Yes, growing trees will greatly help fight climate change crisis

National Youth Service Men and Women planted over 112,000 trees at the Paramilitary Academy in Gilgil on National Tree Planting day on November 13, 2023. [Courtesy, NYS X]

According to the United Nations, the world is standing on the brink of climate calamity because it will exceed 1.5 °C by 2035 and it faces a 2.5 °C warming by 2100.

The rate of the sea level has doubled in the last decade leading to hurricanes, submerging islands, food and water crises, refugees, and other human crises.

Climate change is an existential catastrophe and an emergency that must be addressed NOW. We urgently need deep, rapid, and sustained Green House gas emission reductions of 43 per cent by 2030, just 7 years away and we MUST get to net ZERO GHG emission by 2050.

In July 2022, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), convened the Third Global Conference on Strengthening Synergies Between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development hosted by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, in partnership with the UN University (UNU) and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).

More than 2,000 participants generated significant potential solutions and proposals to better address the climate emergency and reversals in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In September 2015, following a successful process co-chaired and co-facilitated by Kenya, the UN General Assembly adopted the SDGs in the report entitled Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

SDG 13, “urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts,” has 5 targets specifically dealing with scaling up action to combat climate change. SDG 15, “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss,” dealing with life on land requires a fundamental shift in humanity’s relationship with nature.

According to the UN, people and the planet will suffer severely if we continue to lose our forests, degrade our land, and cause species to become extinct, warning that the world is currently facing the largest species extinction event since the dinosaur age. The situation is grim because the protected area coverage of key biodiversity areas has stalled since 2015 and 100 million hectares of healthy and productive land was degraded every year from 2015 to 2019! This is why our government should be congratulated for the tree-growing vision to enhance our forest cover by 2032. Declaring 13th November 2023, a tree-growing holiday is the best effort at reforestation and the enthusiasm with which Kenyans embraced it is indicative of our love for the environment irrespective of the role IMF might have played in it. It was truly heart-warming to witness literally everyone planting trees. We ordinarily plant trees anyway, but making it a national event made so much difference. It feels great to learn that the target of planting over 150 million was achieved in one day alone.

Imagine the magnitude of what we shall accomplish if we scale up and stick with this ambition. We shall reverse some of the serious damage to our forests, and environment while dealing with the negative effects of climate change.

It was impressive to see the coordinated and well-planned distribution of seedlings throughout the country and KEFRI and KFS truly merit accolades for providing seedlings. On Thursday 16th November 2023 KEFRI Kitui, NEMA, KEPHIS, County Government, and South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU) led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Douglas Shitanda planted over 3,000 mostly indigenous seedlings at the university. Although we have our nursery at SEKU, the collaboration portends exponential growth in tree cover. KEFRI introduced the KEFRI JAZA Miti App, which Prof Shitanda promised to have put into use by the SEKU fraternity. We are thrilled to see tree-growing being embraced especially now that there is so much rain and expected to continue until the New Year.

If we accelerate the momentum with clear follow-up plans, we will achieve the goal President Ruto has set for Kenya by 2032. This is one bi-partisan issue almost all Kenyans agree on. We shall make a difference by ensuring the trees we plant are nurtured and cared for until maturity.