Conflicting policies impeding climate change efforts

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[NAIROBI] Climate change policies conflicting with water, agriculture and energy policies in Sub-Saharan Africa are hampering efforts for addressing climate change impacts and achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an analysis has revealed.

In Tanzania, for instance, the national development plan is in low coherence with the national climate change adaptation programme of action and water policies. In Malawi, the analysis has found that the national water policy, national climate change adaptation programme of action, and agricultural policies are not consistent with efforts to address climate change.

The SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change call for coherent policies across sectors such as water, agriculture and energy to help address climate change impacts including severe droughts and flooding.

“There are many barriers to policy coherence. Some are common throughout all countries, including lack of buy-in.”

Patrick Curran, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

The authors of the policy brief resulting from the analysis published last month (August) recommend policy coherence across such sectors.

“There are many barriers to policy coherence. Some are common throughout all countries, including lack of buy-in, conflicting mandates for sectoral ministries or the limited resources to enable the processes necessary to support coherence,” says Patrick Curran, co-author of the policy brief and a policy analyst at the UK-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Other barriers include limited institutional capacity or leadership to coordinate sectors, and weak capacity to undertake regular reviews or institute a process to update and align national and sectoral policies.

The researchers analysed climate change policies and related policies such as those that focus on water, agriculture, energy, climate change and national development plans in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia by using a scoring system to assess the extent to which the policies were consistent in addressing climate change impacts.

Andy Dougill, a co-author of the policy brief and a professor of environmental sustainability at UK’s University of Leeds, tells SciDev.Net, “The research was conducted to gain a greater understanding of the political economy affecting climate change and sustainable development decisions being taken in the region.”

The researchers recommend that national development strategies or policies should be reviewed, updated or developed to explicitly integrate climate change and the SDGs as key objectives.

There is also the need to develop the appropriate institutional arrangements that enable coherence, in particular cross-sectoral coordination with respect to climate change planning. National governments need to establish these arrangements themselves, with high-level political leadership, they add.

George Okoye Krhoda, an associate professor of geography and environmental studies at Kenya’s University of Nairobi, tells SciDev.Net that many of the current assessments of policy coherence in Sub-Saharan Africa are limited because of insufficient data and information to make informed policy decisions.

“Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa will be grave based on the current predictions,” he explains, adding that African governments should not create and implement policies on water, energy and climate change in silos.

Krhoda adds that water, energy and food production are the most climate-sensitive production systems; and these require cross-sectoral as well as continuous stages coordination and coherence.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.