By Wallace Mawire
While the climate has changed over the millennia mankind has been on earth, there is increasing evidence that the world – Zimbabwe included – is experiencing climate change on a scale never previously known in human history.
Global warming will bring about a decrease in annual and seasonal rainfall, more erratic weather patterns and more intense and frequent weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, storms and floods.
Lower relative humidity due to decreased rainfall will favour increased insect vectors and viruses, while higher relative humidity due to increased rainfall will favour increased bacterial and fungal infection. Human migration due to environmental pressures is also likely to accelerate.
This situation has triggered Zimbabwean stakeholders to take action in the face of climate change and variability. The stakeholders are calling for innovative approaches to meet this challenge. One of these approaches is working with local legislators to promote climate change action among communities. This way, the legislators will be armed with climate change knowledge which they will in turn deliver to their constituencies.
Chairperson of the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water and Climate, Concilia Chinanzvavana, who is also a Conference of Parties 25 (COP25) participant, emphasised the need to educate and raise awareness among parliamentarians on climate change.
She was speaking at a meeting held in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, early this year on climate change negotiations postCOP25, especially on implications and challenges for Zimbabwe.
The meeting was co-ordinated by Advocates4Earth, a non-profit environmental law, climate and wildlife justice organisation based in Harare.
Chinanzvavana said it was necessary to engage legislators at climate change negotiation platforms for them to understand issues of climate change negotiations.
“It is necessary for legislators to understand the technical and policy issues relating to negotiating environmental agreements such as the Paris Agreement. There is also need to sharpen their skills on strategic issues relating to climate change. They should understand how legislative activism and interventions can be used to address climate change challenges,” she said.
Most legislators in Zimbabwe’s parliament are not well-versed on climate change issues, but they play a pivotal role in coming up with necessary legislation vital for their constituencies, communities and the country. It is also critical for the legislators to be educated on climate change, since it has become an issue of global concern affecting livelihoods.
Lenin Chisaira, director of Advocates4Earth, and an environmental lawyer, said the 2020s present challenges for governments civil society, environmentalists and communities on climate change to work towards concrete progress for both the climate and sustainable development agendas.
Chinanzvavana said legislators can build knowledge and competences by being part of the COP meetings and getting involved in activities such as the Global Legislators Organisations (GLOBE) international on climate change.
She added that legislators can take part in Inter-Parliamentary Union meetings held alongside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP negotiations. Climate diplomacy trainings will also help capacitate the legislators. This will result in them gaining knowledge and skills in amending constitutions and making laws, said Chinanzvavana.
Chinanzvavana cited the example of the Climate Change Bill, which she said her Committee was eagerly awaiting.
Legislators, she said, also play a critical role on state revenues and expenditures and pass national budgets, some involving climate change adaptation and mitigation and other environmental agreements and activities.