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What’s the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment about?

[By Nkula Kaoma]

At the swearing-in ceremony of cabinet ministers, President Hakainde Hichilema unveiled one of the three new ministries, that of the Green Economy and Environment. Apparently, it is the only ministry with a brand-new name never heard of in Zambia’s governance circles. Many people should be asking, and rightly so, about what green economy entails. Green economy was coined by British economists in 1989.It has been developed over the years to a point where it has been adopted by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) as a model of socio-economic development.

Green Economy is one in which the production of goods and services is done with negligible levels of pollution of land, air and water. It is an economic system in which the production of goods and services does not lead to the destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems. An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system while biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth.

Biodiversity is essentially a measure of variation at the ecosystem (habitat), genetic and species level. Under a green economy, growth in employment and incomes at both micro and macro levels is achieved by public and private investments in economic activities such as manufacturing, infrastructure and assets that have low or negligible carbon emissions and cannot pollute land or water resources.

A successful green economy thrives on five principles namely;

The efficiency and sufficiency principle: This is a recognition of limits in the consumption of natural resources to that of what is physically available. This principle offers a guideline as to what incentives, prices and subsidies should be given to costs to society as a result of pollution or adherence to green production of goods and services. In this principle, prosperity for all is created within the available natural resource envelope; it discourages wastage of resources, promotes recycling of products and conserves the existing resources.

The wellbeing principle; This is a belief that all citizens must create and enjoy prosperity. This principle puts citizens in the centre of activities to ensure that not only financial wellbeing for the citizens is attained but promotes the citizens’ access to knowledge, education, health, infrastructure and sustainable natural systems. It focuses on growing wealth that supports human, social, physical and natural capitals.

The good governance principle: In a green economy, institutions must be accountable, resilient, collaborative, interdisciplinary, coherent and integrated. Institutions that support a green economy must have these six linkages vertically across the governance levels and horizontally across sectors. Decentralisation of decision making for local economies and management of natural systems while maintaining strong common, centralised standards, procedures, and compliance systems is key for the sustenance of a green economy.

The planetary boundaries principle: A green economy restores, invests and safeguards natural resources. This principle enables a green economy to promote and nurture nature’s functional, ecological and cultural values of providing goods & services, all of life itself and that supports communities respectively. This principle recognises the limited substitutability of natural capital with other capitals, employing the precautionary principle to avoid loss of critical natural capital and breaching ecological limits. Consequently, the principle fosters investments in protecting, growing and restoring biodiversity, soil, water, air, and natural systems for sustainable socio-economic development.

The justice principle: This principle promotes equity within and between generations across ethnicity, social classes, religious, political affiliation, and gender lines. It ensures an equitable distribution of opportunities and outcomes to all citizens. It promotes the survival of human beings as well as wildlife and wilderness; all are given ample space to thrive. It is based on solidarity and social justice where no one is left behind; the rights and welfare of the marginalised and the minority are uplifted.

By making the Environment a stand-alone ministry which was an appendage of the Ministry of Water Development & Sanitation under the Patriotic Front (PF) administration, President Hichilema has signalled that this new Ministry of Green Economy and Environment will be a very key ministry and will influence policy in other ministries like Finance, Infrastructure, Housing & Urban Development, Commerce, Trade and Industry; Small and Medium Enterprises, Science & Technology, Transport & Logistics, Energy, Agriculture, Tourism & Arts, Fisheries & Livestock , Lands, Mines & Minerals; and Water Development & Sanitation. The ministry will also influence the design of buildings, accounting and finance activities of the corporate world, among others.

On a comparative basis, the green economy component of the proposed new ministry mirrors the Ministry of National Development and Planning under the PF government except that the former is broader. Once operational the ministry is poised to receive preferential donor funding and will be earning the country revenue in various forms like emissions trading, ecotax, carbon fees & dividends, etc.

When he officially opened Parliament on 10 September 2021, President Hichilema highlighted the ministries dealing with agriculture, mining, tourism, energy, commerce & industry and transport as some of the key drivers for job creation. If the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment will be operating as stated above, it will for instance crash with the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock & Fisheries. The point of contention with the Ministry of Agriculture will be when the it tries to implement the President’s directive for increased food security by say, increasing rice production.

In as much as rice is a desired food crop, its production increases the emission of greenhouse gases like methane (ch₄). Another source of methane is livestock animals especially beef and dairy cattle, they emit huge quantities of methane in the atmosphere, and game animals like elephants are also major emitters of methane. Scientific studies have established that one cow can produce between 250 to 500 litres of methane per day.

During the same opening of Parliament, President Hichilema expressed his government’s desire to increase on rail transport. Trains consume huge quantities of diesel which emit carbon dioxide (co₂) in the atmosphere. So as the ministries of agriculture, livestock, tourism and transport will be planning to expand on their economic activities as directed by the President, the Ministry of Green Economy will be watching them with a keen eye of a detective. Although carbon dioxide is much more abundant in the atmosphere than methane, the latter traps roughly 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (co₂) and methane (ch₄) are the sources of extreme high temperatures that are affecting climate changes. Perhaps this explains the droughts and scanty rainfall patterns experienced in Southern and Western provinces.

The two provinces have a culture of rearing cattle which over the years have been emitting methane in the atmosphere leading to extreme heat conditions. It will be the task of this proposed new ministry to use the Planetary Boundaries Principle so as to come up with mitigating interventions that will minimise or eradicate the emission of methane by cattle without disturbing this centuries old tradition of cattle raring amongst our people in these two provinces.

The Green Economy ministry is expected to, among other policy issues, formulate legislation/regulations on carbon and environmental pricing such as carbon tax, carbon price, carbon fee & dividend, carbon finance, emissions trading, climate finance, ecotax etc. It is expected to influence policies on energy like the commercialisation of renewable energy, feed-in tariff, carbon leakages, 2,000-watt society, carbon-neutral fuel, net metering etc. Another area in which the proposed new ministry is expected to take a lead is in climate change to deal with mitigating climate change, sustainable energy, food miles, carbon footprints and green new deal.

Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done in the proposed new ministry and will be the first point of call for graduates from the Copperbelt University /University of Zambia Schools of Natural Sciences and Faculties of Natural Resources. The new ministry is expected to create linkages with these two institutions so that the needs of the ministry are included in the syllabus.

It is pleasing to note that the proposed minister for this new Ministry of Green Economy and Environment who has since been sworn-in is Nangoma parliamentarian Collins Nzovu, an alumina of the catholic run St. Paul’s Secondary School in Kabwe and the University of Zambia. The Catholic Church is a pioneer in protecting the environment. To that effect the current Pope, Francis, has issued an encyclical Laudato Si on how to take care of the environment. Nzovu is a well educated and experienced civil engineer with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and it is hoped that he is equal to the huge task that awaits him at the proposed new ministry.

Send comment to: kkapaya@yahoo.com.

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