On 1st June the Climate Parliament organised a virtual parliamentary roundtable with legislators from Uganda, focused on climate impacts and adaptation in that country. The meeting was co-organised with the Honourable Mr. Lawrence Biyika Songa, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change and Chair of the Climate Parliament group in Uganda. It was convened in collaboration with UNIDO and with support from the EU Commission, and was co-sponsored by the Pan-African Parliament. The session featured a conversation between Nicholas Dunlop, Secretary-General of the Climate Parliament, and Dr Andre Kamga, Director General of the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD), who leads the preparation of WMO's state of climate in Africa reports. 10 Ugandan legislators joined the session.
The discussion began with an informal conversation about the recent passing of Uganda’s Climate Change Bill, with Mr Biyika Songa thanking collaborators such as the Climate Parliament, GIZ and UNDP for their help.
Nick Dunlop then introduced a map detailing a recent international study showing the human climate niche and the effects of temperature increase. Desertification, drought and challenges to food production are among the main issues facing Uganda. The map is not a prediction, but it shows there is a significant risk if no action is taken. Dr Kamga explained the importance of accelerating the early warning system for climate hazards, particularly for heat waves and extreme high temperatures. In the late 1970s, such peaks averaged 2 days a year: now we have 12 days of extreme high temperatures annually. These will impact the agricultural calendar globally, and particularly across Africa. The infrastructure planned for the next 30-40 years should factor in the incidence of drought and flood to increase resilience. There are also serious concerns about the effect of climate change on health. In West Africa, all wet years are marked by a significant increase in malaria. The temperature shift expected if no action is taken will see the emergence of malaria in areas where there was none previously, and an increase in cases elsewhere.
Several parliamentarians highlighted the rise in the occurrence of floods, often leading to dangerous landslides and an increase in diseases such as malaria, the biggest killer in Uganda. There is a high mortality rate in Uganda for mothers and children due to a lack of sanitation, poor nutrition, and cooking with firewood and charcoal in badly-ventilated areas. These deaths are preventable. So there is a vital need to adapt infrastructure. A vast amount of fossil fuels is still being used in Uganda. Dr Kamga explained how the transition to a clean development path could work, starting with a mixture of resources. If governance and tax collection are improved and the resources the country needs are provided, Uganda can invest appropriately in other energy solutions to eventually divest completely from fossil fuels. We need a transition plan for the long run.
Uganda is a coffee-growing zone, and climate change is affecting this sector already - farmers are having to move to the mountain tops, which is not sustainable. In the West Nile region around 40% of forest has already been destroyed to provide wood for cooking. The role of methane waste was raised: methane is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Uganda. It does not last as long in the atmosphere as CO2, but it is up to 80 times more powerful whilst it persists.
Uganda needs to raise awareness of the effects of climate change. Its Climate Change Bill calls for the integration of climate change impacts into school and university courses. So it needs partnerships to address its information gap, reaching the ordinary people who are most affected. It was concluded that no one can insulate themselves from the impacts of climate change now; we must be inclusive.