Extreme weather events associated with climate change, including droughts, floods and cyclones frequently strike Mozambique, destroying crops, threatening food security and human health, and damaging the environment.
Mean temperatures across the country already rose by an average of 0.9°C, since 19600 (15-0.16°C per decade) and mean rainfall decreased by an average of 2.5 mm per month (3.1%) per decade. Moreover, the proportion of days with heavy rainfall events have increased by 2.6% per decade or an estimated 25 days per year . Mozambique has a long history of catastrophic flooding, which occurs almost annually during the rainy season, and is largely influenced by La Niña and the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) . In the year 2000 the country was hit by its worst floods in over 50 years due to Cyclone Eline. The cyclone destroyed 140 000 hectares of crops and affected millions of people , while in 2019 cyclone Idai killed over 1 000 people and destroyed more than 100 000 homes .
Mozambique’s climate is expected to change in the future, with average temperature increase of 1°C in the next 20 years and more marked temperature increases in the interior, southern and coastal areas, as well as an increase in droughts for central and southern regions with more floods during rainy seasons and additional sea level rise of 13–56 cm by 2090 .
Rural livelihoods in Mozambique are primarily agriculture-based and climate-dependent. In fact, more erratic rainfall and changes in temperature could contribute to the spread of existing and new agricultural pests, such as the fall armyworm, posing unprecedented threat to maize and sorghum. Increased risk of floods and droughts are also likely to impact key value chain crops such as soy, pigeon pea and sesame, disrupting local markets and farmers’ income. Increase in frequency and severity of cyclones also put crops at risk .
Water resources are also under pressure due to the extreme weather events caused by climate change. Mozambique shares 13 main rivers with neighboring countries and projected rainfall reductions in Zimbabwe and Zambia could translate into significant reductions in river flows in Mozambique. Flows of the Zambezi River could be reduced by up to 15% (not taking into account drought risk and population growth). In the central zone, this could translate into per capita water availability falling from about 1,900m3/capita/year in 2000 to about 500m3 by 2050 (the international water scarcity threshold is 1,000m³/capita/year) .
In addition to economic implications, climate change increases the risks of food insecurity and water-related illness such as cholera and malaria, whose prevalence rate is falling but still remains high.
Poverty, weak institutional development and frequent extreme weather events make Mozambique especially vulnerable .
While climate change is largely due to greenhouse gas emissions mainly by industrialized nations, there are local conditions which either contribute to the emissions or increase vulnerabilities of societies and the environment to the impact of climate change. For instance, the country's extensive coastline exposes the country to tropical cyclones and storm surge flooding. The situation is not helped by the civil war in the country which ended in 1992 but not before forcing many people to settle either in towns or along the coast. More than half of the population lives in low lying coastal areas, where communities and key resources are at risk of increased flooding and drought .
The country’s emissions of greenhouse gases are low but increasing due to expansion of agricultural land and wildfires. Mozambique’s 2013 greenhouse gas emissions were 66.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), equaling 0.14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions came from the land-use change and forestry (LUCF) sector, which accounted for 58.8% of the country’s total emissions. Agriculture contributed 26.8%, while the energy, waste, and industrial sectors contributed 8.9%, 4%, and 1.5%, respectively, of total emissions .
Key policies and governance approach
In 2006, Mozambique submitted its First National Communication to the UNFCCC recognizing the vulnerability of the country to the effects of the climate change and the common objectives of stabilizing the GHG concentration in the atmosphere. The document has been created with the intention to bring the attention to the national inventory of anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions and their removals from the atmosphere by sinks, considering all the greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol; to the general description of the steps taken by the country to implement the Convention and to other information information considered relevant and related to climate change.
In 2007, the country developed its National Adaptation Program of Action through which Mozambique is mapping high risk areas; strengthening early warning systems, through collecting timely information on tropical cyclones, torrential rains and drought, including the predicted locations of impact zones; increasing resources for the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters; reinforcing the capacities for institutional coordination; strengthening regional and international coordination, particularly in the management of river basins; establishing a database on climate change trends and impacts; and promoting construction and use of water storage systems in drought-prone areas for irrigation .
The National Climate Change and Mitigation Strategy 2013–2025 was approved in 2012. Its general objective is to “establish the action guidelines to create resilience through climate risk reduction in communities and the national economy, and promoting low-carbon development and the green economy through its integration in the sectoral and local planning process” . The Strategy defines adaptation and climate risk reduction as a national priority, while recognizing the need to make use of the opportunities that the country has, without compromising development, to reduce the impacts of climate change through a set of mitigation and low-carbon development actions .
Building on the momentum created by the adoption of the 2013–2025 National Climate Change and Mitigation Strategy, a Climate Change Coordination Unit (Unidade das Mudancas Climaticas) was established in 2014. The Unit developed a climate knowledge management hub run by the Mozambique Academy of Sciences, which also hosts an online course on adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Mozambique also established a climate and health observatory in 2016 to support evidence-based decision making.
Mozambique has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) in 2015 and updated its emissions reduction targets through its Update of the First NDC 2020-2025 proposing to carry out a series of mitigation actions that in aggregate expect to achieve a reduction of GHG emissions by about 40 million tCO2 eq between 2020 and 2025 . These reductions are estimates with a significant level of uncertainty and will be updated with the results of the BUR to be available in 2022 .
Successes and remaining challenges
While Mozambique has the right suite of policies and initiatives to tackle climate change, the country has also to deal with the challenge of national security, which until 1992 forced people to leave the hinterland and settle along the coast and in towns where they continued to depend on firewood for energy. Recent security concerns in Palma will continue to raise security fears, as well as curtail enforcement of laws.
In its updated NDC, Mozambique indicates that the implementation of the adaptation and emission reduction actions foreseen in the document are conditional to international climate support. Moreover, the document identifies
the financial, technological and capacity building barriers that the country has for its implementation. The implementation of any proposed reduction is in fact conditional on the provision of financial, technological and capacity building support from the international community .
Initiatives and Development Plans
Several are the projects and initiatives focusing on climate change in the country. A good example is USD7 million project “Environment Mainstreaming and Adaptation to Climate Change” which took place from 2008 to 2012, with the aim of - at the national level- supporting the development and implementation of national plans and strategies and increased capacities in the area of environment and climate change. At the provincial level, interventions emphasized capacity building, integrating climate change into district plans and providing technical support in key sectors, while at the district level, the programme helped apply the methodology CRiSTAL to analyse consequences of climate change, vulnerability and adaptation options, and to incorporate those findings in the elaboration of the Strategic Development Plan .
In 2014, the country developed its Climate Change And Gender Action Plan with the aim to comprehensively develop and integrate the gender perspective throughout the environmental sector to improve the quality of life for all Mozambicans, and in particular for women and local communities .
Furthermore, as part of the country’s initiatives to tackle climate change, Mozambique has put in place the following plans and strategies: the Energy Strategy, the Biofuel Policy and Strategy, the New and Renewable Energy Development Strategy (2011 to 2025), the Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Energy from Biomass Energy Strategy (2014 to 2025), the Master Plan for Natural Gas (2014 to 2030), the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Regulation (REFIT), and the Mozambique’s Integrated Urban Solid Waste Management Strategy (2013 – 2025).
Goals and Ambitions
Mozambique’s climate goals, include the need to prevent deforestation and increase efforts to restore those forests that have already been damaged . This goal also includes re- and afforestation efforts, with the aim of seeing the country achieve target level emission reductions of 76.5 MtCO2e between 2020 and 2030 .
Through its biomass energy strategy, Mozambique seeks to modernize the biomass value chain and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; increase the supply of sustainable wood fuels; modernize exploitation, transformation, transport, and commercialization of wood fuels; and increase the efficiency of biomass energy use through improved cook stoves .
- Mozambique needs to continue working on improving its adaptive capacity to climate change. In addition, the country must continue to protect its forests as important carbon sinks, while finding climate smart solutions to its agricultural and transport sectors.
- The country’s adaptive capacity needs to be informed by adequate data and research, including: location-specific climate monitoring and modeling, coastal zone mapping to support future environmental impact assessments and guide new developments, vulnerability and risk assessments, early warming and mapping for flood and coastal infrastructural risks, along with flood prediction and monitoring systems for areas at risk from cyclones and storms surges and dissemination of climate change information, and increased awareness of climate change and adaptation.
 Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, Musokotwane Environment Resource Centre for Southern (2010). RESPONDING TO CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS Adaptation and mitigation strategies as practised in the Zambezi River Basin.