Q&A: Legalise Paris agreement

24 November 2015

In the eighth of our interviews with representatives from the Least Developed Country Group ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Paris (COP21), Thato Konstabole from the Lesotho environment and natural resource commission talks about the challenges created by climate change in Lesotho.

Thato Konstabole, of the Lesotho non-governmental organisation council LCN (Photo: Pascalinah Kabi)In Lesotho, 70 out of 100 people solely depend on agriculture, which depends entirely on rainfall. The small southern African country cannot afford to turn a blind eye on climate change issues, which are causing unreliable and erratic rainfall patterns that threaten the very sector that puts food on table for the majority of the population.

In this wide-ranging interview, Lesotho journalist Pascalinah Kabi (PK) talks to Thato Konstabole (TK), the coordinator of the Lesotho agriculture, environment and natural resources commission (LCN), an NGO. He shared the country's expectations for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) taking place in Paris.  

TK: The government of Lesotho has announced that the country is experiencing the effects of El Nino. This is exacerbating the impacts of climate change – what are the challenges Lesotho faces?

PK: This El Niño situation threatens our livelihood source. The grave challenge facing Lesotho is its inability to cope with the effects of climate change. We have a number of sectors that are highly vulnerable. Secondly, there is fast depletion of water sources and drying stream/river flows. Most of our people still depend on natural water sources for domestic use.

Drying river systems also means a lack of drinking water for livestock and the high likelihood of disease outbreaks for livestock. The lack of drinking water is contributing to a high rate of disease outbreaks such as typhoid.

Lesotho also faces a major threat from land degradation resulting in a severe loss of vegetation as well as soil erosion. This leads to gully formation and the land is eventually abandoned for agriculture. There is a loss of biodiversity and low agricultural production and productivity. 

Commodity prices, especially food prices are rising. Maize is a staple food and be the most affected crop. Meal prices are expected to rise, affecting many households as they run on a shoestring budget.

TK: What do you think needs to be done?

PK: There are short, medium and long-term needs. Short term calls for an emergency response in terms of ensuring food access and having response materials such as temporary housing in case of strong winds, medical kits in case of disease outbreaks and so on ready. 

In the medium term, the government has to safeguard its investment in subsidised summer cropping by closely monitoring what is happening in the fields. This will help avoid incidents like last season where there were problems with burning crops. The government needs to closely work with NGOs who have previously rescued many households. And it needs to invest in drought-resistant crops. 

The key long-term solution for communities in Lesotho lies in decentralisation. The real impacts are borne by the grassroots level and felt at household level. Climate change policies and efforts to better integrate different sectors are needed to deal with climate change impacts. And it is good that Lesotho is on course with this.

Lesotho also needs to invest, promote and adopt resilient farming methodologies.The level of degradation in Lesotho is so alarming that changing to other sustainable farming methods is the only option. This can only be achieved if government invests in farming systems such as conservation agriculture. 

TK: Lesotho is currently working towards drafting its second National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPA). What are some of the lessons learnt from  the 2007 NAPA and the Global Environment Facility-funded adaptation project?

PK: The Lesotho NAPA 2007 identified 11 priorities for action; to date only four of these have received funding for implementation. The NAPA serves an important function of guiding the country's adaptation initiatives. It drives planning and the streamlining of resources.

Realising the NAPA  requires a lot of joined-up approaches. NGOs play quite a significant role in ensuring community resilience. There has to be a mechanism for scaling-up best practices and this has to be integrated into sectoral planning.  

TK: What is Lesotho’s experience with GEF-managed LCD funding?

PK: Generally, the capacity of the country to access funds under the LDC Fund has been low, which means we face inherent challenges in climate finance readiness. The reports by UNDP and One World Consultancy have indicated that some of the challenges Lesotho faces in accessing the fund are institutional, and there is a lack of technical capacity to mount winning proposals.  

Lesotho has only been able to access funds for four projects that directly address the identified national priorities in the NAPA. The LDC funding needs co-financing from the government and this is a challenge. It is also a challenge for other Least Developed Countries.

LDC funding has generated quite a number of local adaptation options and early warning mechanisms, which potentially showed a lot of success. They just need financial support to sustain them.

Lesotho's population is heavily dependent on agriculture. Drying river systems threaten a lack of drinking water for livestock (Photo: Jonas Merian, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Civil society organisations (CSOs) played quite a significant role in terms of demonstrating on a very small scale what works and what does not work. This needs to be closely monitored so as to inform bigger GEF projects.

There are some coordination issues. We have a National Climate Change Committee to manage this, but it needs to build its institutional capacity and to also introduce a similar model at local levels. We need to fast track the institutional requirements for accessing climate funds, including a National Designated Authority (NDA) or National Implementation Entity (NIE).

TK: The GEF-managed LCD adaptation purse is currently empty. What are some of the key priorities on adaptation for Lesotho for the Paris Agreement?

PK: Commitment to the LDC Fund is on a pledge basis from rich countries. COP21 should be able to ensure that rich countries are bound to do this. More funding is requested for adaptation as well as technologies. While we commit to mitigation initiatives, we believe that the principle of common but differentiated responsibility has to apply. We strongly urge emitting countries to reduce their emissions to set global targets.

The Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN) proposed Africa Renewable Energy Initiative is a transformational new partnership that has massive mitigation potential and also stands to be supported financially.

Lesotho enjoys a lot of hydropower potential. Lesotho could generate 100 per cent green energy. The proposed Kobong pump storage and the Lets'eng Wind Farm would be able to meet the country's energy demand and beyond. 

TK: If developed countries fail to raise enough money for GEF-managed adaptations programme for LDCs, are there any possibilities for Lesotho to source private funding for its 2015 NAPA?

PK: Yes, there is, but to quite a limited extent. The mere fact that the previous NAPA was not fully implemented leaves us in a tight position to struggle alone with the new NAPA. Lesotho has to capitalise on bilateral sources of funding to finance some of its priorities. This should not just only focus on developed countries. Bilateral commitments with a developing country is possible given that some, like Panama, Mexico and Mongolia have already pledged in the Green Climate Fund.

In this instance, Lesotho's only neighbour, South Africa, appears to be a potential partner in financing some of Lesotho's mitigation and adaptation initiatives. The proposed Kobong pump storage has a potential to generate about 1,000 megawatts of clean energy, and that is something that South Africa needs. South African investment in this initiative will lead to a big reduction in carbon emissions. 

TK: What constraints does Lesotho face in implementing its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) plans?

PK: Budget constraints and lack of technology.

TK: What are the budgeted costs for implementing Lesotho INDC's plans and how is Lesotho hoping to source this money?

PK: US$1.2 billion is estimated for unconditional reduction by 2030 while $1.8 billion is required for conditional reductions. Locally, we are hoping to get funding from government allocations, contributions from NGOs and civil society and the private sector. International climate financing windows such as the Green Climate Fund will also be another source of funding as well as bilateral corporation.

TK: What do you propose LDCs need to do to raise the ambition of emitting countries to fight global warming?

PK: Negotiate from truly united position.