieve results,” he said.
He said they were going to put a ceiling on the intensity of energy use, water consumption and construction land utilisation.
“…that way we will save energy and water and land resources, reduce pollutant emissions at source, force the transformation of the growth model and raise the level of the green economy.”
America’s attitude has not stopped the preaching of ecological friendly policies and clean development mechanisms gospel that places emphasis on smart sources of energy, smart agriculture and smart environmental practices.
Although countries such as Zimbabwe have adopted a number of climate smart initiatives in the areas of energy and agriculture, stakeholders insist that mechanisms should be put in place to help curb a future global catastrophe without which limiting greenhouse gas emissions may remain a literal theory whose practicability is unattainable.
This is not to say Africa should fold its hands and wait to be funded but should find workable solutions with the little it has and ensure there is movement on the positive as some of the mechanisms such as conservation agriculture are not very expensive.
There is more emphasis however, on Africa to have a collective position than individual countries. Limiting greenhouse gases means low industrial pace and Africa needs to find equilibrium between the need to industrialise and the calls to limit greenhouse gases.
The call to limit greenhouse gas emissions means that the economic gap between unindustrialised Africa and the industrialised West will remain in the good name of combating climate change and minimising any harm to mother earth.
One cannot but fail to see the veneer of economics and politics that seek perpetual subjection and reliance of Africa to the West for finished products and on that Africa no longer needs to hush its voice but to speak loudly, collectively and without ambiguity on the need for support to adopt clean development initiatives.
Although options and strides have been made to adapt to climate change and implementing stringent mitigation activities to ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range that create a brighter and more sustainable future, Africa’s biggest challenge remains that of financial resources.
Fact is however, that Africa is faced with a depletion of sources of electrical energy even in urban set-ups caused by the global call to shun the use of ozone depleting fossil fuels such as coal.
The call to ban coal without a sustainable alternative will lead to massive deforestation further exacerbating the effects of climate change and so the circle remains, like that of the proverbial borrowing John to pay Peter and the debt remains.
Socially, the depletion of water sources is also a source for concern as more African women are made to walk longer distances in search of water while more young children are at risk of malnutrition as climate change is evidently amplifying existing stress on water availability for society and the natural environment.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contends that it is critical to recognise that Africa’s growth is fragile. It says part of Africa’s vulnerability lies in the fact that recent development gains have been in climate-sensitive sectors.
The report makes a clear case that many risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope. What it therefore implies that African societies that are socially, economically, culturally and institutionally marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change.
“Economically, many Africans depend for food and income on primary sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, sectors which are affected by rising temperatures, rising sea-levels and erratic rainfall. Demographic and economic trends in Africa mean that climate impacts will be acute.
“Growing populations will increase the demand for water and food but prolonged droughts will put additional pressure on already scarce water resources and will reduce crop yields,” reads part of the report.
With most of its economies agrarian, the need to focus more on ways to boost its agriculture and make the economies remain afloat in the face of climate change effects remains critical.
It remains puzzlingly unfortunate and sad that Africa has contributed the least of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere but is called just like any other continent to contribute to the reduction of the gases.
It is IPCC’s view that countries that are most vulnerable to climate change have contributed little to greenhouse gas emissions.
“Addressing climate change will not be possible if agents advance their own interests independently; it can only be achieved through co-operative responses, including international co-operation,” says IPCC.
National Co-ordinator in the climate change office in Zimbabwe Mr Washington Zhakata said although a lot was being done at national level both as mitigation and adaptation measures there was a need for a global approach if results were to be realised.
“The problem with Africa is that we do not have a solid revenue base and we should force the more stable developed countries which are the biggest emitters to fund mitigation and adaptation programmes,” said Mr Zhakata.
He added that there was indeed a lot of politics in the whole climate change issue.
He said with the little financial resources that the country had, it was campaigning for smart agriculture initiatives such as conservation agriculture.
The country, he said, was putting in place other sources of energy to try and move away from thermal power and fossil energy which increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner lauded the seriousness with which developing countries were engaged.
“This is not theory, this is not the distant future, this is about survival,” said Steiner as he announced the climate promise.
“UNDP is building on our work on climate action. Our commitment is to support 100 countries in reaching the more ambitious plans the world needs to ensure a future for ourselves, our children and all generations to come.
Through this initiative, UNDP will stand shoulder to shoulder with countries as they take bold action,” he added.