During the swearing-in ceremony for ministers, President Hakainde Hichilema unveiled one of the three new ministries, Green Economy and Environment. Apparently, this is the only ministry with a brand new name that has never been heard of in Zambia’s governance circles. Many people should be asking themselves, and rightly so, what is involved in the green economy. The green economy was invented by British economists in 1989. It has grown over the years to the point of being adopted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as a model for socio-economic development.
The green economy is an economy in which the production of goods and services takes place with negligible levels of soil, air and water pollution. 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 non-living components of their environment, interacting as a system while biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth.
Biodiversity is primarily a measure of variation at the ecosystem (habitat), genetic, and species levels. In a green economy, employment and income growth at the micro and macro levels is achieved through 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 thriving green economy is based on five principles, namely;
The principle of efficiency and sufficiency: This is a recognition of the limits of the consumption of natural resources to that of what is physically available. This principle offers a guideline on the incentives, prices and subsidies that should be given to the costs to society due to pollution or adherence to green production of goods and services. In this principle, prosperity for all is created within the envelope of available natural resources; it discourages the waste of resources, promotes product recycling and conserves existing resources.
The principle of well-being; It is a belief that all citizens must create and enjoy prosperity. This principle places citizens at the center of activities to ensure that not only the financial well-being of citizens is achieved, but promotes citizens’ access to knowledge, education, health, infrastructure and natural systems. sustainable. It focuses on the growth of wealth that sustains human, social, physical and natural capital.
The principle of good governance: In a green economy, institutions must be accountable, resilient, collaborative, interdisciplinary, coherent and integrated. Institutions that support a green economy must have these six links vertically across levels of governance and horizontally across sectors. Decentralizing decision-making for local economies and the management of natural systems while maintaining strong common and centralized standards, procedures and compliance systems is essential for sustaining a green economy.
The principle of planetary limits: A green economy restores, invests and preserves natural resources. This principle enables a green economy to promote and nurture the functional, ecological and cultural values of nature by providing goods and services, all of life itself and that sustains communities respectively. This principle recognizes the limited substitutability of natural capital with other capitals, using the precautionary principle to avoid the loss of critical natural capital and the overstepping of ecological limits. Therefore, the principle encourages investments in the protection, growth and restoration of biodiversity, soil, water, air and natural systems for sustainable socio-economic development.
The principle of justice: This principle promotes equity within and between generations across ethnicity, social class, religion, political affiliation and gender lines. It guarantees a fair distribution of opportunities and results for all citizens. It promotes the survival of human beings as well as wildlife and wilderness; all have ample room to flourish. It is based on solidarity and social justice where no one is left behind; the rights and well-being of the marginalized and the minority are high.
By making the Environment an autonomous ministry which was an appendix of the Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation under the administration of the Patriotic Front (FP), President Hichilema pointed out that this new Ministry of the Economy Green and Environment will be a very key ministry and will influence the policy of other ministries such as Finance, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, Trade, Commerce and Industry; Small and medium-sized enterprises, science and technology, transport and logistics, energy, agriculture, tourism and the arts, fishing and animal husbandry, land, mines and minerals; and Water development and sanitation. The ministry will also influence the design of buildings, accounting and financial 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 earn income from the country in various forms such as emissions trading, eco-tax, carbon royalties and dividends, etc. .
During the official opening of Parliament on September 10, 2021, President Hichilema stressed that the ministries responsible for agriculture, mines, tourism, energy, trade and industry and transport were part the main drivers of job creation. If the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment operates as stated above, it will for example collapse with the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock and Fisheries. The point of contention with the agriculture ministry will be when it tries to implement the president’s directive for increased food security, for example by increasing rice production.
Since rice is a popular food crop, its production increases greenhouse gas emissions such as methane (ch₄). Livestock, especially beef cattle and dairy cows, are another source of methane. They emit huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere, and game such as elephants are also major emitters of methane. Scientific studies have established that a cow can produce between 250 and 500 liters of methane per day.
At the same opening of Parliament, President Hichilema expressed his government’s desire to increase rail transport. Trains consume huge amounts of diesel which emits carbon dioxide (co₂) into the atmosphere. While the ministries of agriculture, livestock, tourism and transport plan to expand their economic activities as directed by the president, the ministry of green economy will keep a detective eye on them. Although carbon dioxide is much more abundant in the atmosphere than methane, the latter traps about 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (co₂) and methane (ch₄) are the sources of extremely high temperatures that affect climate change. This may explain the droughts and low rainfall observed in the southern and western provinces.
Both provinces have a culture of cattle ranching which over the years has emitted methane into the atmosphere resulting in extremely hot conditions. It will be the task of this proposed new ministry to use the principle of planetary boundaries to propose mitigation interventions that will minimize or eliminate methane emissions from livestock without disrupting this age-old tradition of cattle ranching among our people in these two provinces.
The Ministry of Green Economy should, among other policy issues, formulate laws / regulations on carbon and environmental pricing, such as carbon tax, carbon pricing, carbon royalty and dividend, carbon finance carbon, emissions trading, climate finance, eco-tax, etc. influencing energy policies such as the marketing of renewables, feed-in tariffs, carbon leakage, the 2000-watt society, carbon-neutral fuels, net metering, etc. Another area in which the proposed new ministry is expected to take the lead is that of climate change to deal with climate change mitigation, sustainable energy, food miles, carbon footprint and the green new deal.
Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done in the proposed new ministry and will be the first point of call for graduates of Natural Sciences Schools and Natural Resources Faculties at Copperbelt University / University of Zambia. The new ministry should create links with these two institutions so that the needs of the ministry are included in the program.
It’s nice to note that the proposed minister for this new Green Economy and Environment Ministry who has since been sworn in is MP Nangoma Collins Nzovu, an alumina from St. Paul’s Catholic High School in Kabwe and from the University of Zambia. The Catholic Church is a pioneer in the protection of the environment. To this end, the current Pope, Francis, has published a Laudato Si encyclical on how to take care of the environment. Nzovu is a well-trained and experienced civil engineer with a bachelor’s and master’s degree and it is hoped that he is up to the enormous task that awaits him in the proposed new ministry.
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