Kenya needs legislation to fight the effects of climate changeBy GEOFFREY KAMADI | Friday, November 18 2011 at 10:09
A group of African farmers, pastoralists and campaigners just left on a road trip to South Africa for the 17th Conference of Parties discussions in Durban.
Organised by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, this group will pass through ten African countries creating awareness on climate change.
This will culminate in a petition being presented to President Jacob Zuma expressing Africa’s concerns about climate change.
Kenya’s position in the talks is not clearly defined. In fact, Kenya is not known to have a position of its own as far as climate change discussions go.
It has, instead, adopted the stand taken by the African group of negotiators. The country does not even have a climate change law!
This is why experts feel that an Act of Parliament is needed, which will be instrumental in constituting a body to deal with the issue.
That manifestations of the effects of climate change are becoming common need not be reiterated.
For one thing, up to 26 rivers emanating from Mt Kenya are said to have either dried up, or are in the process of doing so.
This development should set alarm bells going, if only for the fact that Mt Kenya, which is one of the five major water towers, caters for 40 per cent of all our water needs.
And, of course, the environmental tragedy that is the story of the Mau Complex is well documented. Many will recall the devastating drought of 2009.
The government responded by unveiling an ambitious emergency programme to the tune of Sh700 million (approximately $7.5 million), meant to cushion pastoral communities against loss of livestock.
Under this programme, pastoralists would sell their weakest animals to the Kenya Meat Commission for slaughter. For some, this effort came too late.
Many of them had sold their cattle for as little as Sh300 each for an animal that could have easily fetched Sh35,000.
Pastoral communities lost up to a mind-boggling Sh64 billion worth of livestock. Yet the question remains: Just how committed are we to address climate change?
The humanitarian gesture, which widely came to be known as Kenyans for Kenya, did well to lessen the suffering of starving thousands. But this was a stop-gap, short-term measure, which many view as merely cosmetic.
It will be remembered that some of the food donated for this cause was contaminated with aflatoxin.
This is ironic given that aflatoxin contamination can be exacerbated by high temperatures and dry conditions, brought about by the effects of climate change.
As a matter of fact, scientists are now monitoring reports of aflatoxin incidence in regions where there never used to be any, like in western Kenya.
This is a problem perennially associated with the eastern part of the country, or the Ukambani region. When all is said and done, this is not to say that the outside world does not bear responsibility for whatever is happening in Kenya.
The developed countries are the biggest culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, which precipitate climate change.
Kenya is not alone in trying to make the developed world more accountable. In the lead-up to the Durban meeting, Heads of State and experts of the 20 nations most vulnerable to climate change are meeting in Bangladesh to appeal for more help from these nations.
These nations are pushing for the developed countries to follow through on their pledge of $30 billion in financial assistance, which will help the least developed countries adapt to climate change.
Financial support was one of the five pillars agreed upon in previous rounds of climate change talks, as a way of helping developing nations adapt to climate change. However, less than $3 billion has since been disbursed for this purpose.
Whereas Kenya, just like any other developing country, has a right to push for more accountability from the outside world, more needs to be done at home.
Sending only two negotiators to a climate change forum is not going to help its cause. In contrast, the US is dispatching a contingent of up to 200 climate change experts, ranging from technocrats, scientists and lawyers.
Mr Kamadi is a freelance science and health journalist. Email: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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