CLIMATE change is the long-term change in the earth’s climate caused by the release of greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide and methane which trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, causing it to become hotter. (global warming, currently between 1.5°C and 2°C).
Greenhouse gases are released by human activities which use fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), by deforestation and by large-scale commercial agriculture. Between 1990 -2015, Zimbabwe lost 36 percent of its forest cover at a rate of nine percent per decade.
Furthermore, destruction of natural habitats, pressure from human settlements and poaching has decimated wildlife populations, particularly those of endangered species.
In Africa, global warming during the 20th Century has been estimated at between 0.26 and 0.5°C per decade. This trend is expected to continue and even to increase significantly, with a consequent impact on livelihoods.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a medium-high emission scenario would see an increase in annual mean surface air temperatures of between 3 and 4°C by 2080.
This implies difficult times ahead for local people who depend directly/indirectly on agriculture – especially rain-fed agriculture — for their livelihoods and who have few assets or strategies to cope with the changes to come.
In Zimbabwe, recorded temperatures have risen by about 1°C over the last 40 years of the last century, while rainfall and runoff decreased by 20 and 30 percent, respectively.
According to FAO, the frequency of droughts has also increased from once per decade to about once every three years in Zimbabwe and points out that rainfall exhibits considerable spatial and temporal variability characterised by shifts in the onset of rains and increases in the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall activity.
This significantly compromises crop production, especially for smallholder farmers who depend heavily on agriculture and lack irrigation and water harvesting technologies.
Smallholder farmers, whose livelihood depends on the use of natural resources and rain-fed agriculture, are likely to suffer most from the adverse effects of climate change.
Hence drought and climate change often turn into disasters since the coping mechanisms in the region are limited in capacity.
Cognisant of the negative consequences of climate change, the Government of Zimbabwe regards climate change as one of the prime threats to the country and the people. It has the potential to undermine many of the positive developments made in meeting the country’s development goals and has thus actively participated in international negotiations on climate change.
Accordingly, after independence, Zimbabwe was among the first countries to sign and ratify the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992.
In 2009 the Government of Zimbabwe acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in addition to the Paris Agreement Conference of Parties (COP21) in 2015.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa continued the agenda when he attended the Conference of Parties (CoP) on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland.
Over the years, in response to climate change, Zimbabwe developed various relevant policies, frameworks and strategies to suit the agenda.
Some of the key policies, strategies and frameworks include the Climate Response Strategy, National Climate Policy, National Determined Contributions, NAP Process, Devolution and Decentralisation Policy, National Agricultural Policy Framework.
The Zimbabwe National Climate Response Strategy provides a comprehensive framework and strategic approach on aspects of adaptation, mitigation, technology, financing, public education and awareness of climate change.
Their goal is to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in economic and social development at the national and societal levels through multi-stakeholder engagements.
It provides civil society climate organisations a structure for developing supportive national climate change responsive programmes.
The Response Strategy action plans are outlined under four strategic areas, namely: natural systems, economic sectors, physical and socio-economic infrastructure and strategy enablers.
The National Climate Change Policy addresses five thematic areas –vulnerability and adaptation, mitigation and low carbon development, education, training and awareness, weather, climate modelling and change, enablers and gender as well as social inclusion.
The purpose of the policy is to guide climate change management in Zimbabwe, enhance the national adaptation capacity, scale up mitigation actions, facilitate the domestication of climate-related global policies and ensure compliance to global instruments.
Issues on the climate change agenda are clearly articulated in the Climate Change Policy under: climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation and low carbon development, education, training and awareness, weather, climate change research and modelling, technology transfer and information sharing as well as governance and institutional framework.
The climate policy provides a national institutional policy framework that needs development as outlined in the national climate response strategy.
Following the international climate agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties in Paris (CoP21) in December 2015, countries publicly outlined what post 2020 climate actions they intended to take under the new international agreement.
These actions are known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement (to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 °C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C and achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.
The Government of Zimbabwe submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions INDC to the UNFCC in 2015.
Following the ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2017, the INDCs were approved into National Determined Contributions (NDCs).
However, following major developments in the climate change agenda, the current NDCs for Zimbabwe were being revised and expected to be finalised in 2021.
A strategic document relevant to the NDC’s revision is the recently finalised Low Greenhouse Emission Development Strategy (LEDS).
The Strategy covering Energy, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFLOU), was approved in 2019.
The LEDS Strategy was to be implemented in close liaison with the 2020-2025 National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1).
Even if greenhouse gas emissions are stopped or reduced through concerted international efforts, many of the impacts of climate change will still affect us for future decades.
We must, therefore, develop and adopt strategies to adapt to climate change now.
Importantly, we must protect the natural resources on which our lives and livelihoods depend by introducing better land management practices and increasing biodiversity
At the same time, we must work together as a global community to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases.
It is hoped that this will prevent the most devastating impact of future climate change and help us to repair some of the damage which has already been done.
Dr Tony Monda BSc, DVM, is currently conducting veterinary epidemiology, agronomy and food security and agro-economic research in Zimbabwe. For views and comments, email:tonym.MONDA@gmail.com