From Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa to Botswana, trees are falling in droves.
All over Southern African Development Community (Sadc) member states, reverberations of trees reduced to stubs can be heard in both rural and urban areas.
Just that, now, there are indications that regional leaders are getting concerning and taking requisite action, a case in point being the Sadc Green Climate Conference that ended recently in Lilongwe, where countries agreed to establish a regional framework for climate action to spearhead resource mobilisation as well as negotiations at the global level.
They also agreed to have a common position on climate change, which is expected to be inclusive of all concerns from key stakeholders and also feed into the African Group Position into Conference of Parties (CoP) 27.
The conference was organised to assess the status of climate action in the Sadc region.
Secretary for Natural Resources and Climate Change, Yanira Ntupanyama, was elated.
“The framework is a step in the right direction,” she said.
Civil Society Coordinator for Climate Change, Julias Ng’oma, echoed the sentiments.
He said the framework had come at the right time as countries are preparing for CoP 27.
“The most important thing to do is for Sadc leaders to adopt the framework and recommendations and make them binding,” Ng’oma said.
The only drawback to such plans could be the Covid pandemic, which continues to disrupt global health emergency with devastating consequences for people across the world.
Many governments, including that of Malawi, have announced stimulus plans worth trillions of United States dollars to revive economic prospects, boost business and create job opportunities.
For instance, President Lazarus Chakwera unveiled the K580 billion Covid Socio-Economic Recovery Plan to quickly address the current economic turmoil.
The plan, to be implemented from 2021 to 2023, will stimulate strategic parts of the economy so that Malawians can stay on course towards sustainable growth.
However, some economists, government leaders and energy think tanks have called this an opportunity for a “green recovery”, a win-win situation which will reinvigorate the economy while working towards a greener, more carbon-neutral future.
Scotland-based economist and climate change advocate Velli Nyirongo said, for the Government of Malawi to meet basic needs, it has to strive to utilise resources available.
“The tragedy with the current economic system is that, while we are making ends meet with the resources drawn from the environment, we haven’t been good at taking care of our Mother Earth, resulting in global warming, pollution and natural disasters.
“Therefore, there is a call for an economic system that focuses beyond gross domestic product but also on the environment that sustains the economy and our needs,” Nyirongo said.
This is an economy that is driven by the aspiration to attain growth in employment and income by encouraging investment that ensures that infrastructure and assets allow zero carbon emission and pollution, energy and resource efficiency is improved, biodiversity is promoted and conservation efforts being promoted at all levels.
National Planning Commission Director-General Thomas Munthali acknowledged that green economy is the way to go.
He said this is why it is included in Malawi 2063 agenda.
“There are efforts to try to address poverty challenges. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) has been a guiding principle to address economic challenges and the main focus of the existing MGDS III is education, energy, agriculture, health and tourism.
“The government launched the Malawi 2063 vision with the aim of transforming Malawi into a wealthy and self-reliant industrialised ‘upper middle-income country, “Munthali said.
He said it was every citizen’s responsibility to ensure that Malawi becomes a middle-income economy by 2030 and achieves most of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
“If climate change management is not carefully coordinated, these two milestones are unlikely to be achieved; neither will the five-year immediate goals of food security, wealth and jobs creation,” Munthali said.
A World Bank overview report for Malawi indicates that the country has made strides in some aspects, notably human capital capacity building; that is, the skills, knowledge, and health that people accumulate over their lives.
The bank’s overview figure shows that the national poverty rate has slightly accelerated from 50.7 percent in 2010 to 51.5 percent in 2016, even though the rate of extreme national poverty decreased from 24.5 percent in 2010-11 fiscal year to 20.1 percent in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
“Poverty levels are still obdurately high in Malawi. The country has been depending on tobacco as the main cash crop for a long time, the productivity in a country in agriculture is still low, and the country still depends on subsistence farming, the population growth rate is still high, the economy is still volatile and not resilient enough to external shocks and there isn’t enough coverage of safety nets programme to cover the poor people,” the report reads.
No wonder, the 2021 economic growth projection was downgraded from 4.8 percent to 1.0 percent and, in 2021, the economy was expected to rebound slightly to 2.8 percent, but all might change depending on how the pandemic will unfold.
However, the crisis has just worsened the already worrying poverty levels, with weaker demand, an increase in prices of essentials as the supply chain is affected, increase in unemployment and inequality levels, among others.
Malawi has been experiencing the effects of climate change lately, as evidenced by the increased occurrence of dry spells or droughts, increased heat waves, or unpredictable weather patterns, increase in floods incidents and precipitation.
And the result is that the very industry that the economy depends on has been affected, notably agriculture, fisheries, water resources and even human health.
That is where the issue of green economy, which is all about sustainable development to achieve a low carbon, resource-efficient, socially and inclusive economy comes in.
A study by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that ongoing emissions of warming gases could reach 1.5 degrees by 2030, which is bad news for Malawi as the effects of climate change could have a very big impact on lives of many.
Natural Resources Minister Eisenhower Mkaka said, to achieve the vision of a green economy, the private sector is called upon to become one of the key drivers.
“On our part, we realise that there is a need to provide economic incentives to environment-friendly companies and those creating jobs in these sectors, capacity building for small businesses in the area, certification and labelling, green financing, encouraging research and technology in the green industry, proper taxation system, among other things,” he said.
Just that talk is cheap and action is coveted.