Towards Zero Waste As We Protect Our Environment From Climate Change Impacts

By Ireen Twongirwe

World Environment Day is celebrated annually on 5 June and encourages awareness and action for the protection of the environment. It is supported by many non-governmental organizations, businesses, and government entities, and represents the primary United Nations outreach day supporting the environment.

 This year, the theme of World Environment Day 2023 is "BeatPlasticPollution," highlighting people's actions toward plastic pollution reduction. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people's livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.  There is an urgent call to action to combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world.

 Importantly, the United Nations General Assembly introduced World Environment Day in 1972. This day came into existence at the beginning of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment. It is important to know the harmful effects of using plastic and how we can reduce its consumption.

On World Environment Day 2023, let's pledge to ban the use of plastic for healthy surroundings. It is time we take steps to stop climate change otherwise it can become a threat later on. Everyone should consciously stop its usage.

Surprisingly, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute worldwide, and five trillion plastic bags are used each year. Half of all plastic manufactured is intended for single-use, worsening the problem. Plastics, especially microplastics, are unmistakably present in our natural environment. India has been dealing with a big plastic problem like many other countries.

We live in a world dominated by a capitalist economy that encourages us buy, buy, buy –to consume, consume,  consume and then just throw the stuff away only to buy more stuff. Capitalism depends on an extractive economy that takes more and more raw materials and energy and turns them into goods or commodities. They then use the profits to invest in more production which means more raw materials and energy are used. This is why sometimes we term waste as a political issue.  

When we talk about the theme of the day, plastic was used to replace everyday things like buckets, bowls bottles, and things that used to be made from natural materials like wood, leather among others. Plastic objects and packing are now used worldwide by the rich and poor. As a result, plastics have become one of the worst waste problems the world is facing because there not biodegradable and it never stops polluting the land, the air, and the water. More so, it’s important to note that 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels such as oil and gas and 1% of plastics are made from plants.

Poor waste management and plastic pollution are greatly responsible for climate change and global warming destroying life on the planet. This has increased green gas emissions hence limiting the country to achieving its target of reducing the carbon gas emission by 24.7% in 2030 according to their NDCs and globally keeping 1.5 degrees alive according to the Paris Agreement.

Towards zero waste, we can be part of the solution. First and foremost we need to transition from capitalism to a just transition and Regenerative economy. We can do this both at the individual level government and organizational levels.

At an individual level, we need to use the idea in the hierarchy of waste to resist, reduce, reuse recycle and repurpose waste. At the organizational level, we need to build awareness of zero waste in our communities and develop projects that are waste and plastic free, we also have to build solidarity with other movements. Together then, we can lobby government and development partners to intervene in industrial practices and provide

We have to prevent waste in order to move towards zero waste.

We need to appreciate nature because it takes care of its waste such as dead branches and leaves from trees rot down to produce compost for plants and food for small creatures and leftover foods and vegetables also become nutrition for plants and animals. More so, animal droppings become manure and make the soil rich in nutrients.

In my opinion, capitalism, poor governance and colonialism are the major factors for plastic pollution in our environment. Therefore, we need to hold the big companies that produce plastics and oil companies accountable for the destruction of our environment due to climate change impacts.

# No waste Colonialism #Break Free from Plastic pollution.

Happy world environmental day: For God and my Country

Ireen Twongirwe is the Executive Director of Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda.

Here Is Why Government Should Prioritize Investing In Clean Energy

By Ireen Twongirwe

Since independence, African countries have spent decades and billions of dollars investing in fossil-fuel-based energy systems that have failed to provide modern energy access to over 600 million people, about half of the continent’s population.

It’s important to note that Africa still faces major challenges including low generation capacity and efficiency, high costs, unreliable energy supplies, and low access rates. More than 600 million people lack access to electricity while more than 80% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to clean cooking technologies and this has increased on climate change impacts.

We need to understand that there is an urgent need to transition from fossil fuels to protect and conserve our environment from climate change catastrophes.

 What is energy transition? A shift from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal to cleaner, affordable, flexible and cheap energy (Renewable energy) like wind, solar and hydropower. More so, is energy in full development to fulfil our current desire to conserve the environment and deal with the non-renewable fuel crisis?

 Why transiting from Fossil fuels? The reason behind the push for an energy transition is the negative impacts fossil fuels have on the climate and environment. The transition towards renewable energies such as solar, wind and/or hydro, are important in order to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement and reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that affect the environment.

It is clear that Clean energy access in the country still remains low with grid and off-grid access standing at 19% and 38% respectively as of June 2020. The low clean energy access levels cannot support electric mobility, halt deforestation and reduce the socio-economic burdens faced by especially women and youth due to lack of access to clean energy.

