“For Zimbabwe, COP26 means building resilient communities”: Zimbabwean Youth Climate Activists’ Perspectives on COP26
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the Conference of Parties (COP26) comes at a crucial point in the climate crisis. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report revealed the escalating nature of climate change and its impact on different regions around the world.
The ND-GAIN Country Index states Zimbabwe is among the World’s 50 Most Vulnerable Countries to climate change. The country has experienced various climate disasters like Cyclone Idai in March 2019 that resulted in the destruction of infrastructure, displacement, and loss of over 1000 lives. Persistent droughts have contributed to increased food insecurity in both rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe.
In preparation for COP26, Zimbabwe recently submitted its updated National Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Zimbabwe set an ambitious new target of 40% emission reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030 across all sectors of the economy. This is a 7% increase from the NDCs submitted in 2017, where Zimbabwe committed to reducing emissions in the energy sector.
However, implementation of the updated NDCs is conditional to “ [the] availability of affordable international financial support, investment, ability to leverage domestic resources, technology development, and transfer and capacity development”, the report states.
Youth climate activists also seek commitments towards climate financial support. Elizabeth Gulugulu, environmental scientist, and climate change activist “expects COP26 decisions on access to climate finance to go well as Zimbabwe needs financial resources and technical expertise to build the adaptive capacities and resilience of vulnerable communities”.
Perseverance Javangwe, climate reality leader and UN Conference of Youth (COY16) National Coordinator for Zimbabwe says, “ it’s not enough to have discussions and agreements at COP26 whilst on the ground, there’s no implementation of climate action plans”. He encourages Zimbabweans to actively follow how the government implements the updated NDCs. Monitoring ensures that the document becomes a reality in their communities.
Zimbabwe aims to enhance the use of renewable energy sources but is still heavily dependent on coal. Lisa Chitura, Director of Environmental Rights Advocacy Trust, highlights the possibility of job losses in the coal industry during the energy transition. She adds “ we cannot leave anyone behind, it has to be a just transition”. This includes capacitating those in the coal sector and youth to use new technologies, create jobs and equal opportunities.
As with these climate youth activists, all Zimbabweans should pay attention to the negotiations and commitments made at the Climate Change Conference. Our livelihoods and ways of being are drastically affected by climate change. Zimbabwe along with other vulnerable countries needs to ensure that our voices, perspectives, and ambitions are loudly heard at COP26. Together, we can positively shift the narrative and achieve climate justice!