Third Eye

Drought demands decisive action on climate crisis

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 00:00 | By

Kenyans are reeling from the impacts of a devastating perennial drought compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, poor rains and the global climate crisis.

As much as the country is preoccupied with the quest for the elusive national cohesion in a polarised, heavily ethnicised political environment, the drought situation within the pandemic and climate crisis demands urgent united common action.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared  drought a “national disaster” requiring resilient political will and “comprehensive mitigation measures.”  This pro-active reaction needs enhancement. 

Currently, 2.1 million Kenyans face starvation due to the drought, with 23 poverty-stricken, food-insecure counties in the arid north, northeastern and the coast in urgent need of aid. A painful scenario plays out every other year.

Amid raucous 2022 election campaigns, the danger is attention could be diverted from addressing this national disaster. Affected counties have also had to deal with intra-tribal conflicts driven by diminishing resources, flash floods and desert locust invasions.

It is not only farmers affected. Urban dwellers are paying more for the scarce available food, their purchasing power eroded by loss of jobs due to the pandemic.

Social distancing has restricted communal performance of agricultural activity, leading to a drop in crop production. 

Livestock producers in the arid and arid areas are worst-hit, with thousands of their animals dying and many more emaciated. 

Although the National Treasury has released Sh2 billion to mitigate these devastating effects, the funding is still far off from meeting medium- and long-term mitigation and adaptation measures. 

This climate-related challenge is not confined to Kenya. The climate crisis is a global phenomenon.

We are living through a make-or-break chapter in the story of life on Earth. Scientists say that in the last 50 years alone, vertebrate populations have declined by 68%.

We must confront these inter-connected crises of biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change by involving scientists, conservationists, policymakers and ordinary citizens.

The news industry should invoke a new playbook for climate journalism to help humanity achieve this unprecedented task.

The economic shock caused by Covid-19 has left countries struggling to rebuild societies and economies to a health and economic system that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lead Kristalina Georgieva describes as “greener, smarter and fairer for all”.

Food production is not only the biggest force affecting nature–it also accounts for nearly 10 oper cent of the global economy.

We have to transform our food economy and sustain nature, while also feeding more people and better supporting the lives of farmers, fishers and other producers. 

The recent United Nations (UN) N Food Systems Summit during the UN General Assembly called for an urgent transformational reset in the way food is grown, produced and accessed–rebooting systems for an equitable Covid recovery.

As the world grapples with the health and financial impacts of the Covid-19, we must scale up how much we spend and pay to protect nature to slow and reverse biodiversity loss worsened by the climate crisis. 

The upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 from 31 October in Glasgow- United Kingdom, is critical for global climate action on crisis such as the drought currently ravaging parts of Kenya. 

Experts say COP 26 challenges governments to avert a climate calamity by submitting nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and halve global emissions.

It also provides an opportunity to finalize the Paris Rulebook (implementation guide for the 2015 Paris Agreement) and mobilise $100 per year to support climate action in developing countries including Kenya. [email protected]

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