Furthermore, clean energy production allows us to generate the energy we need without the greenhouse gas emissions and negative environmental effects that come with fossil fuels, in turn helping to reduce climate change.  Noteworthy, there are many benefits of clean energy, but the top two are environmental and financial. From an environmental standpoint, the process of producing clean energy emits fewer pollutants than the process of generating fossil fuel-based energy. Reducing these harmful emissions is a vital step in combating climate change. From a financial perspective, as the clean energy industry continues to grow, it can help create new job opportunities and stimulate the economy.

Last week, the floods were at the centre of Kampala city, and a lot of destruction (Loss and Damage) took place such as crops, infrastructures, houses, and cars among others. This is an indication that there is an urgency to transit from fossil fuels to clean energy to increase climate adaptation and mitigation. Since Uganda is among the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change,   they continue to invest less in clean energy.  

According to the 2023/2024 budget proposals that were approved by parliament in February, you find that a lot of emphasis is being placed on grid electrification. The generation and transmission votes account for over 90% of the allocations made under the sustainable energy programme.  Despite trillions of shillings being invested in grid electrification, women’s energy needs remain unmet. Women continue to suffer while looking for firewood and buying expensive charcoal and this has increased energy poverty in Uganda.

Why clean energy is important? Clean energy will limit greenhouse gas emissions. This improves air quality and reduces environmental harm. More so, clean energy will create new jobs hence reducing the level of unemployment. As production plants are built, it could bring an increase in jobs and benefit the economy. In addition, it reduces dependence on other types of energy sources. There is an abundance of clean energy resources such as wind and solar. Utilizing these may help reduce reliance on other types of fuel sources, such as coal. Lastly, clean energy will provide universal energy access which is necessary to end poverty, empower women and generate opportunities across Africa.

What needs to be done?  There is a need to increase budget allocations to the renewable energy vote under the sustainable energy programme. The budget allocations should go towards funding women’s access to off-grid solar energy and clean cooking solutions among others. More so, there is a need to provide funding to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to ensure that the ministry undertakes stakeholder consultations including consultations with women to put in place Renewable Energy and Energy policies that meet the needs of women.

In addition, the government should support public awareness programmes on Renewable energy to rural poor communities. More so, the government should deliberately undertake gender and equity policies in solar energy access and stop any activities that are driving deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

Least but not least, there is a need to promote fair pricing for solar energy technology so that even people in rural communities can be able to purchase it since hydroelectricity is too expensive for them.

In a nutshell, as Ugandans, there is an urgent need for us to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy to reduce carbon gas emissions. We, therefore, call upon our Government leaders and financial institutions to invest in green economic alternatives that are sustainable and stop financing fossil fuels, especially Oil and gas that have led to violations of human and environmental rights hence causing climate catastrophes. 

Twongirwe Ireen is the Executive Director, of Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda. (WoGEM Uganda)


Africa To Foster Renewable Energy Amidst Climate Change Impacts

By Ireen Twongirwe

Africa is already in the midst of a climate emergency. Our communities, ecosystems and economies are experiencing ever more intense heat waves, droughts, cyclones and catastrophic floods.

It’s important to note that millions of people in the Horn of Africa are suffering famine and high water stress is expected to displace up to 700 million Africans by 2030 according to research.

While Africa only accounts for around 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we are more vulnerable to climate change and suffer disproportionately from each additional degree of global warming. Ours is the most climate vulnerable continent

Instead of the dirty polluting energy sources of the past such as fossil fuels, amidst the environmental challenges such as loss of biodiversity and human rights violations due to the fossil fuel projects especially coal, oil and gas in Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Mozambique, Africa and its people deserve the clean renewable energy sources of the future to achieve the Sustainable Goal 7 of the clean affordable energy and other Sustainable Development Goals globally by 2030.

It’s also important to note that Africa has 39% of the world’s total renewable energy potential, more than any other continent.

While centralized fossil fuel infrastructure has failed to bring energy to almost half of Africa’s population, renewable energy technologies can deliver a flexible combination of grid-based, off-grid and mini-grid solutions to enable universal energy access for all Africans.

Renewable energy systems are also more cost effective and resilient than their fossil counterparts.

However, most of the Africans can’t afford off grid solutions because there are expensive and maintenance is challenge. It’s on this note that I call upon government and her ministries to put incentives on the solar panels and other electric devices for easy accessibility.

More so for the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), there is need for public awareness especially on the local communities on how to use locally led solutions to reduce on deforestation to promote and create employment opportunities for themselves.

In addition, deforestation  has also contributed to the climate change impacts due to the unsustainable use of firewood and charcoal can lead to soil erosion, desertification, in hilly areas, landslides that has contributed to the floods that has killed massive of people.

Therefore, substituting firewood with LPG, briquettes, cooking gas stoves reduces deforestation and can also improve agricultural productivity hence promoting green economy

Therefore, investments in renewables create more employment opportunities, mitigates and adapts climate change impacts that fossil fuels that have created more harm on the livelihoods and the environment.

In a nutshell, we are calling for a green renewable energy future that preserves climate stability and provides energy access to all.

For God and my country

Ireen Twongirwe works with Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda.

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