By Mantoe Phakathi
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini announced their partnership in an initiative to monitor and track climate-related investments and expenditures in the national budget system. This partnership takes place under the Inclusive Budgeting and Financing for Climate Change in Africa (IBFCCA). The over E1.7 Million (USD120,000) six-month initiative will develop a Climate Budgeting and Tagging system (CBT); and establish a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system at the Ministry of Finance, and; Economic Planning and Development.
According to UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Rose Ssebatindira, adaptation to climate change is a pressing issue for Africa’s most vulnerable women and men. To date this has been treated largely as an “environment” issue in Africa, led by Ministries of Environment only. However, with growing macro-economic impacts and links to expenditure and revenue policy, there is a strong case for Ministries responsible for Finance, Economic Planning and Development to become involved in climate change policy and to mobilise the wider national and local budgetary process involving government, legislatures, development partners and civil society.
“By generating data on climate change investments, which usually budget classification processes would not do, CBT enables public scrutiny on government’s and donors’ spending on tackling climate change issues, strengthening accountability and transparency,” she said. Ssebatindira, who was in the company of the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Moses Vilakati, and Principal Secretaries of Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs; Ministry of Economic Planning and Development; and Ministry of Finance representing the 3 participating ministries in this initiative was addressing participants at the first workshop of the project, kickstarting its implementation.
She said the IBFCCA is a timely initiative considering recent climate-related impacts like the recent Tropical Cyclone Eloise, which will cost the country an estimated E180 Million (USD12.6 Million). This was just when the Kingdom was recovering from the impacts of the 2015/16 El Nino-induced drought whose total cost was E3.843 Billion (USD270 Million).
Ssebatindira applauded the tripartite initiative and said that once completed the Climate Budget Tagging tool will provide comprehensive data on climate change related spending, enabling government to make informed decisions and prioritize climate investments. CBT will also enable public scrutiny of government and development partner spending on tackling climate change issues, thus strengthening accountability and transparency.
In his remarks, Hon. Vilakati noted that a number of studies on the impact of climate change in the country have been done and called upon all parties to start putting efforts to address the challenges.
“We need to come up with programmes to address the dongas as a result of Tropical Cyclone Eloise,” said Vilakati.
He said climate change is prioritised in the National Climate Change Policy of 2016 whose vision is “to build a low carbon and climate resilient Eswatini”. Moreover, said Vilakati, the Kingdom is currently reviewing the Nationally Determined Contributions; developing the National Adaptation Plan; have just finalised its Green Climate Fund (GCF) Country Programme and just initiating the process to review the National Development Strategy.
“The country’s priorities for climate change will be elevated in all these documents. However, we need more than just the plans, we need these commitments and plans to be backed up with concrete immediate action,” he said. “The important aspect to this is to unlock climate finance. Substantial financing will be needed, both domestic and international, which elevates the importance of careful planning.”
He said strengthening the link between climate change policy and the budget process is very critical, and this has potential to lead to a coherent implementation of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030
Speaking at the same event, the Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, Mr. Bheki Bhembe, acknowledged the importance of mainstreaming climate change in planning and budgeting processes to build resilience and ensure that it is incorporated into all development programmes.
“At the same time, resources – both human and financial – should be mobilised to create fiscal space while protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development,” said Bhembe.
His counterpart at the Ministry of Finance, Ms. Sizakele Dlamini, also emphasised the need for the collaboration considering the cross-cutting nature of the macro-economic challenges presented by climate change. Dlamini, who was speaking through the Director of Supply Chain Management, Ms. Thabisile Mlangeni, expressed her appreciation to UNDP and other development partners for the technical and financial support.
“We also need to strengthen the government expenditure system to for the effective use of funding we receive from development partners,” she said.
(Mantoe Phakathi is the Communication Specialist at UNDP)