Climate Change: Why Tanzania Plays Hard, Pays Hard, and Should Care Less.

Climate Change and Tanzania

Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan

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The Conundrum of Climate Change and Tanzania! It’s no secret that the term “climate change” is rapidly rising to fame faster than a jackrabbit on a hot greasy griddle. Indeed, it’s as though the dear Mother Earth has herself become the biggest celebrity in the universal tabloids, forever gracing the front pages. At times, it feels as if our weather apps are eternally stuck in a loop of global warming remixes, bombarding us with such an avalanche of data we might as well be trying to guzzle from a fire hydrant. No wonder the poor planet can’t keep her cool!

The climate change frenzy has not arisen from thin air. The science fraternity has made it amply clear – human actions are giving Earth a fever. Picture us burning fossil fuels as akin to piling on blankets on a sleeping baby, emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that blanket our planet.

The result? Well, it’s similar to leaving an ice cream cone under the scorching Sun. Our polar ice caps and glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming as unpredictable as a cat on a hot tin roof. The ripple effects are felt everywhere – in wildlife, human health, and global economies. Each carbon footprint we leave, i.e., the greenhouse gases produced by our actions, adds a tick mark to the scoreboard of change.

Now, you might be scratching your head, pondering why our title suggests Tanzania should be nonchalant about climate change. Well, firstly, admit it, we hooked you in, didn’t we? But more importantly, there’s a grain of truth in it.

Imagine if Tanzania, in some hypothetical scenario, simply vanished from the world map today. Shockingly, our planetary climate clock wouldn’t skip a beat. Hard to swallow? Well, the facts, as cool as a cucumber, bear this out.

The National Bureau of Statistics reports that Tanzania’s share in global greenhouse emissions is as negligible as a drop in the ocean. Being a developing nation, its industrial sector doesn’t puff out as much carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases as the big boys on the block. Taking it a notch higher, let’s imagine all of Africa sinking to the bottom of the ocean – a thought as chilling as an Antarctic breeze. Still, the climate change doomsday clock wouldn’t budge an inch. Africa contributes only about 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, as stated in the “The State of the Climate in Africa 2021” report.

Herculean ‘Green Lung’ Contribution to Climate Change

Sweetening the deal further, Tanzania, far from being a carbon culprit, is rather the high priestess of conservation. Think about it this way: Tanzania, with a land mass of 945,087 km² (which, just for perspective, is roughly the combined size of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands), is no small player in the global field. Now, imagine a stunning 32.5% of this expansive territory dedicated to conservation. That’s like designating an area almost equivalent to the entire United Kingdom to be untouched, natural, and wild. It’s an ambitious commitment akin to carving a green lung in the heart of Africa.

For those of you who need a little climate change 101, let’s break it down. Conservation areas, from national parks to wetlands, are the superheroes of the climate change battle. Like a sponge, these protected areas soak up and store large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, acting as nature’s vacuum cleaners. Forests, in particular, play a starring role, gobbling up carbon through photosynthesis and storing it in trees, vegetation, and soil like a squirrel stockpiling nuts for winter.

These natural strongholds also serve as the guardians of biodiversity, enhancing ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change. Think of it as a football team – a diverse team, with players of different skills, is better equipped to face the unpredictable moves of the opposing team. Similarly, ecosystems teeming with various species are better armed to endure extreme weather events and fluctuating temperatures.

Conservation areas don’t stop there. They also double as climate regulators, casting shade, ensuring moisture, and influencing rainfall patterns. Wetlands, like the Earth’s kidneys, filter and regulate water, maintaining quality, recharging aquifers, and preventing soil erosion. On top of that, these areas serve as nature’s shields against natural disasters such as floods and storms. Supporting sustainable tourism, they provide economic benefits to local communities, thereby emphasizing the value of protecting natural resources and promoting their preservation amidst climate change challenges. While these areas offer significant climate change benefits, it’s essential to remember that they’re just one piece of the puzzle and must be complemented with broader efforts such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing sustainable practices.

