The Commitment: Special Climate Change Issue

Landlocked countries advocate for climate justice

Ambassador Charles Thembani Ntwaagae, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN talks to Nosh Nalavala

Nosh Nalavala: Your country is landlocked, with 80 percent covered by the Kalahari Desert. Consequently, less than five per cent of the country is suitable for rain-fed agriculture. Moreover, decreasing availability of fresh water has worsened the situation. How do you plan to improve the situation?

Ambassador Charles Thembani Ntwaagae. Photo: Nosh Nalavala

Charles Thembani Ntwaagae: Given the semi-arid nature of our climate, water is a scarce resource in many parts of Botswana.  It is therefore treated as a very valuable resource in the country. It is true that there has also been a drastic decrease in fresh water lately.  Climate Change exacerbates the situation, leading to periodic drought, reduction in the water table, increased pressure on the scarce water resources and reduced primary land productivity. We have recently witnessed the drying of major dams particularly in the southern part of Botswana that used to supply our population with safe drinking water. In order to ameliorate the situation, we have taken measures to promote improved water management and conservation techniques, including surface run off water and rainwater harvesting, as well as ground water protection.

NN: Could you explain how the The National Conservation Strategy (NCS) strategy was implemented and the results of this initiative?

CTN: Yes, the adoption of the National Conservation Strategy (NCS) in 1990 was a landmark development in the management of the environment in Botswana. The strategy was adopted against the backdrop of serious environmental problems that had become evident, key among them was the prevalence of range land degradation, which resulted from overstocking, as well as unsustainable patterns of exploitation of natural resources.

The strategy provided impetus for improved management of the environment and for sustainable utilisation of the country’s natural resource base.  The strategy was effectively and successfully implemented through an NCS Action Plan which was mainstreamed into the sectoral programmes of line Ministries.

South Sudan. Photo: Albert González Farran, UN Photo / Flickr

NN: A recent report indicated that considerable progress has been made in combating desertification in Botswana, but the results of most anti-desertification efforts have not yet achieved the expected results. What results do you expect to achieve?

CTN: Of course, in semi-arid climatic conditions such as we have in Botswana, efforts to combat desertification are bound to face challenges and under such circumstances, it naturally takes longer to discern their impact.  Having said that, I must hasten to point out that, there has not yet been any organised effort to collect data and realistically assess the impact of the myriad interventions which have been made to date to combat desertification. We expect success by increased percentage of reclaimed productive land, improved land management practices by local communities, and, more importantly, improved food production, leading to the enhancement of the food security situation in the country.

 There are also intensified public education efforts in order to raise awareness about the finite nature of land as a natural resource.  You may be aware that our neighbour, Namibia, effectively advertises its Namib Desert as part of its tourist attractions.  We too in Botswana view the Kalahari Desert as a boon, rather than a curse.

NN: What are the major issues that LLDCs should bring to the table in Paris?

CTN: COP21 in Paris in December 2015 presents a strategic opportunity for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and developing countries in general to strongly advocate for climate change justice.

Our concern is that developing countries contribute the least to climate change and yet they disproportionately bear the brunt of its impact.  This injustice needs to be corrected through effective application of the “polluter pays principle.

Botswana. Photo: lwh50, Flickr

At Paris, LLDCs should collectively underscore the need to reach agreement on a universal, legally binding carbon emissions regime, as well as the urgent need for the world community to address the phenomenon of climate change before it is too late.

Critical for LLDCs would be provision of financial, technical assistance and capacity building, as well as knowledge and technology transfer in order to facilitate effective implementation of mitigation and adaption programmes, including creation of a dedicated Trust Fund in this regard.

NN: How are the LLDCs disproportionately affected by climate change? 

CTN: As I pointed out, because of their low level of development, developing countries contribute least to climate change but they suffer most from its impact, and this is not fair. Climate change precipitates phenomena such as drought, floods, rise in sea levels etc., which result in loss of human life and destruction of critical infrastructure which is the lifeblood of LLDCs. To this end climate change is by far one of the greatest challenges the LLDCs face in their sustainable development efforts.