Government’s recent awarding of two coal mining concessions to Chinese companies inside the Hwange National Park has laid bare Zimbabwe’s feigned desire to meet carbon emission cuts in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Zimbabwe signed the agreement in 2016 pledging commitment to global efforts in mitigating climate change with the reduction of carbon emissions among the key areas of focus.
According to the Agreement targets, governments should cut on carbon emissions and limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.
However, across the globe efforts to cut on greenhouse gas emissions remain far from satisfactory and for Zimbabwe in particular, government appears insincere in acting on its commitments.
Despite launching the National Renewable Energy Policy in March this year, the government continues to act otherwise, with a series of fossil energy projects in the pipeline.
The 600 Megawatt Hwange expansion project is testament that Zimbabwe will rely on coal for power generation for years to come.
This has been exacerbated by the recent awarding of coal mining concessions to Chinese companies on Hwange National Park despite the recent contract termination by government after a public outcry by wildlife conservationists.
While Zimbabwe is desperate for investment, the problem with the Chinese is that they have showed complete disregard of reducing carbon emissions and thus spending huge investments on coal projects globally.
According to Clean Coal Centre, China is bankrolling up to 60 proposed coal power plants in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America, and together they will emit as much CO2 as all of Spain and 11 of these coal plants are in Africa.
At this rate, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2010 stated that by 2030 emissions will be 27 percent and 38 percent higher than is needed to limit warming to 2C and 1.5C, respectively.
According to Worldometer, global statistics provider, CO2 emissions per capita in Zimbabwe is equivalent to 0.72 tons per person (based on a population of 14,030,331 in 2016).
Despite the figures being relatively lower than they are in developed countries, environmentalists argue that each country has to play its part in cutting emissions.
This comes at a time other countries such as France, Portugal and UK are shutting down coal power stations and pouring more resources on clean energy projects.
In April this year, Sweden became the third European nation after Austria and Belgium to shut down its last coal power plant as more countries continue to cut their emissions.
In July this year, South Africa cancelled the proposed 600 MW Khanyisa coal-fired power plant in the Mpumalanga province.
However, for African countries, Zimbabwe included the costs of switching to clean energy alternatives remains the greatest challenge.
Paltry resources towards clean energy and misappropriation of funds by government has slowed the transition. One point of reference is the Gwanda solar project that has taken years to be completed due to corruption.
On a positive note, private sector has taken upon itself to spur the drive towards clean energy with corporates such a Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and plenty other industries setting up solar plants.
Zimbabwean government, to its credit, has also put in place measures to attract investment into clean energy by according them National Project status with incentives attached.
But with more and more coal projects still being pursuit in Zimbabwe and globally, UNEP predicts that the 1.5C temperature increase cap by 2030 as per the Paris Agreement will slip out of reach.