Robert Mugabe whisks Oppah Muchinguri away to New York without wife Grace

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe left Harare last night for New York where he will join other heads of state and government for the High Level Signature Ceremony of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The Paris Agreement, in which all 196 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change member states agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, was adopted at the COP21 indaba in Paris on December 12 last year.

To keep the global spotlight on climate change mitigation in the wake of COP21, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited representatives of all member states to sign the Paris Agreement at a special ceremony scheduled for Friday at the United Nations Headquarters.

Climatologists contend implementation of the Paris Agreement is essential for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, and provides a roadmap for climate change mitigation through reduced carbon emissions.

The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil in June 1992 with the aim of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that does not pose a danger to life on earth.

Greenhouse gases, namely water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone, absorb and retain heat in the atmosphere that at higher concentrations are harmful to the viability of life on earth.

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Though ground breaking, the UNFCCC treaty did not set binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms, an anomaly that the Paris Agreement seeks to rectify through the adoption of a cocktail of legally binding and non-binding provisions on climate change mitigation to succeed the largely unsuccessful Kyoto Protocol.

Developing countries like Zimbabwe that have agro-based economies depend on rain-fed agriculture and have a majority of their population, over 70 percent, living in rural and farming areas, keenly feel the impact of climate change.

And the El Nino-induced drought that has led to massive crop failure countrywide testifies to the vulnerability of the developing world to the vagaries of climate change.

President Mugabe has since declared the 2015/6 season a state of disaster and the government is mobilising food relief for vulnerable communities countrywide.

Zimbabweans experienced, first hand, the effects of global warming during last year’s heatwave that broke decades-old temperature records throughout the country and that saw some road surfaces melting and livestock dying due to heat stress.

Climate change has also manifested in reduced water inflows from northern Zambia, which feeds the mighty Zambezi River, a development that has reduced the hydro-power station’s generation capacity.

As such Zimbabwe and other developing countries are keen on successful climate change mitigation, particularly as experts contend that global warming is impacting on sub-Saharan Africa more than any other region because of its over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

Zimbabwe and other developing countries, insist that the industrialised north is not taking a fair share of the burden of climate change given their contribution to the phenomenon and should thus lead by example by cutting emissions and also providing financial support to poorer nations as stated in the Climate Change Convention.

Experts warn that global warming is already halfway to the 2 degree mark, a possible tipping point that may lead to the melting of glaciers, rising sea and ocean levels, disappearance of some islands and archipelagos, increasing droughts, among other ills.

President is accompanied by the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri. He was seen off at Harare International Airport by Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, Ministers Christopher Mushohwe, Sydney Sekeramayi, Joram Gumbo and Saviour Kasukuwere, Service Chiefs and senior government officials.-Chronicle