Climate action got extensive media coverage after Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg gave an emphatic speech for increased commitment towards climate change adaptation and mitigation at the launch of the United Nations Climate Action Summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (Unga).
In her impassioned speech, the teen activist faulted the global leaders for failing to match their rhetoric, or more precisely, their climate action plans, with realistic and “meaningful” action on the ground.
A day later, APM, representing 47 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as the group’s chairperson, urged developing nations to scale up commitments and honour their contributions to the climate action agenda.
APM rightly noted that there is less official aid going to developing nations and Africa, where it is most needed; hence, there is need for the industrialised economies to honour their financial commitments to fund climate change prevention and mitigation programmes in the south.
As a leader of the world’s fourth poorest nation with a predominantly agrarian economy, APM knows first-hand what weather-related shocks induced by climate change can do to a country’s economic growth prospects.
The Malawi economy’s overreliance on rain-fed agriculture increases its vulnerability to weather-related shocks.
Those vulnerabilities were exposed when weather-related shocks, case in point, the floods in the 2014/15 and 2015/16 growing seasons brought a period of ‘economic recovery’ dating back from 2012 to an acrimonious standstill.
In recent years, government, and Bretton Woods institutions and the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) have revised Malawi’s economic growth prospects owing to natural disasters, including fall armyworms in the 2018/19 season and Cyclone Idai induced floods which washed away most of the agricultural produce in the Southern Region.
So, APM was right in saying that the time to act to address climate change is now. Our economic stability, let alone growth, depends on how best we can adapt to climate change as well as develop coping mechanisms put in place to mitigate against it.
However, it is the part where he issued a rallying cry to the LDCs to step up and take the initiative solve their own climate change-related problems that was peculiar.
In fact, APM, by his statements only served to embody the same inept leadership that Thunberg spoke against. Our esteemed President, with full knowledge on our economy’s vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks, seems to take a lackadaisical approach towards climate action programmes.
APM’s decision to allocate K1.6 billion to the construction of two stadia for two private clubs, with their own sponsorship packages nonetheless, casts doubt on whether he is serious about seizing the initiative and solving the economic problems here.
Let’s not forget that the President, in his first budget after re-election, has flouted the Public Finance Management Act, to allocate funds to a project that does not contribute to the country’s development agenda as championed in the third iteration of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGS III).
One wonders what message APM was sending when he was asking development partners to channel their taxpayer’s money to climate action programmes in Malawi, when he himself, is redirecting national funds to finance his campaign promises.
If APM is serious about fixing Malawi’s fragile economy, let alone win the confidence of prospective donors, he should walk the talk.