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Kenya should always take the front seat during climate change talks

 An aerial view Milimani area in Maragua town which was affected by floods following heavy down pour. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Human-induced climate change is one of the biggest global challenges of our time. Ecosystems, economies, and societies worldwide are affected by its impacts. Even though they have contributed little to the emissions of fossil fuels that caused the problem, the Global South is poised to be the worst affected.

The contribution of Africa to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) has been reported to be about 3.5 per cent of the worldwide output - the smallest share globally. The Paris Agreement recognises common but differentiated responsibility, noting that developed and developing countries have distinct roles in tackling climate change, considering their historical contributions to GHGs. Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries must provide financial resources, technology transfer, and capacity-building support to developing countries. This reflects broader considerations of equity, justice, and historical responsibility.

Since 1970, the global surface temperature has increased faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2000 years, according to the latest IPCC Assessment Report. The IPCC is the scientific body contributing to the UN Framework on Climate Change. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in highly vulnerable climate change contexts.

As a developing nation with a rapidly growing population and an economy heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources, Kenya faces significant challenges due to the changing climate.

A significant portion of Kenya's land is arid or semi-arid, while some fertile highlands and coastal regions also exist. Since rain-fed agriculture is a major source of livelihood, Kenya faces erratic rainfall patterns that will cause floods, storms, droughts, crop failures, food shortages, and food scarcity.

As temperatures rise, Mt Kenya's ice cap will disappear, a major source of fresh water for rivers, drinking, and irrigation around the mountain and downstream. Due to the rapid melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice, the sea level is rising and threatens to submerge low-lying coastal areas like Mombasa. This should not be viewed in isolation. In combination, they will affect food security, migration patterns, tourism, the transfer of people, and conflicts due to scarce resources. Moreover, the forests, wetlands and other natural ecosystems that we have come to be used to will likely disappear or deplete substantially. More worrying is the loss of biodiversity that forms part of our heritage.

In discussions about climate change, Kenya has been at the forefront. A bold action plan outlining mitigation and adaptation strategies has also been developed including a Climate Change Law. Through community-based interventions, such as adaptation, afforestation, reforestation, and renewable energy development, the plan focuses on agriculture, water resources, energy, and forestry sectors.

Mostly Hydropower and geothermal energy, including wind, solar, and bioenergy, has seen Kenya reach 80 per cent renewable energy. Regarding food security, Kenya promotes drought-resistant crops, improved irrigation techniques, and soil conservation. Kenya prioritises community-based adaptation strategies because climate change affects every community differently. In addition, infrastructure must be built to be resilient and clean water and sanitation must be improved.

In addition, Kenya is positioning itself to benefit from carbon markets and trading. Essentially, carbon trading limits a country's or industry's total emissions of greenhouse gases over a certain period. Governments and industries have pre-determined emissions reduction targets in the Paris Agreement.

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