Gaborone, Botswana -Climate change, the defining challenge of our time, is taking center stage in Southern Africa as regional leaders convene for the Southern Africa Regional Parliamentary Meeting on Climate Change. This vital event, set to run from September 25th to 27th at the Avani Hotel in Gaborone, Botswana, brings together parliamentarians, experts, and partners to address the urgent climate crisis that threatens the region.
A Looming Crisis
Climate change knows no borders, and its impacts are already being felt across Southern Africa. Scientists, in near unanimity, project a catastrophic 4°C temperature rise by the end of this century. The consequences of such warming are dire, including coastal city inundations, food production risks, water scarcity, and the loss of vital biodiversity, including coral reefs. However, a glimmer of hope lies in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5°C, which calls for global CO2 emissions to decrease by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050.
Global Cooperation: The Paris Agreement
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, 197 parties, including 196 countries and the EU, adopted the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015. The agreement’s goal is clear: limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Achieving this requires global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050. The Paris Agreement is a binding international treaty that commits nations to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change, based on the best available science.
The Role of Parliaments
In this critical climate context, parliaments play a pivotal role. They craft policies, pass legislation, and oversee the implementation of climate response measures. However, many African parliaments, particularly in the Southern Africa region, are inadequately prepared to effectively engage in climate action. Few countries on the continent have enacted the necessary climate change legislation.
To address this gap, the “Southern Africa Regional Parliamentary Meeting on Climate Change” is being organized by AGNES in collaboration with the Parliament of Botswana, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, UNDP Botswana, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), and other esteemed partners.
The gathering has three primary objectives:
- Raising Awareness: Parliamentarians will gain insight into their pivotal role in supporting climate change efforts at international, regional, national, and local levels.
- Sharing Experiences: Participants will share their experiences regarding the enactment of enabling legislation, such as the Climate Change Act, across the region.
- Strengthening Parliaments: Discussions will revolve around ways to mainstream climate change into parliamentary calendars and functions.
Anticipated outcomes of this crucial meeting include:
- A deeper understanding among parliamentarians of their role in ensuring international and national climate commitments are met.
- An assessment of the status of enabling legislation, especially the Climate Change Act, along with lessons learned and best practices.
- Exploration of opportunities for integrating climate change into parliamentary structures, culminating in the development of a roadmap for agreed-upon activities.
The meeting is a significant step towards addressing the pressing climate crisis in the region. It underscores the importance of global cooperation, legislative action, and public engagement in confronting this challenge.