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COP 21 Agreement; a door of hope, introspection

15 Dec 2015 at 14:41hrs | Views
The Conference of Parties session 21 (COP 21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to a close in the French capital of Paris on 13 December 2015 after more than two weeks of intense negotiations to arrive at a land mark agreement which has changed the tone of climate change negotiations.

While there are shortcomings to the Paris Agreement, which is natural of all negotiated outcomes, there are fundamental opportunities, which have been opened at regional and international levels around which conversations must occur.

We in the People's Democratic Party (PDP) welcome COP 21 as a key milestone and good start which all countries must implement, respect and uphold. In this regard it is of paramount importance for the world's key polluters the US and China to stick to honour the agreement which can potentially change the trajectory of climate change in the coming years.

For a developing country like Zimbabwe and indeed the SADC region there is need to localize the talks on climate change and to come up with broad frameworks for closer cooperation on the issue and also to engage with those powerful rich nations like the US and China when they come to do business with us.  

By broadening regional and indeed continental framework for engagement we are able to lobby more out of the agreement especially for the developed countries to honour their promises in the agreements particularly on the thorny issue of financing. Under the Paris Agreement, the developing countries sought to have an annual transfer of US$100 billion towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.

By coming together and presenting broad based projects that can steer adaptation and mitigation through low carbon energy infrastructure, which can broadly benefit the region and beyond it is possible to build a strong case for the release of the funds.

An example of such an infrastructural project is the Grand Inga hydroelectric power project in the DRC, which requires an estimated cost of $80 billion including the construction of its transmission grid across Africa and potentially to Europe. A well coordinated negotiating team comprising of regional economic communities (RECs) such as SADC, COMESA, and EAC among others can potentially unlock financing through the climate change mitigation and adaptation framework.

Other examples would include negotiating funding for building a natural gas pipeline network across South Africa linking to the vast Mozambican gas fields and also to Zimbabwe's Nyamandlovu gas fields.

Natural gas exploitation will go a long way in limiting the amount of carbon emissions as natural gas is a fuel with less carbon intensity than coal, which currently provides the bulk of power in the sub-region.

While in spirit, the Paris Agreement can provide for the above ambitious projects it is critical for Zimbabwe to also contextualize the issue of climate change locally. Climate change is a sophisticated and complex challenge which must be understood within the framework of economic and social production as well as consumption of a society.

In this light, Zimbabwe needs to also look internally for mobilizing resources to help communities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. While efforts towards reforestation are welcome, they on themselves are not adequate. There is need for a much more aggressive, broad, inclusive and economically grounded policy and institutional framework targeting to address climate change domestically.

As stated above, the issue of climate change is deeply enmeshed in the economic and social consumption of a society hence there is need for involving key ministerial portfolios in its deliberations and implementation frameworks. In this light the issue of climate change must rise above being a question of a small (often under resourced) department in the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Climate but to become central in the economic framing of the entire country.  The department has been getting token Treasury support.

Therefore, before any government policy or decision especially in areas such as energy and economic policy can be made there is need for such a policy or decision to be interrogated on the extent that it positively or negatively impacts on mobilizing domestic resources for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

This is very important for Zimbabwe because some of the adverse effects of climate change include flooding and droughts which impact negatively on food production. Zimbabwe being an agro-based economy thus will suffer recurrent food shortages if measures to address resources towards climate change mitigation and adaptation are not taken.

This raises the issue of domestic resource mobilisation for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The ZANU PF government has come up with a US$10 billion strategy to address mitigation and adaptation but has not come up with a clear fundraising mechanism for this action plan which requires about US$2 billion a year for the next five years.

Thus in order for Zimbabwe to raise resources domestically it must review some of the funds which are already being raised domestically which can impact on climate change mitigation and adaptation. These funds include the Rural Electricity Fund (REF) and the water fund under ZINWA.

The REF resources are being collected as a way of raising money for expanding electric energy infrastructure to rural areas by connecting households, townships and growth points to the national grid. While this was a noble initiative it has however been abused by ZANU PF and to date there is little progress to show for it. The same fate has befallen the water fund.

These funds can and indeed must be leveraged to provide for an initial fund basket towards mitigation and adaptation for the most vulnerable communities. The funds can be used for such projects as installation of PV Solar systems in clinics and schools in rural areas, installation of solar powered small scale irrigation schemes to ensure food security in drought prone regions, to construct embankments and other disaster resilient infrastructure in flooding prone regions among many other mitigation and adaptation projects.

In conclusion, the COP 21 Agreement while not entirely certain provides a launch pad for more decisive negotiations and has set the bar high for the next set of negotiations which the Zimbabwe, the region and indeed the continent can leverage on. In this discourse it is also critical to consider and view the issue of internal resource mobilization critically. Indeed COP 21 has opened a platform for conversations that can make another Zimbabwe possible!

Tendai Biti is the President of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and writes here in his own capacity.

Source - Tendai Biti
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