In the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow, UK between 31 October and 12 November 2021, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the environmental challenges they face in their contexts, the actions they are undertaking to tackle them and their expectations for the upcoming summit.
CIVICUS speaks with Mubiru Huzaifah of Uganda’s Ecological Christian Organisation (ECO), a civil society organisation working for sustainable livelihoods for marginalised, under-served and vulnerable groups in Uganda. ECO’s current initiatives focus on natural resource governance, climate change resilience and adaptation, and ecosystems management and restoration.
What's the key climate issue in your country that you're working on?
The issue that most worries us is the high vulnerability levels that climate change is causing in human systems. The long-term change of climatic elements from previously accepted means is causing environmental and human systems to change. According to state of environment reports issued by the Ugandan National Environmental Management Authority, the main issues related to the changing climate include industrial pollution, widespread bush burning, the inefficient use of fuel and poorly planned transport networks, all of which result in high emission levels.
Are there any government initiatives on climate change mitigation?
There is a mitigation project being implemented under the Ministry of Water and Environment – Farm Income Enhancement and Forest Conservation – which gives out free seedlings to be planted to enhance the absorption capacity of the soil. There is the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme, aimed at increasing the incomes of rural people through commercial tree planting by local communities as well as medium and large-scale businesses, which at the same time helps to mitigate climate change effects through intensive reforestation. There are also several solar projects in the Mayuge, Soroti and Tororo districts, which have increased the country’s solar production, and a wetland project – supported by the Green Climate Fund – supporting wetlands conservation and addressing wetland degradation.
Other relevant interventions include the implementation of gravity water flow schemes to enable water supply without use of energy sources; the development of highways with water drainage channels and solar lights and congestion-free road networks that will enable the smooth flow of traffic and cut down on emissions from automobiles; and the adoption of electric or emissions-free motorcycles to further reduce emissions from fossil energy sources, which the Ministry of Energy is working on alongside the private sector.
What kind of work does ECO do on these issues?
ECO’s work is aimed at enhancing the resilience of communities to the impacts of climate change, strengthening disaster risk reduction, enhancing good governance and management of natural resources, especially in the extractives sector, and promoting ecosystems management and restoration.
For instance, as part of a project aimed at promoting and supporting community-conserved areas in the Lake Victoria Basin, we have provided support for legal fishing practices, promoted and provided training on sustainable farming promotion and supported good local resource governance practices. Another project is aimed at increasing transparency, social inclusion, accountability and responsiveness among those responsible for mining in the Karamoja region.
In these and in many other projects we are working on, we always seek drive to change by putting people at risk at the centre and building on local and traditional resources and knowledge. We try to link the humanitarian and development domains by focusing on livelihoods. We work to ensure adaptive planning, trying to link local realities with global processes and integrate disciplines and approaches to encompass different risks. We partner with communities, civil society organisations, government agencies, universities and research institutes, the private sector and the media.
How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?
We connect with the global climate movement through the Climate Action Network-Uganda, which encompasses over 200 national CSOs. We currently chair this. This allows us to participate in COP meetings as observers.
We also participate in the pre-COP consultative meetings organised by the Ugandan government in preparation for international climate change negotiations. In these meetings, we help assess progress in dealing with climate change and complying with our nationally determined contributions.
We turn our lessons learned into advocacy actions that can be adapted for international climate change forums. Some local problems can feed into the national agenda, be turned into policy actions and go on to influence international policy actions.
What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26 to make progress on climate change mitigation efforts?
We hope that COP26 will come up with a new marketing platform for emission trading to replace the Clean Development Mechanism, which allowed countries with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement emission-reduction projects in developing countries. We also hope it will result in the commitment of more funds to accelerate the scaling up of renewable energies.
These international processes are relevant as long as they contribute towards the financing of climate mitigation efforts and produce novel funding strategies, such as the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund, and its pilot programme to foster innovation in adaptation practices in vulnerable countries. Coming from a developing country, I believe that it is critical to increase adaptation funding immediately, since the disruptive impacts of climate change on human systems are already apparent.
What one change would you like to see – in the world or in your community – to help address the climate crisis?
A key priority is to address vulnerability at the community level. Our vision is that of a community with enhanced adaptive capacity to address climate change impacts and its subsequent effects. This can be done by increasing access to working technologies and providing mitigation and adaptation funding through community structures.