Wednesday, June 7, 2023

BNF on Copenhagen

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference has come and gone. Though there is no evidence of accord on addressing climate change the questions and challenges of global warming remain.

The focus is now on individual countries to display political audacity and will and act decisively on reducing impact to the environment.

Despite failure to reach consensus of strategy at global level there is no denying that Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. Botswana has to respond to this by creating a holistic Sustainability Policy with a sole intention of driving the national and global agenda (reduction of implications of climate change) whilst positioning herself as an environmentally friendly nation.

Developing and less industrialised countries who contribute less to climate change due to global warming have a significant role to play on issues of climate change. Botswana as a developing country can do its part by being proactive and formulate a Policy that guides reduction of consequences of climate change and enable the country to champion Sustainability. There are sufficient human resources in the country to offer technical assistance in the formulation of this policy. All that is required is political courage and ability to build the majority and get things done.

The COP15 which is a United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change consists of 192 countries is seeking ambitious global climate agreement for the period from 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires. The main objective of COP15 is to get developed and developing countries to work together in trying to minimise implications of climate change. The COP15 objectives demonstrate how significant Sustainability is because for once developed countries realise that developing countries can be part of a solution to a global problem.
Parallel to COP15 is the Copenhagen Communiqu├® which advocates for regulation where amongst other things developing countries (Botswana included) are required to come with a suitable plan of action to address climate change implications. A holistic and technically rich climate change Policy will advance Botswana’s effort in compliance to the Copenhagen Communiqu├®. At the BNF we have no doubt whatsoever that the objectives of COP15 along with the Copenhagen Communiqu├® are attainable and can be accelerated with the timely and courageous formulation and implementation of a fully informed Sustainability Policy. The formulation of this should involve a panel of experts distinguished in various fields including but not limited to sustainable development, environmental science, quality assurance, law, metallurgy, quantity surveying, architecture and other built environment professions.

Besides compliance to Copenhagen Communiqu├®, the other benefit inherent with a Sustainability Policy will be competitive advantage and adaptation to change for Botswana. At the moment we are battling to secure markets abroad for locally produced products.

Companies in developed country in an endeavour to cut their carbon footprint are constantly looking for suppliers with environmentally friendly credentials. If Botswana is to be a significant player in the global market, the issue of sustainability has to be given urgent attention. The formulation of a Sustainability Policy at national level will possibly sink down and stimulate individual organisations to formulate policies at organisational level which will complement government’s efforts on climate change reduction.
The Sustainability Policy should amongst other things address the following issues:

Environmental Implications / issues
The legal requirement to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which compile, evaluate and present significant environmental impacts and produce an Environmental Impact Plan / Statement which will state processes and mitigation steps to address the identified environmental impacts of a proposed development or action. The EIA has to include a much more robust consultation with the public than it is currently the case. The consultation should also include environmental urgencies and other stakeholders. Waiver of this should be under extremely exceptional cases.

Quality Assurance
There is need for legislation to ensure that locally produced goods and imports meet minimum standards compliant to Botswana Bureau of Standards at the very least. Stringent standards will for instance guard against inferior materials being used and consequently resulting in more waste and pressure on landfills due to the need to replace very often.

Control & Regulations
It is important for the policy to ensure that buildings are energy efficient and environmental friendly. The policy can for instance emphasise building designs which allow for natural lighting, air conditioning and ventilation e.g. elongate building north to south with big windows to ensure maximum amount of natural lighting and mass wall and floor design to make the building warm in winter and cool in summer which will reduce artificial air conditioning requirements. The policy should also regulate demolition work where it is a requirement to carry out a pre-demolition audit to maximise material reclamation and reuse and therefore minimise waste to landfill.

Refurbishment of building should also be regulated by the policy to ensure that old buildings do not use materials like asbestos which are not environmentally friendly and are a health, safety and well being risk. It defines a process by which all countries of the world can make pledges to mitigate climate change ÔÇô where mitigation now means not only emissions reduction but protection of the ability of ecosystems to sequester carbon.

There is need┬áby the entire global community┬áto┬áprotect forests. It┬áwon’t assist for the BDP government to arrest the poor and vulnerable who sell fire-wood for a living┬áwithout helping them to identify alternative sources of energy. Interestingly government institutions are the main consumers of fire-wood and have contributed significantly to deforestation.┬á

Waste Management
The policy should regulate how waste generated by various activities will be disposed off. For construction work contractors and developers should for instance be compelled to produce a Site Waste Management Plan which will outline the types and quantities of waste that will be produced at all stages of the work and how this will be handled. The Department of Waste Management should reach out schools, hospitals and other government facilities to ensure that we manage our waste properly. This department under the Sustainability Policy should be charged with monitoring waste produced and identify waste materials that can be reused and recycled in a coordinated manner. There will be a need to commit funds toward research in this regard. This will reduce the quantity of waste disposed through burning which increase gas emission and quantity going to landfill sites which will free more land for human habitation.

Renewable Energy
The policy should set a national commitment for the country to adopt renewable sources energy e.g. solar power, wind power, hydro electric power etc by a certain date to meet part of the country’s energy needs. Apart from reducing impact of global warming, renewable energy sources will provide alternative source of energy and reduce the need for severe energy rationing when current sources of energy (e.g. coal power stations) cannot meet demand. The current power crisis facing the country is a partly due to too much dependence on non renewable sources.

To keep up with global trends and ensure compliance with climate change resolutions at international stage, it is essential to have political intervention that will encourage public institutions like the University of Botswana to set up a Centre for Sustainability Leadership that will carry out research to aid Botswana cause on climate change implication. As the world is moving towards renewable energy sources the need for proactive efforts in establishing sources available and consistent with the country’s circumstances can never be sufficiently stressed. In the light of this, the proposed Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) should hit the ground running by setting up a Centre for Renewable Energy which will do research and help the country harness and exploit alternative energy sources. Again this is possible provided there is a political drive.

A Sustainability Policy is very essential in achieving COP15 aim of reducing implications of climate change and compliance to Copenhagen Communiqu├®. Botswana can perform its collective role to this global phenomenon by proactively enacting a holistic national policy which will guide the country’s efforts on tackling climate change. This obviously requires political courage and will. Failure to address climate change challenges now with the intent of addressing it at some future date (postponing the problem) when the implications are possibly adverse will be like installing a largely ineffective burglar alarm when the family silver has already been stolen. It is for this reason that the BNF advocates for immediate and decisive political action. Now is the time to act on climate change.

Thank you

Moeti Mohwasa
BNF Publicity & Information Secretary.


Read this week's paper