So yes, Tanzania has committed a significant slice of its land to a cause to which it contributes minimally. And I hear you; there are indeed other causes of climate change apart from carbon emissions. The alleged ‘other activities, ‘ such as deforestation for charcoal, are linked to reduced carbon sequestration. But remember, if the so-called ‘developed countries’ didn’t puff out carbon into the atmosphere like an old steam locomotive, the need for our forests to scrub the skies clean would have been significantly reduced. Now, that’s some food for thought!

Climate Change and Tanzania - National Climate Change Response Strategy 2021
National Climate Change Response Strategy 2021

Frontline Fight against Climate Change

Tanzania isn’t just a spectator in the climate change arena; it’s a heavyweight contender. Despite being dwarfed in carbon emissions by industrial behemoths, Tanzania has been a conscientious participant in global climate governance, signing onto critical international climate-related treaties and protocols with aplomb.

One of these is the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a landmark agreement that aims to throw a wrench in the works of the greenhouse gas assembly line. Then came the Kyoto Protocol, which Tanzania ratified on October 31, 1994, and it came into effect faster than you can say “recycling bin” on January 29, 1995. This protocol is the UNFCCC’s intense big brother, cracking the whip on signatories to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Tanzania’s dedication to these accords attests to its strong resolve in the global face-off against climate change.

Taking the helm, President Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan has been cruising the globe with a fervor that would give Vasco Da Gama a run for his money. Her agenda? Preaching the sanctity of saving our Mother Earth. Among her noteworthy engagements are:

  • November 2021: At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, she pledged Tanzania’s commitment to combating climate change, with a bold aim of trimming the already minimal country’s greenhouse gas emissions by a hefty 45% by 2030.
  • Fast forward to COP 27 in Egypt, where she highlighted the imperative role of renewable energy in southern African countries. She pointed out that aggressive adoption of renewable energy could slash carbon emissions by 27% in Sub-Saharan Africa, urging investors to support the renewable revolution.
  • January 2023: In the snowy valleys of Davos, Switzerland, she highlighted the need for a harmony of efforts from governments and the private sector at the World Economic Forum. She also extended an invitation for the global private sector to join hands with Tanzania in its climate endeavors.
  • In a CNBC interview, President Hassan emphasized the critical need for a global solution to tackle the global problem of climate change.

In this whirlwind of activities, Tanzania doesn’t just talk the climate change talk; it walks the walk. Yet, despite all this, I still maintain that we should not fret excessively over it. It’s a bit like worrying about a drop of water in an ocean, isn’t it?

CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION: 'Diversify energy sources' - Digest Tanzania
Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan during World Economic Forum

A Tale of Irony: The Climate Change Conundrum in Tanzania

It’s like being the good kid in a rowdy classroom, isn’t it? You’ve been diligently taking notes, trying not to get ink on your uniform while paper airplanes whizz past your head. Welcome to Tanzania’s climate change narrative! As we’ve established so far, Tanzania isn’t exactly the Godzilla of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s more like the gecko. Yet, it contributes heavily towards mitigation efforts, and yet, here’s the kicker – bears a hefty brunt of climate change impacts. Life sure has a twisted sense of humor, doesn’t it?

From coast to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is vulnerable to the fickle moods of our changing climate. Strengthening our strategic, institutional, and infrastructural capacities is no longer just a PowerPoint slide in a boardroom – it’s an urgent priority. Sure, we’ve made some strides. The Environmental Management Act of 2004 did integrate some aspects of climate change. But let’s be real: it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a sprained ankle. We need to ramp up our governance strategies to address the multifaceted aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Tanzania might be among the most vulnerable nations to climate change, but we’re not just a statistic on a report. We’re a living, breathing commitment to the climate change cause.  So, there you have it. Tanzania may be the underdog in this global climate story, but remember, every good story has an unexpected twist. Let’s hope for one soon, shall we?

Breaking the Mold: Unorthodox Strategies for Tanzania’s Climate Change Battle

In a world struggling to avert an impending climate catastrophe, Tanzania is a paradox. As a country that contributes minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions, Tanzania has nevertheless rolled up its sleeves to mitigate the problem, dedicating an impressive 32.5% of its land, an area larger than the sum of Italy, Greece, and Switzerland, to conservation. With this commitment to the environment and active participation in global climate treaties, the nation acts as a heavyweight climate warrior, despite its lightweight carbon footprint.

