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Climate Change – Bleak Future for Zanzibar Economy

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BY ISSA YUSSUF, 29 AUGUST 2012

ZANZIBAR is already highly vulnerable to climate variability, and will be amongst most affected by future climate change, while sea level rise received most attention; there are multiple risks, particularly to ecosystem services that underpin island economies.

This is a concluding paragraph in a research report conducted on ‘Climate Change on Zanzibar: Impacts, Adaptation, Economics &Low Carbon Growth’ by the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership, and local partners. Thanks to the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for funding. Researchers in the report launched two weeks ago, have advised Zanzibar that adaptation can reduce the risks, cautioning of cost, and requires necessary finance and capacity to access and effectively use resources.

Mr Paul Watkiss, the research project director, led other experts in the eight month research in the Islands advising further, Zanzibar to act now, including considering Low carbon development by providing a more sustainable energy future, development and sustainability benefits, and opportunities for finance

The objectives of the study were to: Assess climate change impacts and their economic costs for Zanzibar, analyze costs and benefits of adapting to these effects over different timescales, assess the potential for low carbon growth, including development benefits and finance opportunities, and build national capacity and take advantage of local knowledge. In a general perspective a large proportion of Zanzibar’s GDP and most of the livelihoods on the islands are associated with climate sensitivity activities, either directly such as with agriculture or tourism, or indirectly for example from the use of natural resources.

Therefore the economy and people of the islands are very dependent on the weather and climate. However, the finding in the research shows that climate of Zanzibar has been changing, and in the last decade has seen a significant increase in extreme events (climate variability), the recent extreme events such as droughts and floods, as example, which has led to major economic costs.

The researcher observed that future climate change may also lead to a change in the frequency or severity of such extreme weather events, potentially worsening impacts, and that it will also change the climate of the islands, leading to a number of potential impacts. “As an island, Zanzibar will be potentially be affected by sea level rise and coastal erosion, as well as possible impacts on the agriculture and tourism industries. The islands have a rich marine environment that provides important ecosystem services, and these are particularly at risk,” the report says.

In her speech at the launch of the report, Ms Fatma Abdulhabib Fereji- State Minister responsible for climate change and environment said the study is to prepare “our country along the pathway of a green and climate-resilient economy. In order to minimize the impacts and maximize the opportunities posed by climate change, Zanzibar must now plan and implement appropriate actions and coordinated response towards climate change.”

She said that there was importance of mobilizing climate funding from a variety of sources, public, and private bilateral and multilateral, regional and international, including innovative sources of finance, to support Zanzibar’s need on climate change adaptation and mitigation plan, should be recognized and taken seriously. The minister said that although Zanzibar is already benefiting from climate change finance such as a pilot programme for climate resilience supported by the government of Japan under the UNDP-AAP programme, and the implementation of HIMA-REDD project financed by the Government of Norway through care International, “but more is required.”

Fatma thanked development partners and DFID for supporting the study, as she emphasized, “It is extremely important that any climate change policy, strategy, action plan, National Mitigation Actions (NAMA) and alike of the United Republic of Tanzania (URT) should have a specific bearing on the needs and uniqueness of Zanzibar. Only then can the URT show a unified commitment in mainstreaming the issues of climate change adaptation in every corner of its society.”

On his part the Zanzibar climate change committee chairperson- Dr Omar Shajak said “We all know that climate change is real and the impacts of climate change on our environmental, social, and economic setting are visible. The debate has now moved from whether climate is happening or not, rather it has moved towards how we can prepare our country against the negative impacts of climate change, as described in the goals of MKUZA-II.”

He explained that MKUZA-II focuses on the national capacity to mitigate and adapt the impacts of climate change on Zanzibar by year 2015. “This can be done through strengthening of climate change adaptation responses at all levels of our economic sectors,” he said. Shajak pointed out that the path towards climate adaptation is not an easy one, and that it requires a national determination to engage all the three major options of climate change which include: capacity building in climate risk mapping, climate monitoring and awareness programsme; short-term NO regret options that focus on strengthened environmental management, protection and conservation; and climate screening in policies, planning, projects and on infrastructure.

