Opinion: Beyond #COP21, let us make climate smart choices to combat climate change

Dec 10, 2015

Buzzing for Climate Change: Bee keeping is an economic activity that can provide alternative livelihoods and generate income for rural communities while helping also to conserve the environment as honey producers are more likely to maintain diverse floral resources around their homesteads and farms to increase production of quality honey. This leads to enhanced watershed conservation and climate change adaption. UNDP is supporting communities in Eastern Uganda to take up bee keeping, as part of its Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) project (UNDP photo 2014).

By Almaz Gebru

Representatives from more than 190 countries, including heads of state, have been meeting in Paris, France, since November 30, to negotiate a possible new global agreement on climate change.

If all goes well, this agreement will see the world commit to keeping global warming from human activities to below 2°C to ensure the survival of our planet and its people for generations to come.

COP21 – the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) – which ends December 11th – also aims to reduce its impact on vulnerable communities and economies.

Whereas it is expected that all countries will agree to addressing climate change, the point of contention however, is on who should bear the cost of mitigation and adaptation in countries that contribute negligible amounts of greenhouse gases but suffer most from climate change impacts.

Among the hardest hit by global warming and the degradation of our planet are the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. The impact is particularly acute for women, who make up a large number of the poor communities that depend on natural resources for their livelihood. We have recently witnessed this in Uganda with the onset of El Nino rains that have caused flooding in some parts of the country, as well as droughts and landlides, among other climatic impacts.

Nevertheless, Uganda, is among the first 152 countries to make commitment on reducing greenhouse gases through a new climate action-the Intended Nationally determined Contribution (INDC) with a condition to reduce emission by 22% by 2030. The INDC constitute the foundation of the new agreement expected to be endorsed in Paris.

This does not only demonstrate the country’s commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals, but also its commendable effort in adopting low carbon emission and climate resilient development as espoused in Vision 2040 and Second National Development Plan.

The National Vision recognises that, for development to be economically and socially sustainable, climate resilience must be at the heart of policies for growth and development, energy access and security, increased agricultural production, education and health.

It is clear that while there is commitment, the current economic situation cannot effectively finance the cost of technology transfer for both mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Recent studies show that the cost of adaptation is estimated at around US$406 million over the next five years (2015–2020). On an annual basis, this amounts to about 5% of net official development assistance received, and 3.2% of total government revenues (excluding grants). However, the cost of no action on adaptation investment choices is 20 times more than the cost of action.

One of the solutions being proposed by the UNFCC, is for developed and industrialized countries that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions to bear the lion’s share of climate change financing – both mitigation and adaptation.  It is hoped that this would enable developing or poorer countries to cope with a plethora of climatic changes such as sea-level increases, rise in global temperature, environmental damage and pollution, among others.

As the UN’s Development Programme, UNDP is the largest implementer of programs and mechanisms that will be agreed at COP21. Along with its partners, UNDP will focus on decarbonizing development, and supporting countries, including Uganda to adapt the effects of a warmer planet.

In the meantime, we can all make a small, but significant contribution to the global efforts in reducing the impact of climate change by reducing the amount of food waste, avoiding deforestation and wetland degradation, building an energy efficient house which utilizes more natural light than electricity and harvesting rainwater. Taking action also means doing small things like switching off lights when not in use, using sustainable briquettes and eco-stoves for cooking, substituting sugar for honey (for a low-carb healthy diet) and eating less meat.

It is important to realise that tackling climate change won’t happen overnight and requires collective national and global action. It will be a long road and the COP21 Paris Conference should serve as our roadmap for longer term climate action. Paris is the start of a long battle to beat global warming, NOT the end. Tackling climate change is not a burden but an incredible opportunity to boost economic growth, promote gender equality, create jobs and invest in a prosperous future. Determine the future you want by investing in climate smart choices.

The author is the Country Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Uganda.

For more information, please contact:


Onesimus Muhwezi, Team Leader, Energy and Environment, UNDP Uganda. Tel: +256 417 112100 Ext. 139. Cellphone: 0772 289139. Email: onesimus.muhwezi@undp.org

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