Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adaptation-Uganda's priority at the Copenhagen talks

By Esther Nakkazi
After three days of congress, last week 1-4 November, Uganda’s priority at the international climate change talks will be adaptation. There are only four weeks to the climate- change summit in Copenhagen.
Although Africa is supposed to come up with a single voice, to seal the deal that will bring unity against global warming, it is imperative that each nation has its priority area; in Uganda’s case adaptation will be the frontline choice.
But if Uganda wants to focus on adaptation it has to put in place realistic adaptation strategies for sustainability. Countries that are unable to withstand the current climate change shocks may not be able to survive.
Jessica Ariyo, the minister of environment, said Uganda would toe the line of adaptation but policies need to be put in place to allow for the process to happen and a mechanism to transfer funds from polluters to non- polluters.
Some of the adaptation strategies include building capacities of communities at risk, strengthening early warning systems, developing and transferring homegrown technologies and solutions.
“We also want to see that the Kyoto protocol is scaled up and more carbon trading projects implemented here because we have implemented the programmes they told us to set up,” said Ariyo.
Uganda the chair of the climate change unit at the African Union is also planning to use its proactive climate change committee in parliament, the only one in Africa so far, to push for its stand at Copenhagen.
As the Kampala African initiative on climate change conference kicked off at Munyonyo Speke Resort, the 750 participants, who attended from all districts in Uganda, heard that the people at the local level are already finding ways to adapt to climate change.
But adaptation strategies should be improved like storage of water through man- made interventions like rainwater harvesting and improving the credibility of the meteorology data.
For example people in the northern region of Uganda are already into rainwater harvesting to reduce the vulnerabilities of local communities during prolonged droughts.
But more investment needs to be made in the meteorological department –increase hydrological stations- to have reliable data that farmers can use. Currently most of the data disseminated about the whether predictions is not reliable.
Ariyo said the government is going to consolidate and empower the meteorological department, bringing all partners together for accurate data and climate modeling through a new body the Uganda Meteorological Agency.
“We can only make our basis for science from what we discover. Then we need to improve the way we disseminate this information, we do know that rainfall intensity will change, droughts will be prolonged but can only say this on the basis of science,” said Dr. Richard Taylor, of the University of College of London.
The African Initiative congress on Climate change had at least 300 students active participants who were not only open to learning through asking hard questions but also sustaining an all round comprehensive dialogue.
Dr. John English, executive director, CIGI, said the momentum should be continued as the youth drive it forward. Students said they want climate change to be integrated in school curriculums.
“The participation of the youth in this conference was strategic. We have to engage the youth if we have to make a successful intervention in climate change- intergenerational equities or inequities have to involve the youth,” said Nelson Sewankambo, the director African Initiative.
The congress was a joint initiative between the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)- a think tank in Canada, the Salama SHIELD Foundation (SSF) a non-governmental organization registered in Canada, Uganda and Malawi as well as Makerere University.
“We have had a comprehensive dialogue, which be emulated in our districts. As people go to Copenhagen to seal the deal- we have already sealed ours- through exchanging ideas and agreeing to work together, said Sewankambo.

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