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Unpacking the Nairobi Declaration: Global Warming’s Impact on Water Levels, Tourism, and Agriculture in Lesotho

18 October 2023 by Pascalinah Kabi

Acting Director of Lesotho Meteorology Services, Mokoena France. Credit: Internet

On 6 September 2023, African leaders passed a landmark Declaration that calls on the world’s largest polluters to fulfil their financial commitments to Africa.

The Nairobi Declaration also calls on development partners to intentionally provide “financial resources” to enable Africa to promote the sustainable use of the continent’s natural resources in its journey towards low-carbon development and global decarbonisation.

Furthermore, this Declaration serves as the foundation for Africa’s common stance in global climate change processes, leading up to and beyond the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), scheduled for the United Arab Emirates from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

To delve into this Declaration, Uncensored News Editor Pascalinah Kabi sat down with the Acting Director of Lesotho Meteorology Services, Mokoena France. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Uncensored: Could you please explain to our readers what the Nairobi Declaration is?

France: The Nairobi Declaration is a political commitment by African leaders. It acknowledges issues surrounding climate change and the importance of mitigating its effects. The Declaration also commits African leaders to taking intentional actions to adapt to climate change. These actions include enacting laws that empower countries to address climate change. They are also calling on other global leaders to demonstrate their willingness to mitigate against climate change.

This Declaration indicates that African leaders are working based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. In line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), which recognises that although we share a common goal of ending emissions and adapting to climate change, responsibilities are fragmented, and our capabilities differ. This is based on historical responsibilities and historical emissions.

It has been agreed that developed or affluent countries should reduce their emissions and provide the means for developing countries to meet their obligations. Developing countries have made a relatively minor contribution to climate change and, therefore, require financial assistance for adapting to climate change. This will enable African countries to implement their adaptation actions as per their commitments under the Convention and the Paris Agreement.

African leaders also emphasise that the target set for developed countries to provide $100 billion annually must be met. This financial contribution was established from 2016 to 2025, but it has not been fulfilled. So, African leaders call upon affluent countries to redouble their efforts to fulfil this commitment to help Africa with its climate change adaptation programs. In short, this is what the Nairobi Declaration is about.

Uncensored: From the 2015 Paris Agreement to the 2023 Nairobi Declaration, numerous agreements and declarations on climate change have been signed. Why is the Nairobi Declaration significant for Basotho, Lesotho, and everyone on the African continent?

France: I believe this Declaration is significant for Basotho because climate change is a global challenge, and the global community needs to work together to address it. We cannot win the fight against climate change if we work in isolation. We must work collectively to combat climate change.

Lesotho, as a member of the global community, needs to ensure that those responsible for emitting greenhouse gases lower their emissions because we suffer the most when they do not. Lesotho also needs to participate in collective initiatives for climate justice and contribute to solutions that adapt to the effects of climate change on Basotho.

Even though Lesotho has not significantly contributed to causing climate change, we must ensure that those responsible for it honour their financial commitments to help countries like Lesotho adapt to climate change. We need to make sure that our unique climate change challenges, specific to Lesotho, are included on the global agenda. The world needs to be aware of Lesotho’s climate-related challenges, which may be similar to those of other countries or unique to us.

It is essential for Lesotho to participate in global climate change conferences, showcasing our commitment to mitigating climate change. The world needs to be informed about Lesotho’s current and future plans to combat climate change.

Uncensored: Earlier, you spoke about unmet financial commitments by developed countries. Do you believe this Declaration will strengthen calls for developed countries to provide funding for Africa’s climate change adaptation programs?

France: I believe that this Declaration conveys a powerful message. It draws the attention of world leaders to the suffering that Africa is enduring due to the effects of climate change, which the African continent did not cause. In politics, as long as we talk about something or make noise about it, someone, somewhere will hear and take action to assist us.

What African leaders have done is commendable. They have highlighted to global leaders that, although a certain amount of money was committed to Africa, that commitment has not been fulfilled. Not once has the world met that commitment. They are therefore requesting that affluent countries fulfil their financial obligations to enable African leaders to help their people adapt to climate change.

I believe that if we can issue more Declarations like this one, emphasising how affluent countries have not fulfilled their financial commitments to Africa, it will be clear to the citizens of these affluent countries that their leaders are not adhering to these agreements. In short, I believe that this Declaration will add significant value and contribute significantly to realising climate change financing commitments.

Uncensored: The Declaration highlights the confirmation by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that Africa is warming faster than the rest of the world. What are some of the adverse impacts of global warming specific to Lesotho?

France: Lesotho has experienced a rise in temperature throughout all seasons due to the rapid global warming in Africa. This warming reduces the intensity and frequency of snowfall, and when it does snow, it melts quickly. Snow replenishes our river systems, particularly in winter, which is a dry season in Lesotho. Having snow on our mountains recharges our water supply.

Furthermore, snow keeps the grass on our mountains wet, reducing the risk of fires. However, in the absence of snow, one mountain range can easily catch fire. The warming also negatively affects the tourism sector, particularly the skiing business in Mahlasela, Mokhotlong. Although they can generate snow artificially, the warming temperatures make it more expensive to do so. This warming poses a significant threat to the tourism sector.

