Zimbabwe is endowed with abundant natural resources that include rich mineral deposits, wildlife, arable lands, forests, and surface and groundwater resources. However, the country faces multiple environmental challenges, including biodiversity loss, poor waste management, pollution, and land and forest degradation.
FINANCE Minister Patrick Chinamasa has increased public spending for the environment, water and climate sectors for the first time in four years, as climate change impacts tear through key economic sectors curtailing growth.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate will next year spend 16 percent more than it did this year, Mr Chinamasa said in the 2017 Budget Statement, after seeing a devastating El Ninotriggered drought decimate growth in agriculture to below zero in 2016, and with it the rest of the economy. About $40 million has been allocated for the three sectors next year, up from $34,2 million in 2016, he said.
This is, however, a far cry from the $102 million spent in 2012, the highest allocation yet on work that protects the natural environment, limit climate damage, improve water availability and others, since dollarisation in 2009. As Government coffers dry up due to decreased economic activity, Mr Chinamasa has in the past four years been forced to cut public spending across most line ministries. The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate has seen some of the deepest cuts.
As a percentage of total Government expenditure, spending for the portfolio has consistently declined, down to one percent in 2017 from 2,5 percent in 2012.
Mr Chinamasa is concerned at the scale of damage climate change could inflict on the broader economy if left unchecked.
Already forced to cut economic growth projections for 2016 to just 0,6 percent from 1,5 percent previously, largely due to an 3,7 percent slump in agriculture, the Finance Minister is sure he has yet to see the worst of climate-linked disasters dragging socioeconomic development.
“The impact of climate change effectively cuts across all economic sectors,” Mr Chinamasa admitted in the 2017 Budget Statement. “Government will, therefore, be scaling up allocations on mitigation of climate change impact.”
Zimbabwean authorities aren’t doing enough building climate resilience among the country’s poor, particularly in communal and smallscale farming communities, but Mr Chinamasa’s latest move demonstrates Zimbabwe’s commitment to tackling climate change.
Whereas dedicated climate change budgeting remains woeful, the Finance minister continues to tackle the science by other means, such as the increased spending on dam construction and irrigation – items that may not specifically reflect on the Environment ministry’s allocation, but key to minimising climate damage.
In 2017, Government will spend $45,3 million of its own money on water supply projects, $26 million of it building new large dams or refurbishing old ones. Separately, water authority ZINWA will spend $2 million repairing 2 000 small dams in rural areas and 680 in resettled areas to boost drought resilience. Needless to say, the scale of intervention needed to help almost two thirds of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people reliant on agriculture to cope with changing climates could go beyond the capacity of any developing African country.
Faced with deepening poverty, disease, war and others, most African governments tend to relegate environment and climate change issues into the backwaters of public expenditure priorities.
Now, this is where development aid comes in – and of course, the running contentious matter on climate finance, where rich countries are expected to pay for the problems climate change has caused in Africa, and elsewhere in the developing world. A minimum hundred billion dollars has been promised for this purpose each year beginning now and beyond, according to the terms of the Paris Agreement, a landmark global climate deal agreed by 195 countries last year.
Mr Chinamasa said Government “was forging strategic partnerships with the private sector and civil society” in implementing plans that help communities adapt and mitigate climate change. Between January and September this year, development aid from countries like the UK, China,, Germany, Sweden, the European Union and others, had reached $217,9 million, directly mostly towards climate adaptation and food security projects in agriculture, figures from the 2017 Budget Statement show.
The aid is expected to top $300 million by yearend. In 2017, development funding will fall to $233,7 million, the Budget Statement says. Mr Chinamasa said Government was looking to strengthen capacity at environment regulator, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), so it becomes more effective in combating pollution, forests management, waste management and others.
Weather radars One of the most important announcement for the meteorology and climate sectors by Mr Chinamasa was the release of $5 million to help the Meteorological Services Department replace two key weather radars at Harare and Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe’s four weather radars – the other two at Victoria Falls and Buffalo Range, Chiredzi – reached the end of their 30 year lifespan a decade ago and have not worked since, according to the MSD.
Replacing them will cost $12 million, officials have confirmed in the past. Today, the meteorological office tends to produce vague and generalised information for entire provinces, say for Mashonaland Central, which consists of dozens of large districts with differing climates.
The acquisition and installation of the two weather radars, as indicated by the Finance Minister, is seen by meteorologists as a game changer to Zimbabwe’s climate response and early warning mechanisms. When operational, those radars are able to provide precise, area specific forecasts of severe weather and climate occurrences, climate expert and ex-senior meteorologist at the Meteorological Office, Elisha Moyo, said in a previous interview.
Extreme events such as tropical storms or hail can be accurately detected a day, even hours, before they occur or as they build up, he said then. As climate change impacts escalate, that kind of accuracy can significantly help inform national decisions on moving people away from danger’s path early, minimising deaths, damage, loss, and desperation as already seen in many situations in Zimbabwe so far this year, and the years before. God is faithful.