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A good judgement for our future

By Kizito Temba | July 3rd 2019
Cyclone Idai's huge floods endangered many lives in Mozambique. [Courtesy]

Climate change is here, and it is here to stay. We can all already feel its dramatic consequences every day. Each year, the drought’s severity increases. The earth becomes drier. The Sahara expands. Animals perish because they cannot find food or water.

It is interesting to see that the problem might be part of the solution. The climate change we see today is man-made. Only mankind could have created the incredible levels of carbon dioxide which is responsible for the heating of the planet. What’s more, as the world becomes more developed and globalised, the levels are increasing. Thus, globalisation and industrialisation go hand in hand.

It is not without irony that climate change is perhaps the first real global struggle. Countries from all over the world suffer. They might not suffer from droughts, but from floods or a rising sea-level. Again, the problem is how resources are distributed – if only we had received some of the rain that drowned our brothers in Mozambique!

Thus, globalisation may provide the only solution to this global problem. Only intense international cooperation can slow down and stop this dangerous journey. This cooperation can only be pushed forwards by international leaders. President Uhuru Kenyatta is keenly aware of climate change and its deadly effects. He is also aware of some of the solutions available to a country with the relatively modest means such as Kenya.

Thus, we were one of the first nations on the globe to ban single-use plastic bags in order to minimise the pollution of our flora, fauna and maritime environment. There are already many worrying reports of baby fish mistaking micro-plastic for food, which might cause their deaths and completely disrupt the food chain. With a yearly consumption of 5 kg of fish per person, such a disruption is a direct threat to healthy diet of all citizens and especially for the future of our fishermen on the shores of Lake Victoria and the coastal region.

But banning plastic bags is not the only action that puts Kenya at the forefront of the movement to save Planet Earth. In order to foster cooperation, earlier this year Nairobi hosted the One Planet Summit, a summit of global leaders with one common goal, a better future for all our children. Thus, Nairobi is on par with Paris and New York (the two cities where the previous summits were held) when it comes to climate change. French President Macron’s warm words of praise for Uhuru’s bold and audacious actions for a greener future should still fill every Kenyan with pride.

Yet, our bureaucracy is vast, and it is not always clear how every decision is made. We still have a long way to go, and we must be careful not to slow our progress down by taking two steps forwards followed by one step back.

The approval of the coal power plant on the island of Lamu is such a step backwards. In a move that screams of neo-colonialism, the aptly named Power Construction Corporation of China pushed local partners to receive the necessary permits to build a power plant of gigantic dimensions. The sheer numbers leave one speechless: costing more than Sh96 billion, the plant was supposed to be built on an area spanning more than 975 acres and provide a whopping 1050 megawatts of electricity.

All this in a country whose president enacted policies that put us well on track to cover our energy needs from green energy alone. Kenya’s vast geothermal and hydroelectric energetic resources are a precious national treasure. Their continued exploitation is an important step towards our green future. Dirty coal, being burned the world over, is responsible for 800,000 premature deaths per year around the globe, and 670,000 in China alone. The economic costs of this pollution is estimated at around $70 billion. These are truly horrific numbers.

Africa has so far been spared the devastating effects of coal plants. Fortunately, the judges at the National Environmental Tribunal understood what was at stake. They have internalised President Kenyatta’s vision for a green future. They have used their common sense. They have stopped these plans that would wreak havoc on one of Kenya’s most beautiful tourist attractions. They, along with our president, are true heroes, and we should all thank them.

Mr Temba is a communication consultant

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