By Lungelo Ndhlovu
ZIMBABWE is stepping up efforts to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) which depletes the ozone layer, leading to climate change by flushing out non-compliant air conditioners and refrigerators from its borders.
The country has recorded a sharp increase in the smuggling of banned ozone depleting substances (ODS) through its major entry points such as Plumtree, Victoria Falls, Nyamapanda and Beitbridge border posts, with over 360 cylinders of banned gases having been intercepted in the past years.
Some countries like United Arab Emirate (UAE), Dubai remarkably started phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in 2015 to maintain its natural climate.
Speaking on the side lines during an Awareness Seminar on Climate Change and Ozone for media practitioners, in Bulawayo recently, Director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Washington Zhakata, said the country is committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to save the ozone layer.
“The refrigeration and air conditioning sector has been seen to be one of the sectors emitting the greenhouse gases which harm the atmosphere causing global warming, and lethal more than a thousand times than carbon dioxide,” said Zhakata.
Ozone depleting substances include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halon, carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), methyl chloroform (CH3CCl3), hydrobromofluoro carbons (HBFCs), hydrochlorofluoro carbons (HCFCs), methyl bromide (CH3Br), bromochloromethane (CH2BrCl) which are chemicals found in refrigerators and air-conditions.
Other GHGs are nitrous oxide from agricultural fertiliser manufacturing and use, and methane from poor waste management, especially in urban centres, as well as emissions from livestock.
“The gases that are used in refrigeration and air conditioning are controlled under the Montreal Protocol which has phased out the chlorofluorocarbons which were used in perfumes, as well as hydro-chlorofluorocarbons and methane bromide which is used for the fumigation of pesticides by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and also in tobacco farming,” said Zhakata.
The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement made in 1987 designed to stop the production and import of ozone depleting substances and reduce their concentration in the atmosphere to help protect the earth’s ozone layer.
“We have empowered the custom officers on our borders to identify these gases at all the points of entry. We have got a statutory instrument 131 of 2016 under the Environmental Management Act to govern the importation of these gases. But there are a few points of entry which don’t have their equipment up to date.
“Customs officers in Plumtree, Nyamapanda, Chirundu, Beitbridge and Victoria Falls border posts have this equipment where they connect it to your canister which has got the gas inside and can straight away indicate which gases are inside.
“If it doesn’t pass the test then it is not permitted to come through into the country,” said Zhakata.
The Montreal Protocol continues to regulate ozone-depleting substances and will contribute even more to the fight against global warming through its Kigali Amendment, which came into force on 1 January 2019. This amendment is expected to avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
Countries that ratify the Kigali Amendment have committed to cutting the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years and replacing them with planet friendly alternatives. As for now, 46 countries have ratified the Kigali Agreement.
Meteorological Services Department (MSD), Climate Change Scientist, Alois Tsiga, said there are serious health implications when the ozone layer is destroyed by the GHG gases.
“The ozone layer is very important because it moderates the radiation the earth receives from the sun. A thinner or depleted ozone layer means more skin cancers and cataracts. Marine and terrestrial plants may be harmed as well,” said Tsiga.
Human induced climate change is primarily caused by activities that introduce or emit greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere or that reduce the capacity of natural systems to absorb atmospheric carbon.
Industrialisation and the subsequent burning of fossil fuels mainly crude oil based products such as petrol and diesel; the use of coal for energy generation have largely contributed to the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Impacts of Global Warming, past and future emission of GHG will have profound implication on surface temperatures, rainfall patterns, the frequency, intensity and distribution of extreme weather events.
Climate change is one of the 21st century human catastrophes with its impacts being felt globally. Zimbabwe has not been spared these impacts which range from increased rainfall variability, prolonged dry spells, heat waves, increased occurrence of extra weather events such as drought and flooding.
This calls for enhanced climate change mitigation and adaptation measures supported by relevant policies and strategies to ensure climate resilience and low carbon development.
Climate Change Management Department Scientist, Miss Emily Matingo, said the country has a strong National Adaptation Plan (NAP), to deal with the impacts of climate change in the country.
“NAPs are meant to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change whilst mainstreaming climate change into development plans.
Under the Green Climate Fund (GCF), National Adaptation Planning Readiness Facility, Zimbabwe successfully applied for a $3 million to develop the NAP and the process will be implemented under the project called Building Capacity to Advance National Adaptation Planning Process in Zimbabwe (2019-2021)”.