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Rethink Kenya's agenda in COP27 amid climate ills

 A Somali woman and children carry water at a camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Dollow, Somalia on September 20, 2022. [AP]

With over 75 per cent of Kenyans earning their living from agriculture directly or indirectly, climate change crisis should worry all of us.

The worst is still expected from adverse effects of climate change with global circulation models predicting increased temperatures of about 4oC and variability in rainfall of up to 20 percent by 2030.

This will lead to severe droughts and unreliable rainfall for our predominant rain fed agriculture. These changes will adversely affect agriculture in the arid, semi-arid and high potential areas.

Today, climate change has become the most important topical development policy and global governance issue. At global scale the world is facing the fury of mother nature, from extreme temperatures, rising sea levels, hurricanes, drying rivers and disappearing biodiversity. This has disrupted the harmony between nature and human.

According to the UN, over 15 million people are facing severe water shortages and acute food insecurity in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. The number could reach 20 million if these conditions persist. Kenya is facing the worst food crisis with traditional known food baskets becoming food insecure. The worsening drought situation is attributed to poor performance of the 2021 short rains coupled with the previous two failed consecutive seasons and late-onset of the 2022 long rains season.

The annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference (COP 27) to be held in Egypt in November, presents an opportunity for governments to build on previous successes and pave the way for future ambitions to effectively tackle the global challenge of climate change.

Kenyan delegation should focus on mitigation, adaptation, collaboration and finance agenda. Enhancing mitigation should be our rallying call to reduce global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. First, we need concerted efforts towards reduction of sources of these greenhouse gases such as burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport.

Secondly, we need to enhance the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases (such as oceans, forests and soil). Supporting and prioritising integrated landscape management approaches, restoration, regeneration agriculture and working with local communities to protect natural resources from mangrove forests in the coast, grasslands in the Mara to water towers of Mau complex, Aberdares, Mt Elgon and Mt Kenya is key.

Thirdly, while climate change is a global phenomenon, the impacts are specific to local areas such as observed in Kenyan case. Therefore, climate change impacts adaptation strategies are appropriately applicable to a given local perspective, strategies to enhance resilience of our communities and assist most vulnerable household is crucial. There is need for a paradigm shift from top-down strategies to a hybridisation where all stakeholders including local communities are involved.

Fourthly, decisions on climate finance and adaptation should benefit those who are most affected by the climate crisis and least able to adapt. There is need to incentivise investments in landscape management and payment for ecosystem services.

The writer is a natural resource specialist at Rainforest Alliance

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