Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Potential Climate Change Risks to Meeting Zimbabwe’s NDC Goals — And how to Become Resilient

Version 1 : Received: 25 April 2021 / Approved: 29 April 2021 / Online: 29 April 2021 (13:58:18 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Howells, M.; Boehlert, B.; Benitez, P.C. Potential Climate Change Risks to Meeting Zimbabwe’s NDC Goals and How to Become Resilient. Energies 2021, 14, 5827. Howells, M.; Boehlert, B.; Benitez, P.C. Potential Climate Change Risks to Meeting Zimbabwe’s NDC Goals and How to Become Resilient. Energies 2021, 14, 5827.

Journal reference: Energies 2021, 14, 5827
DOI: 10.3390/en14185827


Zimbabwe has ambitious and laudable GHG mitigation targets. Compared to a coal based future emissions reductions by 33% per capita by 2030 are targeted, by implementing a set of identified nationally determined contributions (NDCs). If historical climate conditions continue, it can do this at low or negative cost. However, anticipated conditions may not continue, and of the planned emissions reductions in the NDCs, 88% would come from the expansion of hydropower, which is driven by rainfall. If climate change causes the extreme droughts witnessed in recent years to become more frequent, embarking on Zimbabwe’s NDC future (underpinned by its official system development plan) may be expensive and further cripple the economy. Note that the economy is already being strangled by constrained power supplies due to unusually dry conditions in the Zambezi river basin. If the NDC Future is pursued, but the climate becomes drier, proactive efforts might be made to overcome the power shortages. However, this may result in a rapid ramp up of greenhouse gas emissions if the country turns to coal to reinforce its system and increase its resilience against hydropower vulnerability and the costs that would otherwise ensue. If the country were to keep its NDC investments and supplement them with more aggressive deployment of clean adaptation options, strongly positive outcomes appear possible. Specifically, this would require increased deployment of renewable energy technologies, a restructured power market, and deep increases in energy efficiency investments. In so doing, the country would not only exceed its NDC targets, but also reduce costs in a manner that is climate resilient. This would not remove the country's need for hydropower and some level of coal reliance. However, it will introduce requirements to ensure flexibility in both hydropower and coal power production. For hydropower, power stations will need to provide and be recompensed for providing ‘balancing services’, that is, storing water and producing electricity when the wind is not blowing, nor sun shining. In order to ensure continuous output from mines, it may require intelligent stockpiling combined with dynamic forecasting. This would apply not only to production in Zimbabwe, but potentially for neighboring countries. Doing so would allow predictable mining activities, but allow electricity systems to absorb low cost, low carbon hydropower at high rainfall periods. To make the NDCs resilient via clean adaptation, strong institutional restructuring is required. However, internalizing those costs and moving to advanced market structures and business cases may strain the capacity of current institutions.


Energy Modelling; Climate Change; Climate Resilience; OSeMOSYS; Integrated Assessment Modelling; Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); Renewable Energy Integration



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