Political leaders’ role in combatting climate change

Image result for climate change in zimbabwePeter Makwanya

THE concept of leadership is critical in the lives and survival of any group of people. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate those they lead. In line with Jago’s (1982) perspective, good leaders are made, not born. Therefore, it is the duty of leaders to nurture a process of self-study, education, training and experience. The central terms in this perspective self-study, education and training, which are paramount and should be taken seriously by any progressive mind.

Sharma et al (2013) view leadership as a process by which a person influences others to accomplish objectives and directs the organisation in move that makes it cohesive and coherent. As such, what climate change knowledge and skills do our leaders have in order to inspire and motivate their followers towards championing them to sustainable environmental protection strategies? What knowledge do they have to train and educate people about the need for a cleaner and a safer environment?

It is quite clear that knowledge and skills contribute significantly to the process of good leadership, but how knowledgeable and skilful are our leaders in influencing creative interactive spaces and policies, since most good leaders are made not born? What can they do to win the trust of their people or they purport to represent, in the absence of any undesirable push factor?

Without coercion and threats, how many leaders can command a significant following? Obviously, many if not the majority, will be surprised that, behind them, they won’t be any substantial following at all. Considering our Zimbabwean situation, with regard to the climate change and environmental protection approaches, how many of leaders know that climate change is taking place? Also, how many believe that, climate change is real and both a life and a national security threat? How many of our leaders can articulate the concept of global warming? How many of our leaders know that it’s the people’s destructive tendencies that are responsible for causing global warming leading to climate change, in a manner otherwise known as anthropogenic tendencies?

With excessive carbon emissions and pollution taking place, chiefly from burning fossil fuels, how many of our leaders believe that clean energy provisions are a panacea to energy poverty, even when it is not affordable to many? And also, how many local people advocate for clean energy despite them still using kerosene lamps and firewood for lighting and cooking purposes in this 21st century? How many locals believe the burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming and environmental damage when the government continues to invest in Hwange colliery and Makomo coal mining programmes.

People expect their leaders to highlight to them, which human activities actually contribute to global warming and what adaptive measures can be used to fight global warming and contribute to climate protection. These methods are in the form of traditional approaches, modern smart practices, the use of ICTs and social media, a significant number of councillors, Members of Parliament, ministers and other political elites should know these things, ahead of the communities they represent. We also expect our leaders to be seen engaging and participating in climate protection best practices and influence human behavioural changes, since we regard political leaders as opinion leaders, whose views are constitutive and representative enough, even in research activities. Opinion leaders command large followers and respect from the people. Whatever they say and do, people normally would not object. So, if the opinion leaders are quiet and lack knowledge of basic issues, then the people will cease to respect or have faith in them. The people will feel let down, abandoned and manipulated.

Political leaders should establish creative interactive spaces and opportunities that are highly engendered and inclusive in their own right. The people expect youths to be engaged constructively by political leaders through the creation of youth related and climate smart projects, which will keep them actively occupied and desist from participating in vice.

Empowering youths and women benefits everyone, even those in leadership positions. As such, it is recommended that leaders engage the youths constructively rather than intoxicating them with skewed political propaganda. Political leaders and other elites need to take issues of the environment seriously so that they prepare and reserve permanent and sustainable living spaces for the future generations.
The situation in Zimbabwe is not enviable at all, as the majority of political leaders, due to lack climate knowledge and literacy, baldly waffle and misrepresent climate change issues on national television and as is always the practice, they get away it. It is also disheartening to note that people elected to represent the wishes of the local communities and those issues that affect their livelihoods, quite often struggle and make a mess of issues when it comes to dealing with issues of climate sustainability.

Political leaders should strive to make climate solutions a priority in their political agendas, but in Zimbabwe, climate change is not a juicy subject, hence, there seems to be little interest even from bodies and institutions that deal directly with environmental issues. It is the duty of political leaders, as opinion leaders and influential members of society, to strive to close understanding and procedural gaps in climate change discourse and scientific research. It is important for political leaders show a deep concern of the environment.

Politicians can simply lobby industry and the private sector to operate in the manner that does not harm the environment as well as establish partnerships with the local people in their quest for sustainable adaptation activities. With climate change having a significant impact on agriculture, our politicians need to be aware how agriculture can be a vital pillar in the solution to address effects of climate change. Politicians, therefore, need to preach about climate change and protection of wildlife and come up with programmes that benefit those people living close to game parks. It would not augur well with the immediate communities if politicians display insatiable hunger and thirst for wildlife decimations. Finally, the church should be seen conscientising political leaders and the elites on issues central to environmental stewardship.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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