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Zimbabwe and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Working papers

In addition to the global review and synthesis being carried out by researchers at ODI, a number of case studies have been commissioned to examine in detail the experiences of three developing countries – Bolivia, Guyana and Zimbabwe – in international negotiations at the WTO and the UNFCCC. This study is focused specifically on the involvement of Zimbabwe in the negotiations and functioning of the UNFCCC, although the information and insights gained will contribute to the broader assessment of the effectiveness of developing countries in these negotiations, the constraints they experience, and how best these can be overcome. A separate study is being undertaken on Zimbabwe’s involvement in the WTO negotiations. The ultimate objective of this sub-project is to help increase the effectiveness of Zimbabwe’s participation in international governance and institutions. To do this requires a study of the country’s involvement in the UNFCCC negotiations framed by the following questions.

• What forms of participation to date have been effective in attaining the country’s goals?
• What constraints there are to more effective participation in the negotiations and agreements of the UNFCCC and how best these can be overcome?
• What types of assistance are needed to enhance and maintain the country’s capacity to participate in international negotiations?
• What needs to be done to help establish and maintain national capacity for research, analysis and synthesis needed to support the country’s negotiators at the UNFCCC.

A secondary objective is to consider the impact of climate-change policy on poverty. To this end the circumstances under which it is to Zimbabwe’s advantage to participate in international agreements to manage the impact of external forces on poverty will be examined.

The negotiations surrounding climate change mitigation are particularly complex due to the clash of national and international objectives; the range of pressure groups and their objectives involved; and the intricacy of the technical and scientific issues. Some of the more specific questions and issues that this study attempts to address are as follows.
• What is the nature and extent of Zimbabwe’s participation in the UNFCCC? Is this level of participation considered sufficient or could it be approved?
• Has the level and manner of participation changed since the UNFCCC was set up in
1992? What have been the driving forces behind these changes, if any?
• What is the organisational structure of the Zimbabwe Government’s response to the issue of global climate change and the associated negotiations and activities to address these issues? In what ways could this structure be reorganised to function more effectively?
• What are Zimbabwe’s principal concerns and objectives in relation to the UNFCCC?
What is the balance between national and global concerns, and what are the priorities among them? How are these priorities decided? What necessary trade-offs are there between national and international objectives?
• What is the process by which national objectives and associated policy on climate change issues are decided? Which stakeholder groups are involved in this process, and how?
• To what extent and how is the public consulted, and their views taken into account, in formulating a national position? What role, if any, does the private sector play in this process, and is it generally supportive of national initiatives in this regard?
• What forms of support – briefings, information, research and training – are given to Zimbabwe’s delegates prior to the Conferences of Parties and other meetings of the UNFCCC? From which organisations are briefings and information obtained? Are the amount, quality and timeliness of this information considered adequate, particularly on the interface between national and global concerns?
• What has Zimbabwe been able to achieve at the various Conference of Parties and other meetings of the UNFCCC? Is there satisfaction or frustration at the outcomes of these negotiations? In what ways could the outcomes be more favourable to Zimbabwe’s interests?
• To what extent and in what ways do the UNFCCC processes of consultation help or hinder open and fair discussion and negotiation? How could they be improved? Has
Zimbabwe had any impact on the negotiating process or its outcomes and, if so, how?
• What are the main limitations on Zimbabwe’s negotiating capacity? In what ways could the country be better prepared for future Conference of Parties? What information and assistance would help Zimbabwe negotiate more effectively to achieve its objectives? For example, is there a need for more research and, if so, in what areas?
• Could Zimbabwe pursue its objectives more effectively through regional representation rather than acting on its own? To what extent does Zimbabwe work with other countries in southern Africa on UNFCCC-related issues? How does this cooperation work? Are there any preparatory meetings? How are differences in objectives within this group resolved? Are the more specific national objectives compromised when negotiating as a group? Do the benefits of negotiation through regional groupings outweigh the transaction costs involved? If none of this happens, why is this?
• Can poverty and welfare concerns in developing countries such as Zimbabwe be reconciled with the international environmental agenda being promoted by many of the industrialised nations? Are the supposedly mutually-beneficial and most cost-effective means of abating climate change that are being promoted by industrialised countries compatible with Zimbabwe’s development agenda? What is Zimbabwe’s position on the issue of carbon sequestration in forests in developing countries, both to offset carbon emissions elsewhere in the world and bring economic and development benefits to local communities in and around those forests?

To put the answers to these questions in context, an extended profile of the country, in environmental, demographic, socio-economic and development terms, is presented first. This is followed by an analysis of the main environment and development issues, and the range of activities being undertaken to address these. Finally, the nature, extent and outcomes of Zimbabwe’s involvement in the UNFCCC are considered, along with an assessment of the constraints and how these might be alleviated.

Peter G.H. Frost