Zimbabwe’s climate has been changing . From 1970 to 2016, mean annual temperature has increased by about 0.03°C per year, while mean annual precipitation exhibits a decreasing trend. The impact of this warming trend on the intensification of drought has been more prominent during the Jan–March period .
Zimbabwe’s temperature is expected to change further. Based on CORDEX data for Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios, there is high confidence that Zimbabwe’s mean annual temperature will increase by 1 - 1.5°C by 2040 from a 1986-2005 baseline. This increase in mean annual temperature could potentially exceed 3°C by 2050, depending on the actual global emissions pathway achieved. Additionally, an increase in the frequency and intensity of drought is expected .
In turn, average rainfall is projected to decrease further by approximately 10% with significant regional differences, although there is more uncertainty over these estimates. This will induce shorter rainy seasons and shifts in the timing of their onset and cessation. Southern and Eastern regions are projected to experience the most significant decreases in rainfall between 2020 and 2080. An increase in the intensity of rainfall events is also projected, which may increase flooding in the country .
The following sectors in Zimbabwe are considered as highly vulnerable to climate change: agriculture; water; health; forestry and biodiversity; infrastructure; human settlements; and tourism .
Agriculture accounts for 67% of the total employment in the country, and in 2016, total agricultural land area reached 42% of Zimbabwe’s total land area. Most of the agriculture in Zimbabwe is rain-fed (approximately 80%), which makes the sector highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, especially precipitation variability and more frequent and intense climate-induced natural hazards such as droughts and floods. By 2080, rain-fed crop production in Africa is projected to see a decline of 12%. Maize is an important agricultural product in Zimbabwe, and already, over the past 15 years, the country has seen a gradual decline in maize yields. This has resulted in higher than usual levels of food insecurity in most parts of the country . Climate change is also likely to increase the incidence of crop pests, such as the fall armyworm. The invasion of fall armyworm in 2016 caused maize yield losses estimated at 263,000 tons (about $83 million in value) .
By 2050, Zimbabwe is estimated to experience a decline of 38% in national water availability per capita due to climate change . As 20% of agriculture is irrigated, water availability is the crucial factor to agricultural development in the country . Reduced availability of water from surface and groundwater resources, may result in decreased crop yield and crop failure in agriculture; reduced hydro-electric power output from the energy sector; fluctuating availability, quality, and cost of agricultural raw materials for industry; constrained processing in the mining sector; decreased attractiveness of tourism destinations (including Victoria Falls); and sanitation constraints and increased burden of water-borne diseases for the health sector, among others .
Flooding and drought events increase the spread of water-borne diseases. A recent study (2018) identified that between 1990 and 2010, a cholera outbreak was registered in one of every three droughts and one of every 15 floods. In May 2009, a cholera outbreak affected 60 out of the 62 districts in the country, with 98,592 cases of cholera and 4,288 deaths reported. Impacts on health from heat-stress are also increasing, as a result of extreme temperatures .
Water shortages, lack of grazing and heat stress also threaten the survival of the country’s wildlife species, especially those sensitive to heat, such as elephants. A recent study in Hwange National Park projected a reduction of 40% of elephant habitat by 2050 and a change in elephant population distribution due to climate change. Other factors that will increase elephants’ vulnerability to climate change include the increased spread of diseases, moderate genetic diversity, and slow reproductive rates .
Zimbabwe is a small net emitter by global standards, responsible for less than 0.1% of global emissions.
According to Zimbabwe’s updated NDC, in 2017, the country’s net GHG emissions were 35.84 MtCO2 eq. The majority of emissions came from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector and the Energy sector (54% and 33%, respectively), followed by the Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU), and the Waste sectors.
The AFOLU sector is currently the biggest contributor to GHG emissions in Zimbabwe. Historical emission and removals data from Zimbabwe’s first Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC shows that the AFOLU sector was a net sink between 1990 and 1993, however, the sector became an increasing net source from 1994 to 2017. The major drivers of emissions and removals in this sector include deforestation due to agricultural expansion, fuelwood gathering, increased livestock, commercial logging, veld fires, harvesting construction timber, illegal settlements and mining, tobacco curing and charcoal making.
The energy sector, including transport, is currently the second biggest contributor to total national GHG emissions in Zimbabwe. The main source of GHG emissions in the sector is thermal power generation (37.71%), followed by residential (19.08%), road transportation (15.48%) and agriculture (13.84%) .
Key policies and governance approach
Zimbabwe submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC in September 2015. In 2017, the INDC became Zimbabwe’s first-generation Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), after the country ratified the Paris Agreement. Since submitting the INDC, Zimbabwe has adopted several policies and strategies to reduce emissions and address climate vulnerabilities in the country.