“…there are many areas in Unguja and Pemba that are already experiencing this impact. Examples include increased salinity in the coastal wells; natural degradation of existing sea boundaries; intrusion of soil water to the crop fields; and destruction of fragile infrastructure,” he said. As example of some negative impacts of climate change in Zanzibar in last decade, the researchers mentioned in their report, rising impacts such as the 2005 flood (highest intensity of rainfall on record), which made 10,000 people homeless, and estimated economic cost 0.5 per cent of the GDP.

In 2007 drought (low and erratic rains) one of worst agricultural harvests, reduced island GDP by 2 – 4 per cent leading to about 300,000 people in malnutrition in 2008; 2009 and 2011. Wind storms (wind speeds increased in recent years), and major damage from monsoon winds, with property destruction. In the same year (2007) heat wave (highest ever recorded on island), and Sea surface temperatures highest on record, affecting seaweed industry.

The researchers also observed that future climate change will lead to high economic costs in “developing countries especially Africa and small Islands like Zanzibar, likely to have higher relative impacts with uncertain economic costs than other world regions.” It is mentioned in the report that future changes also threaten national growth/development objectives, risks of non-marginal changes (irreversible loss), and that without global mitigation, post 2030 impacts would be very severe.

Coral bleaching, mangroves destruction, drop in fisheries, agriculture, and tourism, are other likely threats, but the risks can be reduced through adaptation; protection, but also measures of coastal vegetation buffer zones. Agriculture: with no adaptation, maize yields in Zanzibar could decline significantly, though minor crop on the islands, possible effects for rice, and potential risk to cloves from wind speeds and changing zone.

Energy: For Zanzibar, potential effects on electricity supply via submarine cable (interconnector) from Tanzania mainland’s national Grid, disruptions in recent years affected tourist sector and whole economy, but also increasing electricity demand on island for cooling (air conditioning) from hotter temperatures, therefore power is important because of tourism industry. Health: effects of climate change – major impacts likely around food and water borne disease, possible risks of new vector borne, and effects of flooding.

Ecosystem services: Provision, regulation, support, and recreational and cultural services, which includes large economic benefits, this would underpin very large percentage of economy of small island developing states, in Zanzibar, provision of food and supporting industry (fisheries), and coral (tourism). Coastal protection (mangroves) and many other areas, key to growth, exports, revenues, and terrestrial ecosystems on small island states vulnerable to shifting ecological zones, and growing recognition of the role for ecosystem based adaptation.

Tourism: often major sector for small island developing states, large part of tourism driven by climate (tourism comfort index). Climate change may reduce attractiveness, especially beach tourism, for Zanzibar, tourism attractiveness is a more complex mix of climate, cultural and historic, natural resource based.

Climate change will act directly and indirectly, cross cutting through all sectors (sea level rise, coastal erosion, marine, water, energy, ecosystem services), emerging linkages with low carbon (aviation). The researchers put emphasis on adaptation to reduce the impacts of climate change, and that practical adaptation requires different approach: Capacity building and soft (ecosystem based) options, not just technical, options that robust against future uncertainty, framework of decision making under uncertainty, and Iterative (risk based) decision making.

Electricity supply: Invest in renewable generation investing in indigenous energy to increase system capacity in view of future demand, and away from expensive back-up, improve infrastructure and demand efficiency, reducing grid losses and increasing efficiency of use through improved, appliances could potentially reduce future supply needs significantly. Urban and transport sustainability: Promotion of non-motorised transport.

This could be done through restricting vehicles in certain areas or further incentivizing cycling/walking by promoting safety or via other incentives e.g. credit schemes. Vehicle efficiency promoted through import restrictions and/or maintenance/inspection regimes. Agriculture: Improved cropland management a range of practices for enhancing agricultural system resilience, increasing productivity and for developing carbon finance projects; and promotion of sustainable tourism by addressing energy efficiency and wider carbon footprint, to enhance tourism sector image, long term sustainability and energy supply.

Source: allAfrica

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