August 8, 2022

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Needed: Urgent action to mitigate climate change

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The link between climate and sustainable livelihoods stands out starkly in our time, especially in parts of Kenya now experiencing drought.

 Indeed, it is instructive that President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared drought a national disaster, considering that over two million people are at risk of starvation.

Unless government takes measures to mitigate worse effects, the only conclusion we can draw is that the situation can only go from bad to worse.

One reason why humanity finds itself on the brink of a climate disaster is that owners of capital, particularly from western countries, have paid no heed to environmental protection in their quest to extract wealth from the bowels of the earth.

Across the globe, forests have been decimated to pave way for mines, rivers have been interfered with to channel irrigation water into plantations while carbon emissions have compromised air quality as large-scale manufacturers process goods for capitalistic consumption.

As a result, the delicate balance that has existed in nature for millenia has been upset in a few hundred years, leaving our globe in peril, with temperatures rising significantly, thus putting livelihoods of communities in low-laying regions at risk.

Too often, coastal and island communities have been protesting that water level are rising dangerously, submerging their businesses and homes, thus putting lives and livelihoods in peril.

 Only this week, a keen observer wondered in a social media post over why the peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro have become naked, as happened to Mt Kenya a few years back.

Yet, little action has been taken, especially by African governments, to mitigate against effects of climate change despite evidence of steady decline being all too glaring.

Thankfully, however, world governments have this week committed to protecting forests.

Though welcome, this commitment is long overdue, but has potential to save our earth and reverse the adverse effects of humanity’s quest for wealth at the expense of climate and environmental health.

 More important than committing to take action is actually taking action. Experiments have demonstrated that dry regions of Kenya—such as Garissa, Isiolo, Turkana, Makueni, Marsabit and others—can sustain forestry, which in turn increases agricultural productivity in the immediate neighbourhoods of such forested areas.

Since the efficacy and sustainability of such experiments has been established, the next logical step ought to be scaling them up.

This is a job that county governments, in partnership with the Environment Ministry can do with ease.

What is more, since there is considerable goodwill from private and public institutions to support tree planting campaigns, what is needed now is synergy to marshal these resources to drive reforestation across Kenya.

Indeed, with only a few months to the General Election, opinion shapers should put aspirants to task on the climate actions they intend to take should they win in 2022.

Similarly, stakeholders in climate action should draft a binding commitment that political parties and their candidates will be expected to sign and pledge to implement should they ascend to power.

 With such a commitment, it will be possible to demand that they act to protect the environment, not just as an end in itself but as a way of sustaining livelihoods at grassroots where the impact of climate change is felt most when rivers and grasslands dry up and agricultural production nosedives.

 It goes without saying that adequate funding will be instrumental in translating such grand plans into action.

 Whereas there is a commitment at global level to make such funding available, we still face a big challenge of corruption, which, unfortunately, diverts public resources into private pockets rather when they should be used to combat climate challenges facing vulnerable communities.

 It will be imperative, in my view, for national and devolved governments to commit to spending such allocations as intended and for oversight institutions to be more intentional in the way they monitor such spending.

 Although this is easier said than done, this is no reason for giving up. We can borrow a leaf from Elon Musk.

When world leaders told him that a fraction of his wealth was sufficient to end hunger globally, he challenged them to demonstrate how this could be achieved.

 If they succeeded, he committed to giving them the money. That means he will hold them accountable. More donors should follow suit.

Citizens, too, should also demand accountability from their leaders on climate action funding. After all, they stand to gain or lose most depending on how the money is spent.

The writer is a Partner and the Head of Content at House of Romford — Mbugua@ houseofromford.com

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