On 26 April, the Climate Parliament organised a national parliamentary roundtable for Zimbabwe, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and with the support of the European Commission (DG INTPA). The Climate Parliament team presented the conclusions of the latest instalment of the IPCC 6th assessment report, emphasising the dire consequences of climate change in Zimbabwe and the Southern African region. Hon. Dr Tapiwa Mashakada then reported on the visit of a delegation of Zimbabwean MPs to Kampala organised by the Climate Parliament to help them learn about the Ugandan Climate Law passed last year with a view to strengthening a similar bill which is currently being developed in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is a fertile country, which has been traditionally one of the breadbaskets of Africa. But, as Dr Mashakada explained in his introductory statement, the country is now increasingly suffering from climate change shocks and weather variability, which have been seriously affecting agricultural productivity. As the rain season was shorter than usual, the soil did not receive sufficient moisture to produce good crop yields, and 6 million Zimbabweans will be needing food aid, forcing the country to import to feed its people. Over the past five years, the eastern part of Zimbabwe has also been hit by a series of floods originating from the neighbouring Mozambique Channel. Cyclone Idai, the last tropical storm to have hit Zimbabwe, destroyed many homes and much public infrastructure, causing great human suffering.
As a country on the frontline of climate change and conscious of its vulnerability, Zimbabwe has been taking several important steps for climate mitigation and adaptation. The country has developed frameworks for policies on climate action. Its energy policy aims to regulate emissions in the industrial, mining and transport sectors to reduce their carbon footprint. In 2015, the country adopted a National Climate Change Response Strategy to guide how to address the impacts of climate change in the economy on a national scale. It is also striving to guide adaptive capacity, scale up mitigation action, facilitate domestication of global policies and ensure compliance with global mechanisms on climate change. To support the growth of the renewable energy sector, the government decided to make all solar products tax-exempt (rooftop panels, lithium batteries, etc.), so that they can be imported duty free and sold at a reasonable price.
The country is in the process of drafting a climate change law. In Zimbabwe, the executive branch initiates legislation, so the bill is now being discussed at cabinet committee level, before it can be presented to Parliament. Thanks to their visit to Uganda, our delegation of Zimbabwean MPs was able to learn important lessons and draw inspiration for provisions that they intend to include in their bill. Before the Ugandan bill was enacted, there was a wide consultation of stakeholders who put their inputs in writing throughout the whole country. The results of those discussions were attached to the bill when it went to cabinet, so that the recommendations of all stakeholders could be considered and included in the draft. The Zimbabwean MPs expressed their wish to follow the same process to facilitate acceptance of the bill from the public. Just like in Uganda, the MPs also want to use this law to provide a strong framework of structures and institutions to overview the implementation of climate action at every level in the whole country, to compel companies and industries to meet certain targets of reduction of emissions, and to provide ways of financing to make sure enough funds will be allocated to reach the country’s climate goals. In Uganda, each government department, as it prepares its annual budget for parliamentary approval, must submit that budget for examination by an independent committee to certify that it contains substantial expenditure on climate mitigation, prevention and adaptation.
Several MPs raised concerns regarding the availability and security of energy supply. Even though the economic situation of Zimbabwe is currently close to a depression, the country often experiences power shortages and is forced to import electricity from abroad. When the economy turns around and factories reopen, the demand for electricity will be even greater and harder to match. To overcome that issue, Zimbabwe should strive to deepen regional energy interconnection. The country has a lot of arable land which cannot be used to build solar power stations, but the neighbouring countries west of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, have plenty of unproductive deserts getting lots of sunshine. To the south, South Africa enjoys great levels of wind resources, whilst in the Northwest, the Congo River provides plenty of hydropower. These lines all intersect in Zimbabwe, and the country could become a hub for trading renewable energy and the backbone of the continental power grid that the African Union has agreed to build. To aim for a more efficient and just transition, the MPs also emphasised the need to focus more attention on rural areas. They stressed the importance of raising awareness on climate change among rural communities, who contribute to deforestation and air pollution by burning firewood for cooking and heating, because they are not well-informed of the consequences and do not have any alternative. The MPs agreed that rooftop solar panels, connected into the electricity grids, could be a good first step to advance the electrification of villages while reducing the reliance on carbon fuels.