Zambia continues to experience climate change and climate variability . Mean annual temperature in the country has already increased by 1.3°C since 1960, at an average rate of 0.29°C per decade. From 1971 to 2005, a 58 mm decline in rainfall (6%) was recorded relative to 1940 to 1970. The South-Western region was the most severely affected with rainfall seasons becoming critically shorter. Additionally, Zambia has experienced more frequent and intense droughts, dry spells and floods .
Zambia’s climate is expected to continue to change. Mean annual temperature is projected to increase 1.2–3.4˚C by 2060, with warming occurring more rapidly in the south and west. A decrease in rainfall is expected during September-October, while an increase is expected during December-February, particularly in the northeast of the country. The proportion of rain falling in heavy events is also expected to increase annually .
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 .
Agriculture is the mainstay of rural employment in Zambia and most livelihoods depend on staple crops like cassava and maize, whose yields rely on a timely rainy season and stable temperatures . For maize, climate change may significantly reduce yields in Southern and Eastern Provinces in the future. Projected climate changes in Zambia will also likely result in agricultural losses due to waterlogged fields, water shortages, destruction of crops and higher incidences of crop and livestock diseases .
Climate change is projected to reduce water availability by about 13% by 2100 in Zambia impacting hydropower generation, agriculture, industrial production and domestic use . Climate change will also likely exacerbate existing problems related to the uneven distribution of water resources. Water storage potential is negatively impacted by recurrent droughts in summer months, while floods in the north have led to contamination and the spread of waterborne illnesses that affect both humans and livestock .
Climate change will likely result in an increased prevalence of diseases, including malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections. Malaria continues to be a major public health problem in Zambia, estimated to affect over 4 million Zambians annually , and climate change has contributed to its persistence . Cholera is also a recurrent problem in peri-urban areas and linked to weather; a 2010 outbreak in Lusaka following heavy rains and flooding reached almost 4,500 cases. Further, potential changes in agricultural productivity may exacerbate already high rates of malnutrition and food insecurity .
Zambia’s ecosystems are also vulnerable to climate change, including the country's forests and wetlands. Additionally, drought negatively affects the tourism sector especially in Livingstone due to reduced water levels at the Victoria Falls, Zambia’s prime tourist attraction . In 2015, Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage site, made international headlines for its historically low water levels .
According to the National GHG Inventory in Zambia’s First Biennial Update Report, net GHG emissions indicate that Zambia was a net Sink for the period 1994 to 2010. However, the net sink has been reducing from -56,866.0 Gg CO2eq. to -16,718.0 Gg CO2 eq. and -9,508.5 Gg CO2 eq. in 1994, 2010 and 2016, respectively. Compared with the 1994 base year, this implies the sink reduced by 70.6% and 83.3% in 2010 and 2016, respectively.
In 2016, the AFOLU sector contributed the most (93%) to the country’s GHG emissions, followed by the energy (5.08%), IPPU (1.65%) and the waste (0.26%) sectors. The sub-category with the highest emissions was Forest Land (55.93%), of which 28.3% was from firewood and charcoal production and 27.6% was from wood removal for timber. This was followed by emissions from crop land (17.2%), emissions from biomass burning (8.1%) and emissions from settlement (7.77%) .
Key policies and governance approach
The National Policy on Climate Change (NPCC) defines the climate change coordination structure in the country . Its overall objective is to provide a framework for coordinating climate change programmes in order to ensure climate resilient and low carbon development pathways for sustainable development towards the attainment of Zambia's Vision 2030. The policy promotes mainstreaming of climate change into policies, plans and strategies at all levels to inform decision-making and implementation. Arising from this policy direction, the country has taken measures to mainstream climate change in the national development planning process, including in the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) . The Council of Ministers is the supreme decision-making body for overseeing climate change interventions in the country .
Several legislations have been put in place to address climate change in Zambia. For instance, the Zambian Constitution, Article 257 provides for establishment of mechanisms to address climate change. Further, the Environmental Management Act No.12 of 2011 ensures the protection of the environment and control of pollution. Other relevant legislations include Forest Act No. 4 of 2015, Energy Regulations Act No. 23 of 2003, Disaster Management Act No. 13 of 2010, among others. The country has also developed several climate-related sectoral policies and measures including, among others, the National Energy Policy of 2019, National Industrial Policy of 2018, the Second National Agriculture Policy of 2016 and the REDD+ Strategy, 2015 .
