Hardly four months after the now popular Copenhagen Conference in Denmark, which sought to devise strategies to confront the impact of global warming and climate change, Botswana legislators cannot tell the difference between climate change and the depletion of the O zone layer.
And much less are they able to distinguish climate change as an aspect of the environment from the other environment related problems, generally to formulate the appropriate policy response to climate change.
The findings of a preliminary survey by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) from the United kingdom, revealed, “Although there was a fairly good understanding of the effects of climate change in Botswana, the majority of the interviewees showed a gross misunderstanding of the science of climate change.”
“It would appear that this emanated largely from the fact that climate change and Ozone depletion, as well as “general environmental issues” were not clearly and distinctly understood, one from the other,” contended Tom Birch on behalf of IIED.
The IIED Consultant also indicated that there was a tendency to often bundle mitigation of green houses with general environmental protection.
“For example, some cited Prevention of tree cutting and promotion of tree planting and prevention of actions that degraded the soil as constituting mitigation of climate change,” said Birch.
In the same vein sometimes words mitigation and adaptation were wrongly used interchangeably.
Apparently, based on the commitments made by countries through signing of the Kyoto Protocol, countries have been categorized into a number of Annexes and Non Annex, depending on the extent of their contribution, in the emission of Green House Gases (GHG) excess of which allegedly result in climate change.
Non Annex include what are commonly known as Least Developing Countries (LDC), the category that takes most African countries except South Africa, which incidentally belongs to Annex I.
Accordingly, those in Non Annex category seem to be those countries that can only learn to survive with their new hostile environment, whereas the other categories still can reduce their emissions and have not yet been as badly affected by the effects of climate change.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Environment, Moeng Pheto, complained that Parliamentarians are least informed about the substance and content of the Copenhagen meeting.
“This is a common problem for us Parliamentarians. International meetings are often attended by Government representatives, as well as NGOs whose costs would always be covered by international donors,” lamented Pheto.
In spite of that, Parliament often only gets involved at the tail end of the process whenever there is a convention that needed to be ratified, according to Pheto.
Thus, without the exposure and up to date knowledge, it is hard for parliamentarians to critically review the relevant conventions and protocols in a meaningful manner, according to the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee responsible for Agriculture and Environment matters.
A day earlier, at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Conference on developing countries’ vulnerability to climate change, former President Festus Mogae authoritatively elaborated on how seriously his Government regarded the issue of climate change.
“Even before my appointment as a United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change, the government of Botswana, under my watch as President, took the issue of climate change very seriously; hence, our quick endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol,” posited the former President, who is also the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change.
Key Speaker Jennifer Anderson, the British High Commissioner in Botswana, made the point that Parliament plays a vital role in the national and regional debate on climate change given that Parliamentarians need to be able to explain to their constituents what is at stake with climate change.
“…Eventually parliamentarians will be involved in legislating around a particular country’s response to climate change,” qualified Anderson.
Britain, being part of the European Union and co-sponsor of the international drive to mitigate climate change, is already privy to a legally binding commitment through domestic legislation to reduce emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
Botswana, on the other hand, admitted to having no policy on the ground, except for various pieces of legislation relating to environment, unconnected to climate change, with the effect that there cannot be any legal regulation or protection of alternative energy sources without their procedurally established implications.
The study targeted five SACU countries aimed at collating and analysing information on climate change information needs for parliamentarians in the affected given the imperative place they occupy in the policy making processes.
Countries involved in the study are Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, as well as South Africa.