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Bringing home climate change strategies, plans



The government of Kenya via its delegation to the 27th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) held in Egypt took centre stage.

The President delivered remarks on behalf of both the nation and Africa, calling out the international community’s slowness in keeping promises made over a decade ago to provide resources to mitigate the effects of carbon emissions, the brunt of which is felt most by Africa.

The conversation must come home to the grassroots after these high-level engagements, and discourse on loss and damage is one of the first that need active engagement. The vast majority of farmers in Kenya are smallholders, with five acres or less of land.

The complex context of pastoralist livelihoods also comes into consideration here. Farmers have lost the cost of inputs, and projected incomes from harvest or from herd reproduction.

Other losses are lands and properties consumed by rising water levels, floods and more. We also consider lost education of children who cannot go to school for lack of school fees, and cultural losses, where community ways of life are disrupted.

A cogent counting of these losses is needed to catalyse climate reparations with “fairness, urgency and consideration” as per Kenya’s submissions, to save communities from slipping into extreme poverty.

A second conversation has to do with green or clean energy. While the focus on industrial supply is understandable, it is increased household and community supply that has the potential to change the quality of life actively.

This would lead to more successful studies from schoolgoers, increased incomes and taxes from longer business hours and better security, reduced road accidents through better-lit roads, and more. A focus on household and community supply, as well as subsidised costs, enables Kenyans to have a stronger stake in the narrative of clean energy.

Longstanding myth

One longstanding myth in Kenya is that planting trees is an easy and cheap solution to climate change. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Tree seedlings cost money, with decisions about which trees should be planted, and where, needing guidance by forestry, climate and meteorological policies. Further, seedlings require costly inputs such as water, fertilisers, and protection from charcoal burners or timber harvesters.

Government and allied stakeholders must engage in public education to update common knowledge about tree planting. Contributions should also be made to support community tree-planting initiatives.

Kenya’s activities to combat climate change after COP27 must be felt directly in the lives of people if we are to take continental leadership in climate change mitigation.

We should also take the lead from our own grassroots initiatives, which have been engaged in these matters for decades, and learn from our best-case scenarios, to ensure success in these matters.

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