Mithika Mwenda never expected to be named among the world’s 100 most influential people in climate change policy this year.
Despite being the executive director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a civil society organisation that champions a healthy earth, Mwenda never thought he was on same level with some prominent people in the world.
So when the announcement by Apolitical, a global network for governments, came last month, Mwenda’s name was among the 100 nominated by hundreds of public servants from around the world, including experts at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Harvard University, Oxford University, Bloomberg Philanthropies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The list has people currently making the biggest impact on climate change policy including government ministers, academics, environmental activists and the church.
“I was in Ghana attending a climate change conference and when this announcement was done, I didn’t have an iota of imagination that I could be in such a distinguished roll. It is a humbling recognition,” Mwenda said.
Mwenda, who hails from Meru County, said he has dedicated the last decade in building PACJA since a small group of people met at Johannesburg’s suburb of Sandton, South Africa, in 2008 and expressed desire to have a unified platform on climate change and environment in Africa.
“I am happy I have contributed, with my colleagues and partners across the continent, the most formidable environmental movement in Africa. We boast more than 1,000 organisations in 48 countries,” Mwenda said.
He said Kenya can be considered a first mover in matters climate change and a pacesetter in policies to address the scourge.
“It became the first country in Africa to enact the most comprehensive law on climate change, the Climate Change Act, 2016,” he said.
The law puts in place a framework which defines actions to be undertaken by stakeholders to mainstream climate change in the entire political economy of the country.
“In addition, several policies to mainstream the problem have been put in place, including the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018–22. There is also the National Adaptation Plan, the National Green Economy Implementation Strategy, among others,” Mwenda said.
PACJA has played a key role in drafting climate change legislation. But the biggest challenge, he said, is money required to undertake such actions.
“Kenya, for instance, has estimated that it will require around Sh40 trillion till 2030 to meet its obligations. Definitely it will require massive donor support, which may not be forthcoming,” Mwenda said.
He studied in Moi University where he was a student leader, before joining Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for post-graduate studies in public policy analysis. He is now pursuing his PhD with the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
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