Thursday, 17 November 2011

Uganda gears up for COP17

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

As preparations for this year’s UN climate talks under the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) conference of parties (COP17) take centre stage, Uganda government and civil society don’t want to be left out. This week has been a bee-hive of activity as government held the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) workshop where its position in line with the rest of Africa ahead of Durban COP17 was stated. The civil society organizations working on programmes related to climate change, on the other hand, were also thinking together on familiarization of the processes of the COP in the same week. Next week final touches will be hammered where the government negotiating team will share with the civil society members, who are mainly going to play an observation role at the South Africa COP17. The IPCC is releasing its report this weekend on Nov. 19 as a feed in to the proceedings toward the much reported climate talks.

Before the delegation heads to Durban late this month, Uganda like most African countries is grappling with significant challenges related to coping with the impact of climate change. First the Uganda government has recently appreciated the severity climate change is causing to the livelihoods of the citizens by establishing a Climate Change Unit within the ministry of Water and Environment to spearhead the processes aimed at mitigating and adapting to variations in climate and weather. A policy on climate change is also in the pipeline. A government official says the main focus is currently on energy, agriculture and the environment.
People in Uganda's dry Karamoja lining up for food rations

However, the civil society orgnaisations say though these are steps in the right direction government needs to do more. This is because there are several gaps in government’s response to the impact of climate change.  Availability of local research relating to climate change is still very limited. One of the available such research done by Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance (ACCRA), a consortium made up of Oxfam GB, Save the Children, Care International, World Vision and the Overseas Development Institute to do advocacy and training in climate issues, shows bleak future and recommends Uganda to do more at grassroots. Uganda metrological department remains handicapped to deliver weather climate information to farmers, pastoralists for early warning systems yet where information is received the people have less interpretation capacity.

Given this state of events over 200 NGOs and civil society organizations working on climate change mitigation and adaptation measures under the umbrella of Climate Action Network Uganda (CAN-U) are cajoling governments to take action and speak out in the COP17. These NGOs have joined the organization of the TransAfrican caravan of hope, which is a 17 day road trip by bus through 10 African countries to create awareness on climate change impact, prior to in lead up to UN climate talks in Durban. The caravan that began in Bunrundi with a bus of people is expected to reach Durban with at leats 300 people who include the youth, farmers, and civil society activits to tell their on how climate change is impacting their lives and what leaders at the COP17 can do for them.

Already farmers are complaining reduced crop yields due to climatic variations. Uganda’s Environment minister Maria Mutagamba is optimistic that COP17 will commit rich countries to finance mitigations mechanisms in the poor countries as they cut on their carbon emissions so that effects of climate change exhibited in adverse droughts in Karamoja, intensified floods in Teso will  make lives of the poor a little comfortable. “I don't want to see Kyoto protocol buried in Durban. Rich and industrial countries should meet their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mutagamba.

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