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Leaders should take up Biden’s challenge on climate change

By Ng'ang'a Mbugua
Friday, January 22nd, 2021
US President Joe Biden. Photo/AFP
In summary

US President Joe Biden’s decision to sign an Executive Order returning America to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is set to have major ramifications on businesses and livelihoods across the globe. 

Ideally, it should also re-ignite governments’ and policy makers’ commitment to seek ways of reversing economic disparities that climate change, has spawned in recent years, including in countries like Kenya where lakes have been rising to historic levels and where cyclic drought, flooding and locust invasions have left millions impoverished.

More than ever before, businesses will need to be more innovative, environmentally conscious and provide what is now known in green circles as “stewardship of nature”.

Equally important, they will be expected to set new standards in their response to climate change challenges.

Climate change has adversely affected incomes globally, increasing inequality and threatening humanity’s match, towards economic progress and a better world characterised by human dignity, a cleaner environment for all and a progressive increase in household incomes.

To ensure that gains so far made are not reversed, and to keep humanity on the course of progress, businesses will increasingly be called upon to drive a sustainability agenda, given America’s renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Their success in this regard will hinge, to a great extent, on how they respond to what the latest Human Development Report refers to as “nature-based solutions” and “nature-based human development”. 

Rising inequality

This new thinking recognises that decisions made by businesses have adverse effects on local communities and vice-versa.

This is a danger that America itself recognises, and President Biden has acknowledged as a real cause for worry given the rising inequality in his own country.

How then, can businesses, communities and individuals be more motivated to exploit nature responsibly and with a view to ensuring that they bequeath future generations a liveable and sustainable world?

How do we use natural resources that we already have to drive economic growth?

Within hours of his inauguration, President Biden signaled America’s willingness to take a leading role in seeking answers to these burning questions of our time. He provided a template that other world leaders – can and ought to borrow. 

One question that remains to be answered, is whether political leaders, have the goodwill to empower their citizens to make critical decisions, that will protect their environments while guaranteeing or improving livelihoods. 

This is an important issue for  debate considering that incumbents, especially in Africa, have been using electoral processes to subvert the will of citizens.

This is something that former US President Donald Trump tried without success, again, highlighting America’s place as a global leader in ensuring that citizens’ mandate is respected and upheld. 

Biden has demonstrated this leadership once again with his call for climate action. But are political and business leaders willing to listen?

My view is that even if political and business leaders fail to harken to Biden’s call, communities and individuals should.

In many parts of the country, where local communities have taken action to protect their environment even as they profit from it sustainably, quality of life has been on a growth trajectory. 

In Nakuru for instance, when a local community opened a waterfall trail to a paying public, it started making money from gate collections while also providing households with piped clean water.

All they needed was support from the county government.  Such models - are the future of our planet.

 All that is needed to make them work is political will, a readiness for all involved to think innovatively and a formula through which every stakeholder benefits equitably.

Thanks to Biden’s leadership, humanity now finds itself at a point where we have sufficient global goodwill to make a change that will improve livelihoods.

But are we ready to grasp this opportunity to turn our collective fortunes around? — The writer is a Partner and Head of Content at House of Romford — [email protected]

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