Incorporate climate change in Building Bridges Initiative proposals

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 00:00 | By
Locals at Luluonoi Primary School grounds where affected families sought shelter. Photo/PD/JIMMY GITAKA

On Thursday, Kenyans will mark 56 years since the country attained independence. While the political significance of Jamhuri Day hogs national discourse on the elusive quest for national cohesion and inclusion, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on two other fundamental challenges facing the nation–the economic downturn and climate change.

Heavy rainfall currently being experienced across the country has left in its wake a trail of destruction and deaths through flash floods, landslides and other calamities.

The government has set aside Sh20 billion to mitigate the effects of floods, but the amount is not enough to mitigate the short- and medium-term effects of the vagaries of the weather. It will, however, provide temporary relief aid to the millions affected.

The economy bears the heaviest burden of the impact of climate change, thus it is important that the national conversation around the recently-released Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report does not confine itself to political and constitutional issues.

There is urgent need to incorporate the twin issues of the economy and climate change in the BBI national dialogue. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda may not achieve its objectives unless it is entrenched in this discussion.

The Big Four agenda offers the best solutions to resolving the key issues confronting the country–poverty, massive youth unemployment, food and nutrition insecurity, healthcare and shelter. These issues are compounded by impact of climate change.

As we debate on the need to review the Constitution, disaster or emergency management should be a central pillar of the discussions, against the background of the heavy toll effects of climate change have left on the economy. 

The State must also devote attention to the organisation of resources and responsibilities to deal with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies to reduce the harmful effects of hazards that continue to imperil wananchi.

Jamhuri Day coincides with the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) conference in Madrid as Spain hosts the most important annual climate conference in the world, at a time when Kenya is experiencing the devastating effects of climate change.

Kenya, as host of UN Environment, plays a leading role in championing climate change mitigation and adaptation.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, “in addition to conflicts, insecurity and economic slowdowns and downturns, climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe crises.”

The latest data shows that after a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again. Over 820 million or one in every nine people in the world suffered from hunger in 2018.

The situation is most acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of undernourished people increased by more than 23 million between 2015 and 2018, particularly in countries affected by conflict. 

As Kenyans engage in the BBI conversation, they should draw lessons from COP 25.

Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have assessed existing science and presented evidence of accelerating climate breakdown. Carbon pollution is leading to a massive ecological and humanitarian crisis. 

Devastating climate catastrophe can be prevented by limiting global warming to 1.5°C. This would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. [email protected]

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