Concepts and Insights on Climate Change
By Prof. Tumai Murombo
Climate change is one of the most
urgent global environmental challenges facing humanity. It is not the only
environmental or non-environmental challenge, yet the prospect of its
devastating impacts and its potential to change the biophysical and man-made
environments is unfathomable. Other global challenges include poverty,
insecurity, and inequality – evinced by the persistence of socio-economic
stratification: the ‘haves’ continue to aggrandise more wealth while the
‘have-nots’ continue their descent into poverty and want. Human security and
the resurgence of nationalism are further threats to global human well-being
and peace. In the context of Zimbabwe, especially the past nineteen years, it
may sound elitist to be writing of, and about climate change mitigation,
adaptation and action when the country could be focusing on economic recovery
and dealing with social inequality. However, a realisation that the country’s
economy is driven by resource extraction and resource dependent economic
activities makes one understand the urgency of climate change. It is inevitable
that Zimbabwe, among other low to middle income countries, will face greater
impacts from climate change.
The scientific evidence that has accumulated over decades of studies, monitoring and reporting demonstrates that human induced emissions of greenhouse gases is contributing proportionately the highest to global warming and its aftermath, climate change. It has also been overwhelmingly proven that the single largest source of these gases is the energy industry and the unrelenting reliance on fossil fuels and certain agricultural methods. Therefore, concrete action in the energy industry – how we produce and consume energy – will have a material impact on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond the energy industry, other sectors also contribute to climate change and across these sectors international studies have distilled the key challenges for Africa.
Key Challenges for Africa and the
Climate change is not only an
environmental problem but a larger challenge transcending disciplinary
boundaries and frontiers of knowledge. In a review of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the Climate and
Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) identified key lessons for Africa from the
AR5. These are that:
climate is already changing, and the impacts are already being felt.
climate change is inevitable in the coming decades.
change poses challenges to growth and development in Africa.
will bring immediate benefits and reduce the impacts of climate change in
is fundamentally about risk management.
experience in Africa is growing.
low-carbon development options may be less costly in the long run and could
offer new economic opportunities for Africa.
stands to benefit from integrated climate adaptation, mitigation and
co-operation is vital to avert dangerous climate change and African governments
can promote ambitious global action.
Among other impacts, economic
growth is seen slowing down by over 30% for South Africa and Zimbabwe. These
key lessons for Africa and the forecasted impacts on Zimbabwe demonstrate the
need for more research, development and policy formulation to implement
concrete steps towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. These steps
must be driven and informed by the internationally established climate change regime.
At the international level, the original climate change convention, the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), set the tone and
provided the foundational principles of law and policy that should inform
action on climate change. One of the fundamental principles anchoring the
convention is seeking to ensure that the capability of each state party is
taken into account in assuming obligations. The Common but Differentiated
Responsibility Principle and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) was instrumental
in enabling agreement and consensus on the UNFCCC as developing countries
assumed less onerous obligations than developed state parties. Key provisions were
inserted into the treaty to enable developing states to implement their
obligations. The provisions of financial assistance and transfer of relevant
technologies are central to any steps that developing countries may take to
mitigate or adapt to climate change.
Nevertheless, the prognosis of
the international climate change regime has seen a gradual shift from a strong
north-south divide to a more unified approach which recognises that climate
change is a global concern which every state should deal with regardless of its
development status. From the Copenhagen Conference of Parties (COP) proceedings
to the Paris COP, states have realised that bottom-up driven targets and
proposals carry better prospects of effectiveness than imposed targets and
goals. To some,these shifts from strict legal targets to flexible
politico-legal undertakings represents an ‘erosion’ of the CBDR-RC principle,
while to others it could very well indicate a maturity of the principle.The
latter is more apposite as under the Paris Agreement states, based on their own
capabilities, can determine individually what they are prepared to do to
mitigate and adapt to climate change. While this could very well release
developed countries from more stringent obligations, we should not forget that
the clauses on funding and technology transfer in the UNFCCC remain binding
treaty provisions. Hence, many Individual National Determined Contributions
(INDCs) submitted since 2015 retain as condition precedents the expectation by
developing countries that developed countries will provide funding mechanisms
and enable technology transfer.
Another development since the UNFCCC and
subsequent protocols, is the increasing realisation by developing countries and
small island states that adaptation is more urgent than mitigation. This is
premised on the intertwinement of economic development and adaptation – the
argument that development is the best adaptation strategy.Therefore, many
developing countries have directed their energies at developing legal and
policy frameworks and strategies to enable adaptation to the impacts of climate
change rather than taking mitigating measures. This is largely because
adaptation includes steps that may not be contingent on funding and technology
transfer as many of the mitigation measures do. To this end, Zimbabwe’s climate
change policy, and any legal instruments, show a prioritisation of adaptation
whilst recognising the need for mitigation.
This edited volume is a
culmination of several engagement among stakeholders, policy-makers, and
academics on the state of knowledge and research on climate change in Zimbabwe.
While international concepts, principles and methodologies of addressing
climate change appear settled, national level dialogue and insights are
necessary to align international concepts and principles to lived social,
economic and cultural realities. It is one thing to assume treaty obligations
and an entirely separate process to transpose treaty provisions into domestic
policy and law that can function to achieve concrete results.
Central Hypotheses of the Volume
Our central hypothesis is that
Zimbabwe must treat climate change as an urgent challenge that calls for
immediate action in terms of creating an enabling legal framework and policy
environment. Certain assumptions underpin this hypothesis. In particular the
authors are reminded of the urgency of the climate change problem by recent extreme
weather events such as Cyclone Idai and perennial debilitating droughts that
have handicapped agricultural production.
This book was conceptualised on the assumption
that law, governance and other regulatory constructs and social institutions
that mediate the human/environment interface can, and should, play a central
role in achieving climate mitigation, adaptation and the transition towards a
low carbon developed economy. Secondly, we assumed that the pace of
international climate change discussions and scientific evidence on the
significant impacts of climate change is far ahead of what Zimbabwe is doing at
national level to address climate change. This, in turn, has compromised the
country’s capacity to sustainably meet its national developmental goals and
global competitiveness. Granted that there are also other national and
internationally motivated geopolitical developments in the last decades that
have disabled the country’s economy.
Zimbabwe must undertake a range of regulatory initiatives towards a climate resilient and low carbon economy, without compromising social and economic capabilities of its citizens. As such, there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, systematic and (increasingly) multi- and trans-disciplinary understanding of the legal and extra-legal issues on climate change – the facts, science, law and policy.Read more here