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Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, occupying a total land area of 752,612 km². The country is bordered by the Democratic Republic of Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the South, and Angola to the west. The country is situated on the plateau of central Africa, between 1000–1600 m above mean sea level with an average altitude of 1200 m. Zambia has a relatively moderate climate. There are three seasons: rainfall occurs mainly between November and April, which is also the main farming season; the period from May to August tends to be cool and dry; and September and October are typically hot and dry.

Zambia is administratively divided into ten provinces namely: Central, Copperbelt, Eastern, Luapula, Lusaka, Muchinga, Northern, North-Western, Southern and Western provinces [1].

Important National Context

Zambia’s population is estimated at 18.9 million. The population is growing rapidly at an estimated population growth rate of 2.9% (in 2021). Rapid population growth is the country’s main driver of environmental change. Zambia’s population is primarily rural, with only 44.1% of the population living in urban areas. However, the urban population is rapidly growing at a rate higher than 4% [2].

After 15 years of significant socio-economic progress and achieving middle-income status in 2011, Zambia’s economic performance has stalled in recent years. Between 2000 and 2014, the annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate averaged 6.8%. The GDP growth rate slowed to 3.1% per annum between 2015 and 2019, mainly attributed to falling copper prices and declines in agricultural output and hydro-electric power generation due to insufficient rains, and insufficient policy adjustment to these exogenous shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic further impacted the economy, which was already weakened by recent persistent droughts, falling copper prices and unsustainable fiscal policies [3]

The country is endowed with natural resources that contribute significantly to the national economy. Mining has been a key driver of the Zambian economy for many years. The Government, however, has continued to diversify the economy to focus on other key economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, transport, construction, manufacturing, and tourism [4]. Employment in the services sector increased from 26.9% in 2010 to 40.7% in 2021 [2]. Zambia’s agricultural sector is the socio-economic backbone of the rural population, with 60% being dependent on the sector as the main source of income and livelihood [4]. In 2021, agriculture contributed about 3.4% of GDP, while employing 48.5% of the total labour force [2].

About one sixth of the rural population depend heavily on forests and non-forest resources for their livelihood and forests contribute approximately 20% to rural household incomes. Both indirect and direct values of forests are estimated to make a GDP contribution of about 4.7% if well managed. However, unsustainable charcoal and fuel wood production and the unsustainable clearance of forest land for agriculture and settlement expansion has resulted in high rates of deforestation and increased greenhouse gas emissions [4]. Wood fuel, primarily in the form of charcoal, is Zambia’s main source of energy for households, accounting for 90% of domestic energy consumption. Charcoal production is estimated to be responsible for around 30% of the country’s deforestation [5].

Despite impressive growth rates and the country reaching low middle-income status, Zambia continues to struggle to translate its economic growth into poverty eradication and reduction of inequalities. Poverty is increasing in absolute and relative terms. 54.4% of the population is considered poor and 40.8% extremely poor. Poverty is primarily a rural phenomenon as 77% of the poor population live in rural areas [6]. Zambia positioned at 146 out of 189 countries and territories in UNDP’s 2019 Human Development Index (HDI), with a value of 0.584, placing Zambia in the medium human development category [7].

Zambia has 2,800 MW of installed electricity generation capacity, of which 85% is hydro based. National access to electricity is estimated at 31%, with 67% of the urban and just 4% of the rural population having access to power. The Government of Zambia (GoZ) has set the goal for universal electricity access for all Zambians by 2030 [8]

Zambia’s climate is highly variable and over the last few decades has experienced a series of climatic extremes, including droughts, seasonal floods and flash floods, extreme temperatures and dry spells, many of these with increased frequency, intensity and magnitude [9]

Environmental Governance

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) is the principle environmental regulator in the country. The agency, which falls under the Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation, administers the country’s principal environment law, the Environmental Management Act. This Act provides a legal framework for coordinated management of the environment and natural resources [4]. Other important environmental laws and policies in Zambia include the National Conservation Strategy, the National Environmental Action Plan, and the National Policy on the Environment.

In addition to ZEMA, several other governmental institutions and agencies play a role in environmental management, covering the sectors of energy, agriculture, fisheries, wildlife, industrial development, environmental protection and other natural resources. Zambia’s environmental policy is further guided by a number of conventions to which the country is a party.

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

Vision 2030 is Zambia’s long-term strategy that reflects the collective understanding, aspirations and determination of the Zambian people to be a prosperous middle-income nation by the year 2030. The Vision is implemented through 5-year medium term National Development Plans. Zambia is currently implementing its Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) which runs from 2017 to 2021, supported by sectoral policies, strategies and programmes [4].

The goal of the 7NDP is to create a diversified and resilient economy for sustained growth and socio-economic transformation. The realisation of this goal will be achieved through the contribution of a number of developmental outcomes. The key outcomes include economic diversification and job creation; reduction of poverty and vulnerability; reduced developmental inequalities; enhanced human development; and the creation of a conducive governance environment for a diversified and inclusive economy [10]. The 7NDP has mainstreamed climate change as an overarching guidance to promote social wellbeing, including better health, growth of the economy and at the same time reduce environmental risks, such as shortage of water, air pollution and other effects [4].

Several strategies and objectives of the 7NDP are neatly aligned with the EU’s focus on prioritizing climate action consistent with the Paris Accord, including the strategy to ‘Promote renewable and alternative energy’ [10]. Other efforts include: promoting the adoption of environment-friendly agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture in order to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change in the agriculture sector; putting priority on water resource infrastructure development and increasing water resources availability as long term measures to mitigate the impact of climate change and build resilience through water harvesting technology and water catchment management in the water sector; and strengthening of climate related diseases surveillance, among others [4].

Zambia is a long-term and stable partner of the EU and its Member States. For the period 2021-2027, EU-Zambia cooperation will be focused on three priority areas: (i) Green partnerships for sustainable recovery, growth and decent jobs; (ii) Supporting the people of Zambia to reach their potential and build resilience; and (iii) Fair, inclusive and peaceful society. The focus on these areas is based on an analysis of the main challenges facing Zambia, which are to sustain growth, reduce inequality and improve government effectiveness; the EU's experience in the country under the 10th and 11th European Development Fund (EDF); and the strategic orientation of Zambia’s 8th National Development Plan [6].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Climate change

Since 2000, Zambia has experienced nearly annual episodes of droughts, dry spells, and floods that have negatively impacted key sectors of the country’s economy and led to significant economic and livelihood losses. For instance, the 2007/08 rainy season caused floods in several districts in the country, which affected an estimated 274,800 people (45,799.96 households) and caused extensive damage to human settlement and shelter, infrastructure, water and sanitation, health and nutrition, education and agriculture and food security. Climate change impacts may slow the development process of the country and could cost Zambia approximately USD $13.8 billion loss in GDP [11].