FEATURE: Uganda’s climate law makes headway
Legal expert Bernard Namanya outlines the progress being made in Uganda’s national climate law. It is the country’s principal mechanism for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement.
National climate change laws are important in translating governments’ international obligations into enforceable actions at the national level. This is especially important given that adaptation and mitigation targets communicated by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, through Nationally Determined Contributions are voluntary in nature and can only be meaningful if they are supported by national laws. It is important for countries to consider formulating specific enabling laws to support implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Uganda has no legal framework on climate change, which is an obstacle in translating the identified policy priorities into implementable actions. To this effect, Uganda is developing a national climate law to enhance Uganda’s ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, build climate resilience and pursue low greenhouse gas emissions development. The law will enable Uganda to pursue its voluntary mitigation targets under the Paris Agreement of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the energy supply, forestry and wetland sectors by 22% in 2030 compared to what would have happened if no action to avoid emissions had been taken.
The proposed law, published by the government on 7 February 2020, will soon be tabled in Parliament for further public debate and input from stakeholders.
The process of drafting the law adopted a largely qualitative approach and was supervised by a technical working group comprising of both government and non-government stakeholders. The proposed law is framework in nature, laying out general principles but leaving the task of formulating specific adaptation, mitigation, and climate finance measures to various players, including government and non-government actors. The Minister has power to make rules and regulations providing for specific adaptation and mitigation activities when required.
The proposed national climate change law provides for:
i) The application and enforcement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement in Uganda’s national legal system. Although Uganda has ratified these international agreements, they are not automatically enforceable at the national level and a specific law is required for them to be applicable in Uganda.
ii) Strengthening government institutional frameworks for adaptation and mitigation actions.
iii) Government planning frameworks that include the Framework Strategy on Climate Change; the National Climate Change Action Plan; and the District Climate Change Action Plan.
iv) A mechanism of reporting action to address climate change by various players including the lower local governments, the district local governments, and ministries, departments and agencies with the various reports consolidated into an annual report on climate change.
v) Undertaking public consultations and considering the views and opinions of persons consulted.
vi) Uganda’s participation in compliance emissions trading mechanisms; voluntary emissions trading mechanisms; non-market approaches; and cooperative approaches aimed at contributing to mitigation and supporting sustainable development as elaborated in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, 2015, with rules on the finer details of Uganda’s participation in climate change market mechanisms to be made later by the Minister.
vii) The measuring, reporting and verification of information related to mitigation, adaptation, and climate finance.
viii) The mobilisation of national and international climate finance by the Minister of finance. The proposed law specifically provides for amendment of the public finance law to require all government ministries and agencies to specifically budget for climate change activities. These budgets will be vetted by the National Planning Authority prior to approval by the Ministry of finance.
Lessons learned from Uganda’s legal development process
Five key lessons were learned from the process of developing the national climate law for Uganda:
i) Contrasting positions from stakeholders on institutional and climate finance architecture. Some favoured an independent institution while others favoured managing ringfenced funds via an existing government agency. The creation of a Climate Change Fund was strongly supported while others thought this was not a good idea given the poor performance of the Tree Fund and the Environmental Fund.
ii) The formulation of national climate policy instruments is not enough. Countries need to go further and formulate enabling laws that support the implementation of policies and provide for legal consequences of non-compliance.
iii) A broad range of stakeholders should be consulted including women, youth, and poor communities and their concerns considered in the law and its implementation.
iv) The bulk of the required climate finance cannot be solely provided by developed countries. The greater percentage of climate finance must be mobilised at the national level.
v) Climate change market mechanisms elaborated under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement are still being negotiated by the Parties, making it difficult to tell their eventual shape and nature. Climate change market mechanisms will define how the sale of ‘credits’ for emissions reductions between one country and another may operate, including the source country or purchasing country.
After the draft law is tabled in parliament, it will be subjected to further review and public debate. During this phase, the public and other interested stakeholders such as academia and civil society organisations can still submit comments to improve the draft law. After the conclusion of the parliamentary process, the draft law will then be sent to the President who may approve the law, and sign it into law, or request a reconsideration of the law.
Bernard Namanya is a climate law consultant who was involved in drafting the national climate change law, and he may be reached for further comment and correspondence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Image: Parliament, Kampala, Uganda, credit Illingworth-flickr.com