Climate change is projected to cause an increase in average temperatures in Zambia and a decline in rainfall, particularly in the southern and western regions. The country experiences high rainfall variability, which climate change is expected to exacerbate, resulting in likely higher frequency and intensity of already reoccurring extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods. The combined effect of the temperature and precipitation projections is anticipated to cause a decrease in water availability at the national level and to adversely affect the Zambezi, Kafue, and Luangwa River Basins. Overall, these trends will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities in southwestern Zambia, as the region is already prone to droughts (as well as floods in some parts). On the other hand, the northern parts of the country are projected to experience a slight increase in rainfall and to be overall relatively positively affected by climate change.

The key sectors most likely to be significantly affected by climate change in Zambia include agriculture, road infrastructure, and energy. In agriculture, the key risk stemming from climate change is the projected lower maize yields, as this is the country’s staple crop. Other crops are also expected to be adversely affected by higher temperatures, reduced rainfall, and increased occurrence of extreme events, particularly in southern and western Zambia. That said, changing climate conditions could create new agricultural opportunities in the north. Climate change is projected to negatively affect the livestock subsector, which will increase food security risks, particularly for subsistence farmers. In road infrastructure, the projected higher occurrence of flooding, especially in Lusaka Province, could have a knock-on effect for the rest of the economy, particularly if it damages key international corridors passing through this region and/or affects domestic supply chains. Zambia is significantly reliant on hydropower and is already experiencing severe power cuts due to drought. The risks in the sector are exacerbated by the location of key hydropower plants in the southern parts of the country and the projected drying up of main river basins. The electricity shortages have spillover effects on the rest of the economy, including the copper industry, Zambia’s key export. This has international implications, as Zambia is a top copper producer worldwide, and demand for copper is expected to increase significantly due to its crucial role in various green technologies. Thus, absent adaptation measures, the adverse impact of climate change in Zambia could affect global mitigation efforts and strategies.

The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) demonstrates good awareness of these risks and has put effort into integrating climate change considerations in its national development planning. While some sectoral policies have already been developed, such as climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and renewable energy (to support diversification away from hydropower), Zambia is still in the process of developing its National Adaptation Plan (NAP). Key challenges to its response to climate change include mobilizing financing for adaptation measures, implementing efforts effectively (particularly due to capacity constraints), and establishing a successful governance framework for climate change that enables coordination at national and subnational levels.

This report explores how an ARIP could support a strategic and integrated approach to climate adaptation in Zambia, with a particular focus on the interactions between adaptation strategies in different sectors. This will be particularly important to ensure effective water resource management, given the projected decrease in water availability in Zambia and the existing and planned water demands of various sectors, including adaptation and mitigation measures (such as the use of irrigation systems in agriculture and/or development of (small) hydropower. Similarly, a strategic approach to adaptation in road infrastructure could consider both (i) priority areas for increasing flood resilience and (ii) how future expansion of the network could support adaptation in other sectors (such as exploring opportunities for agricultural expansion in the north). The agriculture adaptation strategy could further explore regional-level impacts, both to prioritize measures supporting vulnerable communities in the south and west and to highlight investment opportunities under the future climatic conditions the country will face (and how to leverage them to reduce food security risks and projected increase of food imports).

More broadly, this adaptation approach will require effective cross-ministerial coordination, as well as more engagement with government bodies at a sub-national level. This will help to inform the national-level strategy, such as to include province-level adaptation pathways for key sectors, and to enable locally-led implementation. An approach to mobilization of funding that follows a program rather than a project perspective could help achieve more scale and facilitate considerations of how to structure climate adaptation and resilience funding in a manner that supports Zambia’s long-term development goals. Importantly, such an approach will require an investment portfolio view of Zambia’s planned adaptation and resilience measures.

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