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» » A case against the funding of fossil fuels

Sophia Mavusa
Zimbabwe has not been spared the harm of climate change which has been aggravated by its geographical position in the semi arid belt of Southern Africa and its reliance on rain-fed agriculture and other climate sensitive live hoods options. The live hoods of the people of Zimbabwe depend on vulnerable natural resources and their depletion as a result of climate change will lead to further poverty and set back the country's efforts to achieve sustainable development. The impacts of climate change are likely to stall the country's development, pose a serious risk to food security and adaptive capacity. Access to energy has been shown to be a necessary requirement for socio-economic development however, financing any new fossil fuel project anywhere is unacceptable due to the dangers fossil fuel pose to society and our planet. Zimbabwe has shown great commitment to addressing climate change by ratifying the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. Despite its support for climate change matters the country continues to greatly rely on coal powered thermal stations that emit large amounts of green house gases. Zimbabwe is one of the many countries grappling energy poverty but the country has an opportunity to develop its energy sector using clean renewable energy since it is well endowed with renewable energy resources especially in solar radiation. The country also has vast renewable sources and the hydro potential is mostly on the Zambezi river and on some inland rivers and dams. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Zimbabwe has set its Nationally Determined Contribution emission reduction at 33% by the year 2030. The country's Nationally Determined Contribution focuses on most sensitive sectors of the economy that is agriculture and energy the main source of emissions. Its mitigation component mostly focuses on the energy sector because of the extensive energy contribution to the reduction of green house gases in comparison to others sectors. Additionally, it also seeks to build resilience to climate change while ensuring sustainable development in recognition of its climate change vulnerability and national circumstances as well as contributing to the ambitions global goal of limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. The country's Nationally Determined Contribution stressed renewable energy development as a goal in tackling emissions and developing the national energy grid. Despite its efforts to support climate change issues the  country continues to fund fossil fuels projects for example in June 2018 secured $1.4 billion funding for the expansion of a 600MW Hwange thermal power station drawing on financing from China and other partnership although this is in contradiction with its National Climate Policy whose objective is to create pathways towards a climate resilient and low carbon economy in which the people have sufficient adaptive capacity and continue to develop in harmony with the environment. In order to achieve its emission pledge the government, banks and other financial institutions should stop funding fossil fuels projects because this will exacerbate the impacts of climate change. The country's National Climate Change Response Strategy, National Climate Policy and the Nationally Determined Contribution give the country a clear target to work towards in terms of both adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. Additionally, the Zimbabwe's National Economic Blue Print (ZimAsset) also aims to achieve sustainable development and social equity. Furthermore, the policy acknowledges that the country faces multiple environmental challenges including susceptibility to floods and droughts due to climate change. To divest from fossil fuels Zimbabwe also needs to strengthen its legal frameworks thus the country needs to develop specific climate change legislation. Anchoring the Nationally Determined Contribution in climate change legislation could create a legally binding obligation on government which would improve its accountability visa-vis its citizens and other civil society stakeholders and potentially facilitate compliance and enforcement of its Nationally Determined Contribution. Lessons here can be drawn from countries like Kenya which enacted a Climate Change Act in 2016. Learning from how Kenya's climate change activities including their Nationally Determined Contribution which are now enshrined in a specific climate change legislation Zimbabwe can also do the same. The country needs to be mindful of her development at a time when some financial institutions such as the World Bank have indicated intentions to stop funding fossil fuels by 2019 in a bid to bolster a global shift to clean energy and to help countries meet their emissions reduction pledges made at the 2015 Paris Climate talks, Zimbabwe also needs to divest from funding fossil fuels and use funds from various investors on renewable energy sources in order to put the Paris climate goals which the country pledged in its Nationally Determined Contribution within reach. Funding fossil fuels need to be stopped around the world if the Paris Climate Agreement is to be achieved. With only two years left before the full flagged implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions it is imperative that the country stop funding thermal power stations which have become a major financial drain, emitting a lot of green house gases and invest more in renewable energy
The author is an Environment and Climate Change Specialist.

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