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COP21: Zambia takes climate change position

BOYD PHIRI, Chisamba
THE issue of climate change is now hot on every country’s agenda. With its effects being felt beyond human understanding, governments and non-state actors are working round the clock to address the problem.
Climate change is defined as change in global or regional climate patterns and it is attributed to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
In Zambia, climate change has adversely affected agriculture and food security, wildlife, forestry, water and energy, and human health.
According to a report by the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Zambia has already recorded increases in temperature, estimated to increase at 0.6 degrees  celcius every 10 years.
The report says future scenarios for the period 2010 – 2070 indicate that temperature will increase further by two degrees Celcius and rainfall is projected to decrease by eight to 10 percent.
Given this situation, agriculture has in most parts of the country suffered greatly due to droughts and dry spells, seasonal floods and flash floods, which have increased in frequency and intensity.
According to the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), drought conditions in Zambia have been on the rise during the last 30 years.
The report says the worst so far has been the 1991-2 drought, while the 1978/79 period saw the wettest conditions in Zambia.
According to NAPA, from 2000 to 2007, there were two drought years, two flood years and two normal condition years.
These climatic variations caused serious food security problems, including destruction to humans, wildlife and economic infrastructure, the report notes.
The report further says the impact of the 2006/07 floods in all the affected areas in Zambia was cross-cutting, affecting 1,443,583 people in 41 districts country-wide.
However, the government has noted that these climatic conditions have continued to impact negatively on Zambia’s most sensitive sectors of the economy.
One area which is currently under stress because of drought is the energy sector, which has seen hydro-electric power generation at Lake Kariba go down.
In a statement recently, Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development (now Minister of Mines and Minerals Development) Christopher Yaluma said Zambia’s electricity deficit rose to 985 megawatts (MW) in September from 560MW in March as water levels in reservoirs at the hydro-power station fell due to poor rainfall last season.
The country’s power generation capacity stands at 2,200MW, with the bulk of the electricity produced from hydro-power.
On natural resources, the report says a decrease in rainfall would be very harsh on wildlife and would affect its diversity and abundance.
On human health, the vulnerability assessment shows that the entire country is exposed to climate-sensitive diseases such as dysentery, cholera, respiratory infections and malnutrition.
The assessment report also says these diseases are more pronounced in the provinces that are most vulnerable to climate change like Central, Southern, Eastern, Lusaka and Western.
However, as a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Zambia is making efforts to combat climate change and boost the transition towards climate resilience, low carbon society and economies.
One of the UNFCCC’s functions is to tackle the global impacts of climate change and specifically to mitigate and prepare for adaptation to its adverse effects.
Speaking during a preparatory workshop for the 21st session of the conference of parties (COP21) in Chisamba recently, Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection permanent secretary Barnaby Mulenga said urgent action is needed by all to prevent global warming.
Mr Mulenga said in a speech read for him by the ministry’s chief environment officer Richard Lungu that parties to the UNFCCC are currently engaged in negotiations to develop a protocol under the convention applicable to all parties by 2015, which will enter into force by 2020.
“Zambia shall continue to participate at these crucial negotiations and ensure that the outcome reflects our national interests and development priorities,” Mr Mulenga said.
He said, as Zambia prepares for COP21 in December in Paris, France, delegates must reflect on the past performances at the conferences, what was achieved and what needs to be accomplished.
“As you are aware, the stakes at the Paris conference are high. The aim is to reach – for the first time – a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively,” he said.
He urged negotiators at the COP21 to go and participate effectively at various intersessional meetings.
Earlier, a representative from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Winnie Musonda, said the COP21 is a good tool for mitigation, adaptation and resource mobilisation to help reduce emissions between 40 to 70 percent by 2050, in relation to holding the average global temperature increase to two degrees, with a possibility of going to 1.5 degrees.
“This time negotiations are critical, based on resource mobilisation for adaptation, mitigation and capacity building. Developing nations are expected to make contributions towards the fight against climate change,” Mrs Musonda said.
Participants considered options in the Geneva text, which forms the basis for negotiations at the COP21 in Paris.
Zambia, as a party to the UNFCCC, has taken positions on a number of priority issues to be discussed at COP21, which at the moment are treated as confidential.
Delegates to COP21 were also implored to ensure that Zambia’s position on climate change is in tandem with the Southern African Development Community and African Union positions during negotiations at COP21.
It is hoped that delegates will reach an agreement at COP21 to strengthen state parties’ resolve to combat climate change.