ZIMBABWE – President Robert Mugabe left Harare last night for Paris, France, to attend the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) that seeks to achieve a legally binding, universal agreement on climate change mitigation. The President, who is accompanied by First Lady Cde Grace Mugabe, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, was seen off at the Harare International Airport by Vice Presidents Phelekezela Mphoko and Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty that was negotiated at the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil in June 1992 with the aim of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that does not pose a danger to life on earth. Greenhouse gases like water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone absorb and retain heat in the atmosphere but at higher concentrations have deleterious effects on the habitability of the planet.
Though ground breaking, the UNFCC treaty did not set any binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms, an anomaly that COP21 seeks to rectify through the adoption of a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change mitigation to succeed the largely unsuccessful Kyoto Protocol.
The Conference of the Parties (COP), which is the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCC, convenes every year to assess the effects of the measures taken by Parties and the progress made in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Last Thursday, the government – through the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate -convened a two-day National Conference on Climate Change in Harare that also saw the launch of a National Climate Change Response Strategy.
In her keynote address to the conference, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri called on developed countries to avail bilateral and multilateral funding to support developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Countries like Zimbabwe that have rain-fed agro-based economies with a majority of the population – over 70 percent – living in rural and farming areas keenly feel the impact of climate change.
Zimbabweans experienced, first hand, the effects of global warming during the recent heatwave that broke decades-old temperature records throughout the country and that saw some road surfaces melting and livestock dying due to heat stress.
Climate change has also manifested in reduced water inflows from northern Zambia, which feeds the mighty Zambezi River, a development that has curtailed the hydro-power station’s generation capacity culminating in up to 18 hours of load-shedding in many areas.
As such Zimbabwe and other developed countries are keen on successful deliberations in Paris particularly as experts contend that global warming is impacting sub-Saharan Africa more than any other region because of the region’s over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture.