Uganda’s climate is largely tropical with two rainy seasons per year; March to May and September to December. The northern region, which forms one quarter of the country lies outside the tropical belt, and hence experiences only one rainy season, from March to October. The rest of Uganda lies within a relatively humid equatorial climate zone, and the topography, prevailing winds, and lakes and rivers cause large differences in rainfall patterns across the country . The mean annual temperatures range from 20 to 27 °C except for the mountain ranges of the far west and east, which experience lower mean temperatures of around 17 °C. Annual precipitation sums range from 1 000 to 1 600 mm in most parts of the country. Only in the semi-arid north-east, precipitation sums are lower than 700 mm .
As a largely agrarian economy, Uganda’s is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change despite its very low contribution to global warming. The country is already experiencing climate change effects that include unpredictable and or intense rainfall, increasing temperatures, prolonged droughts, frequent floods, landslides, and increased spread of new strains of crop and livestock diseases . These effects are adversely affecting the food and income security of many Ugandans, as well as the country’s ecosystem health. In fact, Ugandan crop farmers and pastoralists are among the most vulnerable populations.
An estimated 4 million Ugandans who live in and around Uganda’s wetlands rely on agriculture and livestock rearing for food security. The impact of climate change, coupled with other environmental stresses, is increasing the degradation of wetlands and associated ecosystems. These phenomenon threatens the country’s socio-economic stability. A good example is the country’s cattle corridor, which accounts for 4.5% of Uganda’s GDP and contributes substantially to the 70% employment generated by the agricultural sector, is at risk of climate change.
Uganda’s vulnerability to climate change is driven by the prevailing low levels of socioeconomic growth and huge dependence on systems and enterprises that are linked to climatic situations (“climate sensitive” sectors such as agriculture, water, fisheries, tourism and forestry) . More than 80% of Uganda’s population are farming communities and these are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They often lack the resources to afford goods and services, that may be needed to buffer themselves and recover from the worst of the changing climate effects.
Furthermore, the topographic diversity and highly marginalized segments of the population, make the country additionally vulnerable. At the same time, non-climate stressors such as inadequate infrastructure to handle the increasing population are also impacting the vulnerability to natural disaster sensitivity and to climate change .
According to Uganda’s GHG Inventory conducted in 2019 and reported in the Uganda’s First Biennial Update Report To The United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change, covering the period 2005 to 2015, Uganda’s total emissions were estimated at to 77,381 Gg. The AFOLU sector was the most significant source of emissions for the three gases (i.e., CO2, CH4 and N2O), accounting for 86.4% of the total emissions followed by the energy sector, being the second most important source (accounting for 10.9%). The contribution from the waste sector and IPPU was 2.1% and 0.6% respectively. As per the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario the estimated emissions in 2030 would be 77.3 Million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (MtCO2eq/yr) .
Key policies and governance approach
In April 2021, Uganda approved its new climate law, National Climate Change Act, which governs Uganda's national response to climate change. One of the stated purposes of the Act is to give effect to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement. The Act mandates the creation of a Framework Strategy on Climate Change, as well as a National Climate Action Plan and District Climate Action Plans. It also contains a series of provisions establishing a transparency framework and MRV system . The Act also grants the line minister the authority to constitute a National Climate Change Advisory Committee comprised of technical experts, who will provide independent technical advice to the Committee and Minister on climate change science. The established team will also provide information on technologies, interventional programmes on climate change and best practices for risk assessment, enhancement of the adaptive capacity to potential impacts of climate change .
The country also has a National Climate Change Policy and the Implementation Strategy (2015), and it has submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which, among others, contribute to its climate actions. Through its NDC (2015), Uganda has committed to the overarching objective of ensuring that all stakeholders address climate change impacts and their causes through appropriate measures, while promoting sustainable development and green growth. The country has pledged to continue to work on reducing vulnerability in the following priority sectors: agriculture and livestock, forestry, infrastructure (with an emphasis on human settlements, social infrastructure and transport), water, energy and health . In its updated NDC (2021), the new target takes
into account specific sector emission targets for Energy, Transport, Waste and Industry. This is a significant development since the first NDC target focused on only on AFOLU sector. Additionally, the first NDC sectors and sub-sectors of focus have increased from 9 to 14 in the updated NDC (i.e. Agriculture; Energy; Health; Forestry; Fisheries; Water & Environment; Urban, Tourism; Transport; Built Environment; Disaster Risk Reduction; Manufacturing and Ecosystems including Biodiversity, Rangelands and Mountains) .
Moreover, through Vision 2040, Uganda recognizes that the effects of climate change in Uganda are manifested by changing rainfall patterns, drought, high temperatures and frequent floods. These ramifications affect all the sectors of the economy, hence calling for preparedness. The National Policy on Disasters Preparedness and Management adopted in 2010 aims at creating a practical framework through which disaster preparedness and management is entrenched and proposes the establishment of institutions and mechanisms which would reduce the vulnerabilities of Uganda’s wildlife, livestock, plants, and people to the impacts of disasters.
Successes and Remaining challenges
In order to fully implement the aforementioned adaptation and mitigation priority actions, some cross-cutting initiatives must be undertaken with capacity building, technology transfer and finance being the most important needs in Uganda. The National Climate Change Policy and Costed Implementation Strategy estimated that Uganda will require USD 2.9 billion over the next 15 years to address the impacts of climate change in addition to the existing interventions with USD 2.4 billion to be used for adaptation priority sectors . In fact, the full implementation of the priority adaptation and mitigation actions is conditional on the support of international stakeholders.
The UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol require Uganda to periodically develop and update its national inventory of anthropogenic emissions. The Paris Agreement, on the other hand, requires Uganda to prepare, communicate and maintain successive determined national contributions. These obligations require robust data tracking and updating systems that ensure accuracy in the collection, research, and recording . Uganda lacks proper data tracking and updating system because of poor funding and technical expertise. The responsible personnel lack proper training and expertise on data collection, tracking and updating. These setbacks hinder Uganda from meeting her obligations. In light of this, Uganda should periodically track and update its climate data as mandated under the international Climate regime.
Initiatives and Development Plans
The Ministry of Water and Environment is implementing the eight-year “Building Resilient Communities, Wetland Ecosystems and Associated Catchments in Uganda” project (2017-2025) under the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The initiative aims at restoring wetlands and increase resilience of ecosystems and communities living around the wetlands. The Multi-sectorial project is expected to directly benefit up to 800,000 people in 20 districts of East and South Western Uganda. It will also target to restore 64,370 hectares of Wetlands and 11,630 hectares of Catchments. This project will assist the Government of Uganda to take climate change effects into account in managing wetlands .
Goals and Ambitions
Uganda has elevated the level of climate goals and ambitions under their revised (interim) Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the UNFCCC (COP 26) in October 2021. The country prioritizes adaptation as the first response to climate change, with emphasis on multistakeholder involvement. This includes enhanced collaborations between the ministry of environment as well as the Ministry of Finance, and the National Planning Authority to provide climate action responses that feed into COVID-19 socio-economic recovery and the fast-tracking of the country’s Vision 2040 .
In addition, as stated in Uganda’ First Nationally Determined Contribution (2015) Uganda is executing a series of policies and measures in the energy supply, forestry and wetland sectors in order to mitigate climate change. The estimated impact of the policies and measures could result in around 22% reduction of national green house gas emissions in 2030 compared to BAU scenario.
- Building climate resilience or increasing the ability to adapt to climate change in as a low carbon way as possible will help Uganda achieve sustainable development and the Vision 2040.
- The country needs to improve its adaptive capacities and resilience. Risk and evidence-based planning can be strengthened.
- Effective institutional structures and frameworks for managing disasters and recovery need to be in place and backed with proactive investment in adaptation and mitigation measures.
- Climate change and disaster risk reduction considerations can also be better integrated into the management of the environment and natural resources.
While the Government and development funds remain critically important, the private sector must also be stimulated in order to meet social and environmental funding needs.
 The Republic of Uganda, Ministry of Water and Environment (2015). UGANDA’S INTENDED NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTION (INDC).