On the agricultural front, warming increases evaporation in our water systems, decreasing water levels. Additionally, shorter rainy seasons and prolonged drought spells adversely affect food production. We are also vulnerable to tropical diseases that Lesotho historically did not have due to its cold climate.

For example, malaria is absent in Lesotho and much of South Africa. However, some research indicates that there are now cases of malaria in the northern part of South Africa due to warming, allowing malaria-carrying mosquitoes to thrive. In short, Lesotho is potentially at risk of disease outbreaks induced by climate change.

Uncensored: The Declaration acknowledges that Africa is not historically responsible for global warming but bears the brunt of its effects, impacting lives, livelihoods, and economies. The Declaration calls for climate-positive investments. What are climate-positive investments?

France: Climate-positive investments aim to ensure that the emissions we produce are offset by the carbon we remove from the atmosphere, achieving net-zero emissions. In other words, the goal is to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than we emit. The Nairobi Declaration calls on the world to take intentional actions to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than is emitted.

While Lesotho’s emissions are extremely low or virtually non-existent, our focus should be on those countries with significant emissions. The Declaration calls on developed countries to make climate-positive investments aimed at reducing emissions.

I think Africa, as a whole, contributes less than ten percent of global emissions, so African leaders are inviting developed countries to invest in Africa to assist the continent’s countries with slightly larger emissions. These include countries like South Africa and Nigeria, which require investments from affluent countries to transition to climate-positive practices.

In the case of Lesotho, although our emissions are minimal, we have already embraced renewable energy. The country has policies that support climate-positive investments in terms of energy production. Lesotho is well-prepared to attract investments aimed at transitioning our economy towards low-carbon development and a climate-positive pathway.

Uncensored: What can Lesotho do to ensure that some of the commitments such as “developing and implementing policies, regulations and incentives aimed at attracting local, regional and global investments in green growth and inclusive economies” are realised in our country?

France: We are on the right path because we introduced the first National Climate Change Policy in 2017, which serves as our guiding tool for addressing climate change issues. It includes an Implementation Strategy that remains valid until the end of this year. Additionally, there are other policy documents like the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), highlighting our commitment to addressing climate change.

We have another document aimed at helping government ministries and the nation integrate climate change into development planning. Our National Strategic Development Plan II recognizes climate change as essential to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, emphasising the need to integrate climate resilience into our development agenda.

Lesotho’s commitment to the SDGs indicates that our development agenda is climate-sensitive. While there are other sectoral policies addressing climate change, we acknowledge that much work remains, particularly in sectors most affected by climate change. We must ensure that policies in these sectors are responsive to climate change challenges.

We have recently initiated a project called the Capacity Initiative Building for Transparency, which includes the development of a climate change act. This act will establish the necessary institutions for Lesotho to effectively respond to climate change challenges. Our policy framework, along with other initiatives, demonstrates our commitment to addressing climate change.

Mokoena France warns that Basotho should reduce cutting trees. He says trees like these ones on the photo above, are vital sources of oxygen. Credit: Phetheho Ntlamelle.

Uncensored: Why is it important for Basotho to be part of on-the-ground solutions for mitigating the effects of climate change?

France: Although Lesotho’s emissions are minimal compared to other countries, there are practices we can avoid as a nation that contribute to climate change. For instance, we should reduce tree cutting, as trees capture carbon dioxide, and burning them emits carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

While we need trees for energy and heating, we should explore alternative sources whenever possible. Trees and plants are vital sources of oxygen, which means they are essential for maintaining air quality. We must also protect our wetlands and avoid grazing on them, as they trap greenhouse gases. Destroying wetlands releases these gases into the air, contributing to global warming.

The overpopulation of cars on our roads is another concern. Many vehicles on the road lead to increased emissions, especially during traffic jams. We should consider carpooling, using public transport more frequently, or walking to reduce carbon emissions.

As Basotho, we need to be aware of changing climatic conditions and adapt our practices accordingly. This includes adjusting our farming schedules based on scientific warnings and advice. If traditional crops are affected by changing conditions, we can switch to more resilient alternatives. We should pay attention to early warning systems on the radio to ensure our plans align with scientific advice.

Uncensored: What are some of the on-ground solutions at national level?

France: There are several projects to consider, including significant ones like the Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP), which has focused on climate-smart wool production and rangeland protection. Additionally, the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) supports Basotho with greenhouses and irrigation systems, promoting climate-smart farming.

The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) II fund is allocating a substantial portion of its resources to developing an irrigation system in Lesotho. Traditional rain-fed farming is no longer sustainable due to changing climatic conditions, and the irrigation system will help power our agriculture.

We also have an early warning system implemented by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) to enhance communication with Basotho regarding what to expect and how to mitigate the effects of climate change. Another project with the World Food Programme (WFP) aims to empower our nation with climate-resilient food production.

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1 Comment

  1. Quite informative. I guess there is serious of articles to follow owing to a range of issues that the article raises.

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