Uganda Must Drop the Bad Energy

Uganda's actions might not be the best ones to achieve its climate commitments.
A Break Free Campaign against fossil fuels on May 3rd, 2016.

On 22 April, 175 countries signed the 2015 Paris Agreement at the UN Headquarters in New York. The event established a record for the first international agreement to be signed by all those parties on just the first day.

Uganda represented by its Prime Minister, Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda also signed the agreement. Hon. Ruhakana Ruganda in his statement said,

“… All of us must commit ourselves to carrying this bold step forward by ratifying and eventually domesticating the said Agreement in order to give it the necessary legal effect under our respective national legislation. We re-affirm our commitment to implementing the various relevant measures and actions; as spelt-out in the Agreement.”

Two days earlier however, on 20 April, 2016, Uganda had just made the decision, endorsing a highly anticipated announcement, on where Uganda’s oil pipeline would pass. Being Uganda a landlocked country, this decision involved creating a route going through either Kenya or Tanzania and the latter was chosen. The major oil companies that were pushing for this decision were the French Total vouching for the Tanzanian route and British Tullow for the Kenyan route because of their interests in the oil in Turkana region as well. Lengthy explanations were given for the decision but none touched the very sensitive topic of climate change and fossil fuels.

In the meanwhile, thousands of people from countries like the Philippines, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa and many others are taking part in the Break Free from Fossil Fuel Campaign, a campaign that is intended to peacefully escalate actions to keep fossil-fuels, coal, oil and gas in the ground.  The break free campaigns are targeting the world’s most dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel projects, like the one currently going on in Uganda, which don’t take into account the current and future catastrophes they know they will cause.

Uganda has consistently been an active member in all the international climate change negotiations. Uganda even created the Parliamentary Forum for Climate Change (PFCC), a parliamentary body that was to handle climate change issues. Unfortunately, this forum did no perceptible work at all.

In 2008, the Ugandan government created the Climate Change Department (CCD) that was to be directly under the office of the Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Water and Environment, whose main objective was to strengthen Uganda’s implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. The CCD has done some tangible work. For example, they launched Uganda Green Growth Development Strategy (UGGDS) last year whose aim is to promote a healthy functioning of the earth’s eco-system alongside poverty eradication and sustainable economic growth. In 2015, the CCD initiated the development of a legal framework through a Climate Change Bill which is expected to be passed this year before June 30th.

Whereas the CCD and the Ministry of Water and Environment are working around the clock to ensure that Uganda plays its role in combatting climate change and its effects, the government, through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, is undermining all these efforts.

Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, headed by Hon. Irene Muloni, is the ministry that deals with energy policy, investments in mining, the establishment of new power generating infrastructure using hydro power, thermal power, solar power and nuclear power (all renewable energy sources). The ministry has five main departments which include the departments of Energy Resources, Geological Survey and Mines, Petroleum Exploration and Production, Petroleum Supplies, and Support Services.

This ministry, although currently investing in clean energy, is the backbone of oil exploration and production in Uganda. Irrespective of all the commitments made by Uganda to UNFCCC, this ministry chooses to sidestep those commitments to fulfill its agendas and continue to extract oil.

Having signed the 2015 COP21 Paris agreement, all the previous UNFCCC agreements and also being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and its effects, one would believe that a country like Uganda would be at the forefront trying to beat climate change by all means.

Uganda has suffered diverse climate change effects like floods, landslides and droughts despite having one of the world’s lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita estimated at only 1.39tonns as opposed to the world’s average emissions at 7.99tons of carbon dioxide.

In the January 2002 Report by Uganda to UNFCCC, an estimated 1000 people had died from flood related events, 11,000 had been hospitalised and 150.000 people had been displaced from their homes. In 2013, 5 villages were buried by landslides in Eastern Uganda displacing almost 1000 people. Recently in January, 2016, Karamoja region, in North Eastern Uganda was under aid from UN World Food Program (WFP) because of a drought that had hit the region. Also the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) of Uganda estimated that if the current trend of deforestation continues, by 2050 Uganda will have no forests at all.

With all these outrageous occurrences, it is inconceivable how the Ugandan government is going ahead to endorse oil deals which carry even more grave impacts on not just the environment but on people’s health and wellbeing. The oil production set to take off in the 2020s is inevitably going to increase Uganda’s emissions and thereby catalysing the impacts of climate change. Unfortunately the worst hit are always the poor who don’t have sufficient means or knowledge to protect themselves.

It is a shame that one country can work so hard to sabotage both itself and its citizens. The Prime Minister in his speech beckoned on developed countries to intervene in fighting climate change by providing resources to developing countries.  However, how can aid be given yet these same countries are catalysing these same effects for which they seek help?

If Uganda is seeking sympathisers, it must drop the bad energy chase now and start respecting the agreement that it signed by implementing it.

Categories
Environment
Agodo Shabella Patience

Agodo Shabella Patience is a Ugandan Lawyer with keen interest on the Environment and Climate change. She is the founder and Executive Director of Green Teso Initiative a climate change Advocacy NGO based in Eastern Uganda.

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