EAC advances plans to set up regional climate change fund

Saturday February 2 2013

Residents of Bududa cut through trees and timber on June 26, 2012 as they try to get to victims of a mudslide in eastern Uganda, about 200 kilometres from the capital Kampala. A landslide killed at least 18 people in two hamlets following torrential rains. Photo/AFP/Isaac Kasamani

Residents of Bududa cut through trees and timber on June 26, 2012 as they try to get to victims of a mudslide in eastern Uganda, about 200 kilometres from the capital Kampala. A landslide killed at least 18 people in two hamlets following torrential rains. Photo/AFP/Isaac Kasamani 

By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent

East African Community partner states could start allocating at least $360 million (one per cent of their national budgets) to climate management from July.

The money will be directed towards climate change disaster relief and recovery in the region through the development of a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Strategy.

This follows the adoption of a report on climate change that details the measures and laws the region needs to undertake to curb deteriorating climate and manage disasters, which are costing the bloc billions of dollars annually and causing hundreds of deaths.

The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) adopted the report drafted by the committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources (ATNR), which could be enacted as a legally binding document.

Considering the current fiscal year budgets, Kenya would be required to allocate at least Ksh14 billion ($172 million) for climate change, Uganda Ush111 billion ($44 million), Tanzania Tsh150 billion ($95 million) and Rwanda Rwf13 billion ($23 million). Burundi would allocate at least $15 million. The finances would help set up the proposed EAC Climate Change Fund.

Following the adoption of the report in Bujumbura on January 23, the EAC Secretariat and the EALA are expected to collaborate to ensure projects are implemented with tangible impact.

Meanwhile, the Council of Ministers will table a Bill pushing to make it legally binding before the House.

At the climate change talks in Durban, South Africa in 2011, developed countries pledged to raise $100 billion by 2020. However, by the last climate talks in Qatar late last year, no country had put in any money.

If the report is passed into a law, the EAC countries will have to commit to fighting climate change.

Enforcing regionally agreed policies like elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and remittances to the EAC secretariat has been a challenge due to lack of a legally binding law.

Natural disasters

Statistics from the EAC secretariat show that more than 80 per cent of natural disasters in the region are climate-related — droughts, floods and their effects such as landslides.

Proponents of the report said climate change is hampering agriculture, affecting natural resources and largely degrading the environment. They are pushing for a multi-disciplinary approach towards preventing further damage.

According to the report, EAC countries need to create a common African position on climate change through joint programming.

Once the EAC Council of ministers approves the report, they will bring a Bill on operationalization of the Climate Change Fund to give it a legal basis.

The report shows that EAC has a unique opportunity to influence climate change negotiations given the institutional arrangements including the EALA, Lake Victoria Basin Commission as well as the technical mandate as enshrined by the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC.

The report also notes that there is currently severe degradation of nature in Serengeti National Park and water hyacinth in Lake Victoria, and a worrying drop in water levels in the lake as a result of climate change.

Ugandan EALA member Mike Sebalu noted that weather patterns were changing with the water levels falling to the lowest ever recorded levels. 

“The scenario of unpredictability of climate requires the building of synergies between the different Regional Economic Communities to have joint mechanisms and strategies of mitigating climate change,” said Mr Sebalu.

He said the warming and rising of the sea level was a notable challenge. Mr Sebalu also reiterated that if unchecked, water scarcity could lead to a situation that could escalate conflicts in the region.  

In the report, the regional law makers urged partner states to ratify the EAC Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources management, as well as the consolidation of a common position on climate change.

Over the past few years the EAC has realised some key achievements in climate change. The EAC Climate Change Policy was approved by the Heads of State during the 9th Extra-Ordinary Summit held in April 2011 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  

Also developed are a draft EAC Climate Change Strategy.