In fulfilling its obligation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Zambia has submitted three National Communications (2004, 2014 and 2020), its First Biennial Update Report (2020), and its revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2021 , . Through its updated NDC, Zambia intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% (at Business as Usual (BAU) level of international support prevailing in 2015) and towards 47% (with substantial international support) compared to 2010 levels. The mitigation actions are focused on three programmes: (i) sustainable forest management; (ii) sustainable agriculture; and (iii) renewable energy and energy efficiency. Adaptation actions in the NDC are focused on strategic productive systems (agriculture, wildlife and water), strategic infrastructure and health systems and enhanced capacity building, research, technology transfer and finance for adaptation .
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
As outlined in its First Biennial Update Report, Zambia conducted a study which revealed gaps related to financial, technology and capacity needs required to make informed decisions on climate change actions.
Regarding climate finance, a situation analysis on the state of climate finance readiness was carried out in Zambia in 2014. The analysis revealed that capacity was still needed at both national and local government levels, particularly in raising climate funds, translating policies and strategies into bankable projects and in implementing projects. National capacity to access climate finance was limited by the absence of accredited National Implementing Entities (NIE) for Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Adaptation Fund. Further, the country’s capacity to access climate finance is limited by the low participation of the private sector.
On technology development and transfer, the country has continued to face constraints related to financing of appropriate climate technologies. In addition, access and deployment of appropriate technologies for climate action remains a challenge .
Initiatives and Development Plans
In April 2021, the government of Zambia launched a new initiative to adapt to climate change. The project is part of a wider attempt in the country to improve the livelihoods of rural communities by restoring damaged ecosystems. With over USD 6 million from the Global Environment Facility, the initiative is focusing on the Lukanga and Bangweulu wetlands in the Central and Luapula parts of the country. The initiative will restore these ecosystems, while choosing climate-resilient plant and crop species for long-term sustainability and improved livelihoods. The Lukanga and Bangweulu wetlands are both listed as wetlands of 'international importance' under the Ramsar Convention, and they are two of the country’s key hotspots for fisheries, which makes them crucial for economic development.
The 4-year project, executed by Zambia’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, through the Climate Change Department, with support from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), is attempting to upscale and expand the use of Ecosystem-based Adaptation across the country by providing training to local and central government on how to best implement the approach .
- The adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture practices offers potentially substantial climate change mitigation co-benefits likely to increase productivity and resilience while decreasing the sector’s GHGs.
- Increase and enhance actions to reduce deforestation by minimising opening up of new land for agriculture and settlements. Thus, there is need to promote high-rise residential areas to minimise opening up of new land for settlement in urban areas.
- There is need to restrict use of charcoal and provide support in connecting all un-electrified households in urban areas and increase the rate of electrification in rural areas.
- Promotion of alternative energy sources for cooking and heating such as LPG, gel, pellets.
- Alongside these promotion efforts, awareness campaigns should be carried out on the availability, safe use and economic viability of these alternatives.
- Incorporate climate change programmes into the school curriculum and increase awareness and sensitization of communities on sustainable agriculture and forest management.
- Increase funding to afforestation and reforestation programmes including provisions of incentives to attract private sector investment in the mitigation initiatives.
- Promotion of energy efficiency and alternative and renewable energy sources such as solar, thermal, and nuclear energy to reduce over dependence on hydro power generation which requires use of water resources.
- Integrated watershed management to prevent land degradation, siltation, deforestation and depletion of ground water designated watershed areas.
- Investment in early warning systems and timely dissemination of information.
- Strengthening surveillance systems for potential disease outbreaks and quick response strategies.
 Climate Change Knowledge Portal, the World Bank Group (2021). [Online]. Available: https://climateknowledgeportal.worldbank.org/country/zambia/climate-data-historical.
 UNEP (2021). Zambia turns to nature to tackle climate change. [Online]. Available: https://www.unep.org/gan/news/press-release/zambia-turns-nature-tackle-climate-change.