Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Like smoking climate change affects the innocent.

Like smoking climate change affects the innocent.
By Ronald Musoke

Not all environmental problems experienced across Uganda are a direct result of climate change, a natural resources management specialist said recently at an International Climate Change Congress.

Dr Festus Bagoora who is also a senior official at the National Environment Management Authority, Uganda’s environmental regulatory agency, said there is urgent need to differentiate between problems associated with climate change and those which are linked to environmental degradation.

Speaking at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) African Initiative-organised four-day conference in Kampala, Dr Bagoora noted that the impact of climate change will be greater in communities where environmental degradation has been rampant.

“One of the concerns is that as an adaptation measure [to climate change], so many Ugandans are running towards fragile ecosystems such as lake shores, river banks, wetlands and forest reserves [to grow crops].

“This coping mechanism may help in the short run but the consequences will even be greater once these strategic ecosystems disappear. We need to tell our people that a coping mechanism that involves running to these fragile areas in the long-run will prove disastrous,” Bagoora said.

He noted that environmental degradation is as bad as climate change and there is urgent need to clearly distinguish the two.

He added that for Ugandans to adapt well to climate change there is need to revamp the meteorological department and reform Uganda’s land use policies.

Dr Alvin Curling, a senior fellow at CIGI likened climate change effects to those associated with smoking.

“Like smoking, it [climate change] does not only affect those partaking in the destruction of the environment but also includes those who are innocent.”

Dr Curling noted that environmental destruction was mostly a result of poor governance and legislation. He urged the citizenry to always hold their leaders accountable for their actions.

“When individuals are elected into offices, the people should hold those elected officers more accountable. This should be done using laws that are also enforceable,” he said.

The African Initiative Congress on Climate Change organised from November 1-4 brought together more than 400 government officials, local government leaders, academics and representatives from multilateral and donor organisations in addition to 300 university and secondary students with the intention of fostering an inclusive dialogue that builds on the existing local knowledge base; and using the results to form guidelines for a nation-wide strategy for adapting to climate change.

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