Spending billions to save millions of lives

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As the world prepares for the biggest climate change conference in history, Botswana has unveiled its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt various interventions that may require at least $18.4 billion. It’s all worth it, Mmegi Staffer, BABOKI KAYAWE notes, as the effects of climate change endanger local lives

Last week, Botswana submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), a public commitment to the United Nations Climate Change Conference on the country’s plans towards a low-carbon and climate resilient future.

As part of the country’s mitigation contribution, Botswana intends to achieve an overall emissions reduction of 15 percent by 2030.

Moreover, the submitted INDCs state that Botswana is 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.

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 and the budget for adaptation measures could increase significantly as climate variability intensifies in the future.

“Those who suffer the most are those who are contributing the least to causing it; the poor and most vulnerable members of our society,” says Environment, Wildlife and Tourism minister, Tshekedi Khama.

Adds Khama: “We therefore have a responsibility to protect the fragile web of life on this earth, and to this generation and those that will follow”.

For many African countries, climate change sits very low on the list of priorities in public spending. In fact, most countries have no accurate assessments of their own emissions and no concrete plans in the area of climate change.

For many across the continent, challenges in health, education, water and sanitation, conflict, governance and many others occupy policymakers’ minds, leaving no room for ‘inane’ issues such as climate change. After all, climate change is a problem for the industrialised countries whose greedy development has caused it?

Not so. According to most experts, no continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa.

“Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development,” notes a report compiled by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment.

“In Africa and other developing regions of the world, climate change is a threat to economic growth (due to changes in natural systems and resources), long-term prosperity, as well as the survival of already vulnerable populations.”

For Khama, climate variability is linked with the broader array of development concerns such as poverty alleviation and realisation of the country’s vision beyond 2016.

Imagine a situation where the tourism sector collapses due to the drying up of water sources and emigration of wildlife to wetter countries, or where the agricultural sector folds due to perennially poor harvests.

Botswana and other states have thus placed adaptation at the top of their climate agendas, as has most of the world.

“For the SADC region in particular, adaptation remains first and foremost a development and poverty alleviation concern,” Khama says.

“Climate change variability is intrinsically linked to public health, food and water security, migration, peace and security. It is a moral issue.

It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics.”

As most of the country braces for the second drought in as many years, climate change has become all too real for Batswana who at first believed it was something seen only on TV.

Parliamentarians are eager to approve and adopt the climate change policy as well as supportive documents such as the National Adaptation Plan and Action Plan.

While at first almost imperceptible, legislators have looked on with growing panic as the effects of climate change have wrecked havoc with food and water security, health and community stability.

Where communal farmers used to accurately predict rains and harvest periods in the past, climate change has reduced these time-honoured talents to guesswork.

Member of Parliament for Chobe, Ronald Shamukuni says the altered rainfall patterns have brought poverty and uncertainty for subsistence farmers in his area.

“Farmers are very confused now. Traditionally, the rainy season commenced around November and ploughing would start then. Now when they plough, the plants grow into the winter season and they end up failing to withstand those dry conditions,” he says.

For Nata-Gweta MP, Polson Majaga, the signs of climate change are clear.

“The water levels have gone down. There is too much heat and there has been a shift in habitation in wild animals as they search for new sources of water,” he says.

“This is a burning issue and there is a need for accelerated education in order to combat practices such as deforestation and wildfires. There is a need to promote positive practices such as planting trees and adopting new farming techniques.”

According to Maun West MP, Tawana Moremi climate change is a big concern due to the havoc it is causing on farmers in the region.

“The extreme temperatures we are facing are a challenge. However, we can’t be discussing adaptation and mitigation now because there are still far-reaching issues of government policy on animal control and land use in my constituency,” Moremi says.

According to Moremi, climate change is not a foreign subject in his constituency, although there has not yet been a sustained educational campaign.

From November 30 to December 11, about 40,000 people, delegations from 195 countries and the European Union, representatives from 2,000 associations and NGOs, almost 3,000 journalists and 20,000 visitors are billed to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

The conference hopes 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.

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