Environmentalists in Zimbabwe are reacting angrily to President Emmerson Mnangagwa's address at the COP26 conference, where he pledged his government's fight against deforestation and climate change.
Environmentalists say the government is busy dishing out land to companies, mainly Chinese, to mine coal for energy use, which COP26 wants phased out.
Tuesday in Scotland, President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, where he urged developed countries to pay for causing global warming by emitting gases into the atmosphere.
He said developing nations like Zimbabwe were paying for the consequences of those emissions.
He also pledged his country’s cooperation in the fight against climate change.
“Zimbabwe has revised its nationally determined contributions, a committed conditional 40% per capita greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030. Comprehensive strategies are being implemented towards mainstreaming climate change adaptation and resilience across all sectors of our economy,” Mnangagwa said.
This comes at a time when environmentalists in Zimbabwe are asking the government to revoke an exploration license recently awarded to a Chinese company to mine coal for energy use.
The Center for Natural Resource Governance is one of the organizations opposing the license. The group promotes green energy, and fears that exploration for coal will cause greater deforestation.
Henry Nyapokoto, the program manager for the group, said Mnangagwa’s comments run contrary to what he sees going on.
“But the government has been in overdrive mode to promote mining everywhere in order to reach the $12 billion mining economy. In fact, it won’t (make) ecological sense for Zimbabwe to attain a $12 billion economy based on bad models of production, bad consumption, that leaves a huge ecological footprint or a legacy of an ecological disaster. We all understand that mining comes with destruction of forests that serves as carbon sinks and habitat for wildlife,” Nyapokoto said.
Nyapokoto added that Zimbabwe was exploring oil and gas on its northeast border with Zambia, another project that could lead to deforestation.
“Despite the impact of oil and gas on global warming, there will be (a) visible, immediate direct effect of this oil and gas mining on local communities or ecosystems. Land will be cleared for mining and other infrastructure that is going to support that mining. That is contrary to the greening of the economy that they are talking about in Glasgow,” Nyapokoto said.
He said Zimbabwe was in the top 10 of countries of deforestation, with about 300,000 hectares of forests destroyed annually.
But Byron Zamasiya of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association says Mnangagwa was genuine in his COP26 address about fighting deforestation caused by need for energy.
“So, the issue of fighting deforestation is a key ingredient for addressing greenhouse gas emissions for Zimbabwe. The trees act as a carbon sink since they absorb carbon dioxide, which is a major cause of global warming. What we may want as a country is to make available alternative sources of energy, especially for the rural communities who rely on wood fuel and account for the major part of deforestation. We may also need to promote intensive farming methods as opposed to extensive farming methods that require bigger fields and the clearing of new forests for fields," Zamasiya said.
The Environmental Management Agency in Zimbabwe has been fining people caught cutting or burning forests. But so far, that hasn’t stopped the trees from coming down.