Yet, despite these Herculean efforts, Tanzania still faces the bitter effects of climate change – a crisis it didn’t significantly contribute to. So, what’s the unorthodox perspective we’re daring to propose here? Why should Tanzania care less about a problem it didn’t primarily cause, and focus more on its own growth and wellbeing?

From this perspective, we suggest a few unorthodox solutions. Let’s see, shall we? We’ve established that our contributions to carbon emissions are minimal. But we’re punching way above our weight class when it comes to mitigation efforts. Now, what if we took a detour? What if we dared to challenge the norms and opted for a more ‘outside the box’ approach to tackling climate change?  Let me put forth my unconventional propositions:

Bold Energy and Development Projects

Instead of buckling under the pressures of external environmental concerns, Tanzania should pursue ambitious development projects like the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Dam and the East African Crude Oil Pipe Line. These projects, while controversial, aim to elevate the nation’s energy security and economic prosperity. Take, for instance, the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Dam. This ambitious project, a first in East Africa, has the capacity to generate 2,115 megawatts of power. What are its price tags? A cool $2.6 billion, making it the largest contract ever bagged by Egyptian companies in Africa.

I remember the concern raised about the estimated 2.6 million trees that were cleared to allow the construction, the area roughly twice the size of Berlin. I know it sounds bad, but to ease your mind – In March 2023, Vice President Dr. Philip Mpango kick-started the NMB campaign to plant one million trees. Oh, aren’t we just the noble saviors stepping in to replace the lost trees? *wink wink*

The other crucial but controversial project is the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, another giant leap for our energy sector.  Embracing such projects could boost our infrastructure, economy, and energy security, enabling us to cope better with climate change impacts. Total Energy put out an article debunking 10 Misconceptions about the Tilenga & EACOP Projects. Please go check it out.

Milking the ‘climate guilt’ of the more developed, high-emission nations.

It’s high time Tanzania starts capitalizing on the ‘climate guilt’ of the more developed, high-emission nations. The country should proactively seek climate financing in the form of grants, investments, and partnerships. If the world is set to sink due to climate change, and we’re not the ones who punctured a hole in it but are likely to drown faster than the culprits, we might as well get our lifejackets ready. And by lifejackets, I mean the following;

  • Climate Finance: Developed nations, recognizing their historical and current contributions to climate change, have committed to providing financial support to developing nations to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is often done through international agreements like the Paris Agreement, where developed countries pledged to mobilize $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020.
  • Debt for Nature Swaps: In these arrangements, a portion of a developing nation’s foreign debt is forgiven in exchange for local investments in environmental conservation measures. Debt-for-nature swaps involve the exchange of a debtor country’s external obligation for that country’s agreement to use local currency instruments (usually either cash or “environmental bonds”) to support a specific environmental project, such as the designation and management of protected areas, the development of conservation management plans, training of park personnel, and environmental education activities. Read more on WordBank Working paper
  • Carbon Offsetting and Credit Schemes: Developed nations or companies can offset their emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects in developing countries. This can provide an additional source of income and drive investment in low-carbon technologies and practices. I am happy that we took positive step on this front.

Check our analysis on Carbon Trading Symphony: Tanzania and UAE Dance Towards Green Prosperity

  • Technology Transfer: Developed nations can provide access to low-emission and climate-resilient technologies. This can help developing nations leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.
  • Capacity Building: Developed nations can provide support in building the capacities of developing nations to tackle climate change. This can include training, institutional strengthening, and support for policy and regulatory frameworks.
  • Green Jobs and Sustainable Industries: Investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and other green industries in developing countries can create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
  • Resilience Building: Investments in infrastructure and systems can increase developing countries’ resilience to climate change’s impacts.

Additionally, Tanzania should focus on the environmental issues it can directly influence, such as local industrial pollution, instead of stretching thin its resources over battles that are beyond its immediate control. Finally, remember that while these suggestions might seem unconventional now, the greatest ideas often start as mere whispers against the status quo. It may be time we started making some noise. 

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