The National Climate Policy (2017) forms the backbone of Zimbabwe’s climate change response. The policy guides climate change management in the country, enhances the national adaptive capacity, scales up mitigation actions, facilitates domestication of global policies and ensures compliance to the global mechanisms. The policy sets high level goals and institutional frameworks for climate change governance, National Climate Fund, and economy-wide climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS, 2015) outlines Zimbabwe’s approach to ensuring sustainable development and a climate-proofed economy, recognizing the vulnerable nature of Zimbabwe’s natural resources and society. NCCRS is anchored on seven pillars, namely, (i) adaptation and risk management; (ii) mitigation and low carbon strategies; (iii) capacity to effect; (iv) governance framework; (v) finance and investment; (vi) technology development and transfer, including infrastructure and (vii) communication and advocacy; information management and dissemination.
The Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS), 2020-2050, provides a clear, economy-wide low emission development pathway for the country. It also lays the foundations for a functional, effective and sustainable domestic monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system for tracking low emission development and a low emission financing strategy. The LEDS is based on an assessment of 38 costed sectoral mitigation measures.
The Revised National Gender Policy (2017) recognizes that women are particularly vulnerable to climate change and includes a specific thematic area on gender and climate change. It also promotes the mainstreaming of gender in environmental and climate change policies and strategies.
In 2021, Zimbabwe submitted its revised NDC to the UNFCCC. Zimbabwe has strengthened its mitigation contribution to be a 40% reduction in per capita GHG emissions below the projected business as usual scenario, a significant 7% increase from the 33% reduction in per capita emissions targeted for the INDC. Achieving this increased target will require considerable support from the international community. Mitigation measures cover the Energy, IPPU, Waste, and AFOLU sectors, and a list of economy-wide adaptation measures is included based on a national climate vulnerability and risk assessment .
SUccesses and remaining challenges
Zimbabwe will require both significant domestic and international financial support to implement the mitigation and adaptation measures identified in its Revised NDC. The mitigation measures alone will cost an estimated US$4,834.47 million, and Zimbabwe’s adaptation measures will be costed in the forthcoming NAP. As outlined in the NDC, climate finance will be critical to unlock other sources of investment, including foreign and domestic sources of private finance and investment .
It is widely recognized that there is a considerable need to track and report financial flows that support climate change mitigation and adaptation, to build trust and accountability with regard to climate finance commitments and to monitor trends and progress in climate-related investment . However, at present, Zimbabwe lacks the permanent institutional structures for tracking all development finance, including aid assistance and climate finance . It is, therefore, important for the country to develop and adopt a strong national climate finance tracking system .
Initiatives and Development Plans
The country has received resources which were mobilised from different international financial mechanisms such as Green Climate Fund (GCF), Adaptation Fund and Global Environment Facility (GEF). These resources are complementing national resources to raise capacities for climate related planning and management. Some of the project initiatives for which the country received support include: Building Capacity to Advance the National Adaptation Planning Process in Zimbabwe; National Communications; Support Towards Implementing Zimbabwe’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC); and the Enhanced Climate Action for Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Development Pathway Project .
Under the GCF supported Readiness Project, a Green Climate Fund Zimbabwe Country Programme (2021 – 2025) was developed. The identified national priorities for the Zimbabwe’s GCF Country Program over the next four years are: Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency; Integrated Waste Management; Sustainable Forestry Management; Climate Smart Agriculture; and Early Warning and Disaster Risk Reduction .
- Climate finance will be critical to unlock other sources of investment, including foreign and domestic sources of private finance and investment.
- There is a need for an efficient system to assess financial support needs and for tracking financial support received.
- A national Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system for mitigation actions for all sectors is needed.
- There is need to conduct an updated Technology Needs Assessment and Capacity Needs Self-Assessment to inform the country’s technology needs for enhanced climate change mitigation and adaptation actions.
- To facilitate the implementation of the LEDS , it is essential that suitable financing instruments are available. These must be designed to reduce the gap between the Social Discount Rate and the commercial lending rate to a level where it becomes financially attractive for the private sector to invest in mitigation measures instead of continuing with BAU practices.
- It is envisaged that appropriate policies will guide the private sector to invest in mitigation measures. Combining policy amendments with suitable financing instruments will enable the private sector to invest in economically and financially viable abatement measures.
 African Development Bank Group (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.afdb.org/en/topics-and-sectors/sectors/climate-change/climate-finance-tracking-at-afdb.
 allAfrica (2021). [Online]. Available: https://allafrica.com/stories/202010220870.html.