COP26 implications and opportunities for Zimbabwe
23.05.2022 | Accounting
The question might be asked, what was COP26 all about, besides being one of the first gatherings on an international scale following the still ongoing Covid pandemic which led each country to be confined within its own borders for a while. But what do the outcomes of COP26 mean for the various sectors in Zimbabwe? What opportunities and implications does it present? This article seeks to steer a discussion around these issues.
The “Glasgow Climate Pact” as it has been termed is significant in two ways. Firstly, it reinforces and elevates the global legally binding commitment to a 1.5-degree target to reduce emissions set at the COP21 in 2015. Zimbabwe has revised its National Determined Contribution with a commitment to reduce emissions by 40% per capita by the year 2030, on which commitment is conditional on international climate finance into the country per the Paris Agreement and the NDC moving towards all IPCC sectors.[i]Secondly and more importantly in the Zimbabwean context, it recognises the need to significantly scale up the funding for developing countries to assist with both costs of mitigation and adaptation.[ii] To realise the goal to secure global net emissions and adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise at least $100bn in climate finance per year.[iii].
Lawyers play a central role
COP26 has demonstrated that it cannot remain as business as usual for governments, corporates, and the public alike and that climate change is now, more than ever, a global emergency. For the legal sector, COP26 offers a focal point through which lawyers can consider its environmental impact and build on efforts to address it.[iv] Lawyers undoubtedly play a central role in both public and private sectors as advisers to policymakers, governments, corporations, civic societies, and all those affected by climate change.
The past president of the International Bar Association highlighted this role in a climate crisis statement published in May 2020.[v] Lawyers are urged to take a climate conscious approach to problems encountered in their work, to encourage corporate clients to voluntarily disclose climate change risks when reporting to regulators, investors, and stakeholders as well as to support proactive laws and policies that address the climate change agenda.[vi] That position cements the centrality of the lawyer’s role in all sectors of the country.
The role of the private sector in tacking climate crises is so critical that it can be equivalent to that of the government in terms of importance. The sector ought to create enabling environments which are key to attracting foreign direct investment in developing economies such as ours. The private sector has money which the public sector through its coffers does not have and is thus suited to allocating capital efficiently and investing in climate related products.
COP26 already showed that some investors are targeting climate change friendly green projects with the CDC group for pledging to invest US$5billion in climate action in emerging markets in Africa and South Asia.[vii]Renewable power, infrastructure and agriculture will be the targets and companies ought to start preparing by leveraging their energy mix towards cleaner sources in their operations, if they are to be considered for financing.[viii]
End of coal use
The end of coal use, an issue very critical to Zimbabwe, continued to be discussed at COP26. China announced that it will no longer fund coal fired power plants outside its borders. Powering Past Coal Alliance was launched in 2017 by Canada and the UK with the goal to support the phase out of coal through climate financing and practical initiatives to support the transition.[ix] Zimbabwe is not able to adopt such a position domestically owing to its huge coal deposits which account for 13% of its power generation. However, the challenge with this position is that no international funding will be made available as the international banks and institutions will no longer be financing coal projects. This will call for the reconfiguration of financial markets and the banking sector in the country in terms of strategies, systems, policies, and governance if they are to access climate finance as pledged by the developed countries.[x] Meanwhile capital markets like the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange will have to offer climate related investment products if they want to tap into the financing pledged.[xi]
The government, representing the public sector needs to do two things. Firstly, it needs to make the corresponding laws and policies best suited to support the private sector. These laws and policies must be rational and coherent enough to set the enabling economic environment for climate friendly investment.[xii] Secondly, the government must make laws which transcend parliamentary terms for long term goals to be achievable even if the party with the parliamentary majority changes from time to time.[xiii] An architecture which provides direction to businesses and all other stakeholders, supported by a regulatory regime is a must.[xiv] Government’s own investments in the most GHG emitting industries such as energy, transport and agriculture ought to be climate change wise by leveraging on cleaner energy sources.
The agricultural sector as spearheaded by the government has already started preparing itself and accessing funding. In November 2020, the Green Climate Fund (GCF)-financed ‘Building Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Agricultural Livelihoods in Southern Zimbabwe’ project was launched by the Government through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Climate Change Department and UNDP Zimbabwe. This is part of the National Adaptation Plan whose US$26.6 million initiative aims to reach 2,3million vulnerable smallholder farmers in Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland South, improve food security and build resilience for people whose lives and livelihoods are being put at a risk in the face of climate risks and impacts.[xv]
The importance of the government and the private sector in playing their respective roles cannot be overemphasized. Development in the GHG emitting areas of energy, transport, construction, and mining is very cost intensive and as earlier alluded the government always has limited funds. Public-private partnerships are undoubtedly the go to solution for financing, building, and operating such projects. These partnerships work well when private sector technology and innovation combine with public sector incentives.[xvi]
Sense of urgency
The climate change agenda has such a sense of urgency that it is also an opportunity for civic organisations in the country to start to push for new laws, policies, programs, and strategies, holding the government to account on their commitments and ensuring national policy making does not forget the poor and vulnerable.[xvii] The government launched the National Climate Change Learning Strategy in April 2021.[xviii] which promotes literacy, training, public awareness, participation, and access to information in line with the Paris Agreement.
Time sensitive implications
Civic organizations must utilize such policies to enhance their catalytic role in raising community awareness and help build up capacities to undertake adaptive actions and mitigate climate change risks. Communities must themselves be willing to learn more and adapt their lifestyle. The increasing frequency of severe droughts and cyclone induced floods is clear for all to see that Zimbabwe has not been spared by the devastating effects of climate change. The World Bank declared the country’s vulnerability to extreme climate events and natural hazards due to the country’s location in the Southern subtropics, where seasons are determined by rainfall. The country is vulnerable to climate change related floods, storms, and wildfires.[xix]
COP26 has time sensitive implications for the government, private sector, civic society, professions, and communities at large. All involved must play their part and leverage on the opportunities it is presenting.
Tatenda Manhanzva, is an Energy law expert and Consultant at Muvingi & Mugadza with an LLB (honours) from the University of Zimbabwe, Master of Laws in Energy and Natural Resources Law obtained from Queen Mary University of London, England. For further assistance please contact Nobert Phiri at email@example.com in the first instance.
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