By Samuel Okulony
The United Nations has recognised climate change as one of the greatest challenges of recent times and one that threatens to weaken the ability of countries to lessen poverty and achieve sustainable development, this threat is putting the survival of biological diversity and of many societies at risk.
In Uganda, sectors in governments, communities and business have all been affected by these impacts with visible challenges on trade, security, ecosystems, the economy and the well-being of humans at large
Of recent, the media has reported that the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees under the office of the Prime Minister has been constrained to source for food relief to feed the hungry population due to prolonged drought especially in Teso and Karamoja sub region, among others.
As the challenges of climate change continue to threaten life on Mother Nature, it is important to for Uganda to appreciate the role Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) can play in the fight against climate change.
SEA is a tool that aims to integrate environmental considerations into policies, plans and programs and evaluate their inter-linkages with economic and social considerations, it can help make systematic decisions to support the process and plans.
It is important to note that, while addressing climate change, SEA can provide framework for evaluating and managing a wide range of environmental dangers which can contribute to the mainstreaming of climate change considerations into policies, plans and programs. This involves the assessment of existing and proposed policies, plans and programs and their substitutes to enable informed decision making.
The adaption and mitigation of climate change is essential to reducing the emissions of greenhouse gas and building the capacity of people to deal with the impacts respectively, therefore a sound performed SEA can fulfill one or more of the functions in relation to the adaptation of climate change.
The procedures underlying SEA are sound-conditioned to systematically assist and make stronger the action of adaptation and mitigation of climate change in planning as well as development. It helps to highlight the probable adaptation conflicts with other presented national/regional plans and programme, it requires sustainable planning which is one of its core objectives.
In fact if climate change adaptation strategies are not included into this process, it will lead to maladaptation, which compromises sustainable development. Instead, the concerns of climate change adaptation when integrated in the planning process early enough will enhance sustainable development and will make sure that impacts with an upper level of uncertainty such as climate change are taken into consideration into the plans and program in the aspect of development.
According to the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA), SEA systems are presently in more than 60 countries world over and in Uganda, the SEA for the Albertine Graben was formulated by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral development and was approved by Cabinet in July 2015.
Currently, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is in the process of developing guidelines and regulations for the SEA.
As the country makes progress towards SEA legislative framework, it’s important for every government ministry to develop its SEA prior to taking any decision that has an effect on the environment especially with challenges that have cross cutting effects such as climate change.
In addition, as development in the oil sector are in advanced stages towards oil production, it’s important that every sector develops SEA for strategic decision making and ensure sustainable development.
The writer is the programmes and research coordinator of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance