For years, climate change has been the also-ran of presidential campaign issues.
A few weeks ago, the Finnish election broke a trend in northern European elections by seeing climate displace immigration as the main issue at a time when the threat has become more serious.
The current and expected effects of climate change differ locally, nationally and regionally. The impacts of climate change affect livelihoods, food and water security, ecosystems and infrastructure, among others.
The sunshine ravaging the vegetation, flooding sweeping off homes and drought killing crops are just some of the examples of the effects of climate change. Uganda ratified the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.
Uganda signed the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016 and ratified the agreement in September 2016, with it entering into force in November 2016. These are key protocols which the intending presidential candidates must greatly be keen on. The second National Development Plan II (NDPII, 2015-2020) notes that climate change is one of the greatest challenges for Uganda. The response is to mainstream climate adaptation and mitigation into sector planning and implementation.
The National Vision 2040 prioritizes, among others, renewable energy, appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies, knowledge and information sharing on climate change, increased coordination and capacity, and improved monitoring/ evaluation regarding climate change interventions. But those on the frontlines of climate change politics say it’s no longer enough for it to be just one of several top issues.
With time running out to cut greenhouse gases in order to limit the effects of climate change, presidential contenders need to commit to making it their main issue when they take office. While it’s too early for presidential campaigns, so far the intending candidates seem more animated by kitchen-table issues like health care and economic inequality.
That’s understandable given that most of them cut their teeth as politicians in an era when climate change ranked low on the list of priorities. But the urgency of climate change makes such a posture unacceptable since climate change is a global issue.
A landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations climate science body, shows that the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030 to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C by 2100, a level the agency warns will kill off the world’s reefs and unleash mass climate-related migration, among a slew of other challenges. Meeting that goal is difficult already. And then there’s the political urgency.
If history is any guide, the next US president is likely to have one shot at passing big legislation before the politics of the midterm elections take over.
Climate change could easily fall to the wayside if it’s a second or third priority for the next president, as the case is for the current government. We need to push elected officials to prioritize climate change and endorse bold solutions. Ultimately, though, as the effects of climate change grow more severe, the warming planet will push its own message.
The urgency of global warming is much easier to understand when your backyard is on fire. And that may be what it takes for people to vote on it.
Climate change-relevant expenditure is heavily concentrated in relatively few ministries: the ministry of Works and Transport, the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, the ministry of Water and Environment, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
No climate change-relevant expenditure could be identified within the ministry of Health, despite this ministry being identified as requiring significant funding in the draft Climate Change Implementation Strategy.
Therefore, the presidential candidates should address considerable investments in system strengthening, which continues to be required if the level of expenditure highlighted in the climate change implementation strategy is to be achieved.
Awareness raising and technical support relating to climate change (causes, impacts, and adaptation/ mitigation options) should be provided to key district government staff. Considerably, the candidates should address the total spending on climate change-relevant activities, which is estimated at around one per cent of government expenditure.
This has remained broadly constant over the four-year period 2016/7 to 2018/19. This spending equates to around 0.2 per cent of GDP, which contrasts with the level set in the draft Implementation Strategy of the Climate Change Policy, which suggests around 1.6 per cent of GDP needs to be spent on climate change- relevant activities.
The author is team leader CliMates ECOs Uganda and UNFCC/YOUNGO member.