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NEWS: Getting to grips with the economics of climate change in Uganda

The much-anticipated Economic Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change in Uganda kicked off with an inception meeting on January 20th in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The study promises a desperately needed quantification of the potential socio-economic costs of climate change for the land-locked east African country.

Government, civil society, and the research consortium led by Baastel gathered in Kampala to outline project objectives, methodologies, and receive feedback from key stakeholders. The inception meeting was well attended by a wide range of government ministries, including Water and Environment; Finance Planning and Economic Development; Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries; Energy and Mineral Development; Local Government; and the National Planning Authority. Civil society attendees comprised of the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance, African Women’s Economic Policy Network, Makerere University, and USAID Uganda. The Dutch Embassy in Uganda was also present.

The overall aim of the study is to provide policy makers and donors in Uganda with the evidence base on the economic impacts of climate change in order to promote increased investment for adaptation in climate-sensitive sectors. The study also aims to increase the capacity of Government officials to use the evidence on the economic impacts of climate change in development and investment planning. It is anticipated that the study will provide the economic case for prioritised interventions and investments by the Government of Uganda in climate-resilient development, as well as assist Uganda to access climate and development finance, and frame its approach to climate finance mechanisms, such as the Green Climate Fund.

The study is a response to the Government of Uganda’s often-stated need for quantification of the impacts of climate change on developmental ambitions. It currently lacks comprehensive figures around which to build a policy response. “What we need is clear language on the economic impacts of climate change for Uganda that decision-makers at the Ministry of Finance can understand and act upon.” Affirmed Paul Isabirye, lead government contact for the assessment and Coordinator of the Climate Change Unit (CCU) within the Ministry of Water and Environment.

The economic assessment will also be the latest addition to a growing body of work generated as the Government works at formulating a coherent response to climate change at policy level. In January the Ugandan Cabinet adopted the first National Climate Change Policy. Climate change has also surfaced on the legislature’s radar through a parliamentary forum on climate change that is gaining popularity. “MPs are pushing us as Government; that we are not doing enough.” Remarked Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister of Water and Environment at the Warsaw COP. The Ministry also launched a climate change learning strategy in June 2013 with support from UNITAR.

The economic assessment consists of six work packages that include climate projections and expected impacts; economic assessments at the national, sectoral, and district levels; policy recommendations; and communicating of the results. The consortium partners are Baastel, Makerere University, Metroeconomica, and the Centre for International Development and Training at the University of Wolverhampton.

Potential focus areas for the study are taken from the newly adopted National Climate Change Policy: agriculture, water and sanitation, energy, health, transportation and infrastructure, and forestry, wildlife, tourism and ecosystems. The agriculture and energy sectors were identified by many attendees at the inception meeting as key sectors to focus on given their economic import and potential high risk to climate change. Six case studies will also be undertaken at the district level, which may include the Mbale and Karamoja regions, the coffee growing area in the Rwenzori region, Lake Victoria, and Kampala. Baastel will continue consultations with the Government and key stakeholders on the selection of sectors for the national-level assessment and districts for possible case studies. The final selection of sectors and case studies will be concluded by the end of March 2014.

The Climate Change Unit is the Government lead for the study. It will work in close collaboration with Uganda’s National Technical Committee on Climate Change, comprised of climate change officers sitting in each Ministry. It is through these officers, that the Climate Change Unit will gain feedback from other Government departments. The Ministry of Water and Environment in particular has emphasised the importance of high-level government involvement form the earliest phase to ensure realistic, relevant knowledge: “We want to make sure this is Ugandan knowledge.” noted Minister Kamuntu.

If the good attendance at the inception meeting is anything to go by, the project is off to a good start. Cooperation with government is further supported by Baastel’s well-established working relationship with the Government of Uganda, having led a costing exercise for the development of Uganda’s National Climate Change Policy.

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