The UK is President and host of the global climate change conference dubbed CoP-26. In her capacity as UK’s International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the CoP-26 Presidency UK’s minister for energy, clean growth and climate change, Anne-Marie Trevelyan visited Malawi where she among other things sampled ongoing climate change adaptation and renewable energy projects. She also discussed Malawi’s participation at this year’s CoP-26 with President Lazarus Chakwera. Mathews Malata caught up with the Minister in this exclusive interview.
Thank you for visiting Malawi to discuss climate change and energy issues. Is there any special reason why you decided to visit Malawi in particular?
Like many countries in Africa, Malawi has contributed a tiny fraction of global CO2 emissions, but is on the frontline of climate change. It is particularly vulnerable given its high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, over-reliance on biomass for household energy and limited economic base, and exacerbated by high population growth, rapid deforestation, and land degradation. People here have told me that they are already experiencing more climate extremes, with an increase in the number of hot days, and a higher likelihood of dry spells as well as heavy rainfall, leading to droughts or floods.
In my role as the UK’s International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the CoP-26 Presidency, it’s important for me to visit countries likely to be worst affected by the impacts of climate change. I want to hear directly from citizens across the society, from government decision-makers to civil society, the youth, rural communities and women on what they are already experiencing, their challenges and which solutions are working. I also wanted to understand Malawi’s priorities for CoP-26 and domestic climate action. Malawi’s voice is important in the CoP-26 climate change negotiations, and I want it to use this to spur action on mitigation, adaptation and climate finance from all countries.
What are some of the key outcomes of your visit?
During my visit, I was able to see first-hand the climate change impacts in Malawi as well as how UK aid, through the United Nations [UN] and NGO partners, is helping communities adapt to climate change through activities such as watershed management, climate smart agriculture, and access to finance. I was also able to discuss what more is needed to drive increased investment in adaptation, resilience and clean energy with civil society, business, and Government. It has been an eye-opening and insightful trip. I will take with me all that I have heard and learnt in Malawi as I continue to push for more global action on Adaptation and Resilience at CoP-26.
You met President Lazarus Chakwera, what are some of the key issues you raised or discussed with him regarding climate change and energy poverty in Malawi?
I am delighted to have met the President. We had a warm and fruitful exchange. We discussed the need for urgent action on climate change and for a successful outcome at CoP-26 in Glasgow in November. I praised Malawi and the President for submitting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. The NDC is Malawi’s national plan for action on climate change over the next two decades. I recognised that greater and easier access to international climate finance was urgently needed to help make these plans a reality.
I reflected on my visit to rural communities near Balaka dealing with the effects of climate change.
The President discussed his aspirations to bring electricity to the people of Malawi and how renewable energy, including hydropower and solar would be key. He told me how deforestation had devastated many lives here and that an alternative fuel source to charcoal is urgently needed. He explained that climate change was already acutely felt by citizens and we agreed this was linked to Malawi’s heavy dependence on agriculture. We spoke of the benefits of inward investment to help bring development and the need to address the barriers to this. We also spoke of the President’s recent visit to London for the global education summit and the challenges and urgency in providing quality education, particularly for girls in rural areas who haven’t gone back to school after the pandemic.
Malawi is among the Least Developed Countries (LDC) worst hit by the adverse effects of climate change, how is the UK government prepared to support Malawi to strengthen her adaptive capacity?
The UK has a long partnership with Malawi on building government and community resilience and adaptive capacity. We are currently working to help vulnerable people in Malawi adapt to the impacts of climate change through the UK’s Building Resilience and Adapting to Climate Change programme, through connecting people to markets, improving natural resource management, and developing scalable social safety nets to respond to weather and climate-related shocks. The programme is implemented by a joint NGO, Private sector and UN Consortium called Prosper, that is Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Empowered Resilience. Prosper began in 2019 and has already shown positive results. In areas where the project is implemented, agriculture production has increased, and food security and nutrition indicators have improved.
Having been briefed about adaptation programmes in Malawi and visited one of the irrigation schemes in Balaka, do you think the country is doing enough in combating climate change?
I visited some successful UK aid programmes near Balaka that are helping rural communities adapt and become more resilient to climate change as well as improving their livelihoods. I know that similar activities are being replicated involving various partners throughout Malawi. We need to learn from what works and then encourage government to scale up these solutions across the country. Clearly articulating Malawi’s adaptation needs will be crucial to this, so I am pleased that Malawi has submitted its NDC. There is much work to do to attract climate finance and to involve the private sector in the solutions. Under the [Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources] Honourable Nancy Tembo’s leadership, Malawi is making significant strides to deal with climate change and prepare for CoP-26. However, the Minster for Forestry and Natural Resources needs the support of the whole of government to mainstream climate change into all decision making and planning to succeed. I was pleased to have met a variety of ministers on this visit, as well as many representatives from civil society, business and entrepreneurs. These groups are all part of the solution and we need to listen to them and support them. This collaborative approach is a key objective of the UK’s Presidency.