Can Botswana soothe Paris’ pain?

In so far as climate change is concerned, the answer is yes. When senior environment officials, including the minister, touch down in Paris, France for the biggest conference on climate change, Botswana will be at the forefront of countries with robust proposals on the global challenge. Mmegi Correspondent, BONIFACE KEAKABETSE, reports

Paris is known as the city of ‘love and lights’. The former comes from Paris’ reputation as a magnet for the lovestruck while the latter comes from its fame as a centre of bright ideas and education.

Romance or bright ideas, however, are the last thing on Parisians’ minds, as they emerge from the worst terror attacks in their history, with the city, country and region frozen in shock at the brazen and callous nature of the assault.

At least 129 people died after terrorists launched coordinated attacks recently across the city of love and reports are there could be even more in store.

The attacks took place as Parisians prepared to welcome about 40,000 people, including delegations from 195 countries and the European Union, representatives from 2,000 associations and NGOs, almost 3,000 journalists and others to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The event is scheduled to take place between November 30 and December 11, and organisers hope to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

Botswana will present its situation and its commitments led by Khama and an eight-person Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Wildlife, Natural Resources and Climate Change.

The attacks, however, are casting long, menacing shadows across the critical conference, which is particularly important for Botswana, which falls in the region of countries climate scientists expect to be hardest hit by climate change, worsening poverty and further hampering development.

In line with cultural norm, Environment, Wildlife and Tourism minister, Tshekedi Khama, is not going to Paris empty-handed and the gifts in his hands are made more significant by the fact that he is leading a delegation into a city still in mourning.

The bounty Khama is taking to Paris is a commitment by Botswana that it intends to achieve an overall reduction in carbon emissions of 15 percent by 2030.

According to available documents, government estimates that to achieve the set target of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent, Botswana will need approximately $18.4 billion (P191.4 billion).

These funds will largely go towards infrastructural development in the energy and transport sectors, reduce emissions as the budget for adaptation measures could increase significantly as climate variability intensifies in the future.

Botswana is also developing a National Adaptation Plan and Action Plan which will highlight all priority areas such as ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’, which includes techniques such as low to zero tillage and multi­cropping to increase mulching and thus reduce evapotranspiration and soil erosion.

Ahead of his departure, Khama said Botswana is eyeing the outcomes of the Paris conference with bated breath as these will be critical for Botswana.

“Botswana is doing well in its commitments to manage climate change and set up coping mechanisms,” he said.

“Being an arid country, Botswana is susceptible to the devastation of climate change and the emerging water stress and changing rainfall patterns experienced in the country are such examples.”

According to the minister, Botswana has initiated both mitigation and adaptation mechanisms.

 One way Botswana moved to mitigate the impact of climate change was through the construction of dams in Northern Botswana and the laying of the North South Carrier Scheme to supply the dry South in harsh times.

Today, Greater Gaborone is largely dependent on the scheme, which pumps 60 million litres of water a day, out of a total demand of 110 million litres, under rationing.

“Other adaptation measures include the anticipated set up of automatic weather stations to detail information on climate and thus inform the nation on climate patterns for development planning issues such as agricultural planning,” he said.

Botswana’s push for lower carbon emissions is particularly challenging, as the country has one of the world’s largest undeveloped coal resources, estimated at 212 billion tonnes.

While efforts are being made to enhance the use of renewable and green energy at both household and national level, government has said it cannot simply ignore the role and value of fossil fuels.

“Botswana remains committed to greenhouse gases reduction in the atmosphere, but in this commitment, the country balances the desired green ideas and the reality on the ground,” Khama said.

“While all green ideas such as the solar energy are desirable, for the country to meet its development needs, it may have to utilise its coal reserves to generate electricity.

“This, however, has to be kept in check as coal power stations have to be limited.

“We cannot afford to have a proliferation of coal power stations in the country and as the ministry tasked with approving the Environmental Impact Assessments for all the projects including power stations, we cannot allow numerous coal power stations in the country.”

Khama hopes Botswana will benefit from the global funding opportunities available to help countries achieve their commitment towards climate change.

On Wednesday, the World Bank unveiled a $16 billion plan to help African people and countries adapt to climate change and build up the continent’s resilience to climate shocks.

Titled Accelerating Climate-Resilient and Low-Carbon Development, the Africa Climate Business Plan will be presented at the Paris conference.

“One of the issues at the conference is expected to be the issue of poorer countries getting financial support from the rich polluting countries.  This would allow the poorer countries to invest in green technologies that can help reduce global warming,” he said.

 The world’s major polluters such as the United States and China, have been blamed for the failure of resolutions from the previous global conference on climate change, held in Kyoto, Japan.

Botswana and other African states already feeling the pinch of successive droughts, persistent heatwaves, water stress and sustainability issues, will be hoping for ‘love and light’ from Paris.

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