By Andrew Mafundo
The tragic reality is that the earth is reaching a tipping point faster than ever before and this will affect all of us. The atmospheric temperatures are expected to increase across the globe and rainfall may increase or decrease, depending on location.
Ultimately, climate change will have significant negative impacts on the economy, human health, energy use, and biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The current severe heat stress and reduced air quality that we are experiencing is an alarm bell for everyone to engage in the climate change fight. Since Uganda is heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture, it is believed that the most impact of climate change will be decreased agricultural production leading food shortages.
Conservationists argue that Uganda had made a positive move to sign up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and following its development the of National Climate Change Policy and Implementation Strategy in 2012/13. A road map for the development of the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) was submitted to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change at the beginning of 2015. However, the full implementation of the priority adaptation and mitigation actions principally remain on paper because they are conditional on the support of international stakeholders.
The government needs to urgently review and make relevant reforms in the current climate change adaptation approach most especially building institutional capacity to conceptualize climate compatible development projects as well as increase and manage climate finance.
The current climate change impacts and costs are expected to persist because of our past and present-day environmental decisions. We must act now to adapt and build resilience to a changing climate so that we are able to proactively manage risks, protect our health and ensure the well-being of Ugandans.
The government should prioritize and increase climate change action funding at the different levels of government. The office of NEMA focal person and local government environment task force continue to be underfunded yet they are expected to oversee environmental protection activities in the entire district. Towns and peri-urban areas, seem to be more affected and forgotten. Population far exceeds the infrastructure capacity, leading to the deterioration of the urban environment. The authorities have not taken tangible action or invested in mitigation and adaptation measures. For example, there is continuous environmental degradation and pollution in Kampala and Wakiso, which include solid waste, abattoir waste, sewage, sanitation, drainage, industrial pollution, plastic and traffic pollution, atmospheric pollution, urban agriculture, soil dumping in wetlands and land-filling, rapid and unplanned urbanization and water hyacinth.
In the past, little climate adaptation financing was directed towards the rural areas nevertheless early this month, during national celebrations to mark 2019 World wetlands day at Limoto Primary School in Pallisa District, the government in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a $44.3m project. The project is funded by the Green Climate Fund to support building resilient communities and ecosystems through the restoration of wetlands and attendant catchments and will be implemented in 24 districts of Eastern and South western Uganda.
In order to achieve sustained ecological restoration, government and implementing partners should be ready to handle challenges that face such projects namely: lack of clarity on institutional mandates, roles and responsibilities, lack of grassroots community involvement, corruption and political interference. The local governments in the benefiting districts need to be involved because they play a leadership role.
Further policy attention should be aimed at constructive engagement in the design and implementation of programs that can receive funding and emphasize accountability for effective use of climate finance and improve the effectiveness and equitable distribution of funding for climate change adaptation in the entire country.
There is an immense opportunity to engage and empower grass-root women and youth groups to act on climate change to achieve sustainable development. They have vast knowledge and experience to fully participate in deciding climate change action especially in turning the tide on the land use.
We all have a responsibility to make better environmental choices in our own homes, at work, and on the means of travel. Without a doubt, industrialists, religious and cultural leaders, politicians, the media and business owners play a central role in the protection of the environment. It will take everybody’s involvement and contribution to tackle the scourge of climate change.
Writer is the executive director of the Citizens' Concern Africa-CICOA