Kenya signs key agreements at COP26 conference


Council of Governors Dr Wilber Ottichilo and Kenyan team at the COP 26 climate talks in Glasgow, UK. [Courtesy]

As the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) approaches its second week, global leaders appeared to make significant progress on how to tackle the biggest calamity facing humanity - climate change. But what many have been asking is what COP 26 is and what it means for Kenya.

The world is getting warmer because of emissions from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, caused by humans. In addition, extreme weather events linked to climate change - including heatwaves, floods and forest fires – are getting intense. To slow down the warming, some 200 countries, called parties, are being asked for their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. That is why they are meeting in Glasgow, UK from October 31 to November 13 to discuss their plans to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius – to avoid a climate catastrophe.

At the summit, Kenya is represented by President Uhuru Kenyatta and a high-powered delegation from the Ministry of Environment, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) officials and Council of Governors Environment and Climate Change Chair Wilber Ottichilo, a lead negotiator.

Speaking to The Standard virtually from Glasgow, UK, Dr Otichillo, an environmentalist, said the Kenyan delegation was making significant progress, as it presents Kenya’s climate action progress plans at the global platform.

“I am part of the Kenyan delegation to the COP26, representing the 47 counties of Kenya as Chairperson Environment and Climate Change Committee of the Council of Governors. We have had long and intense sessions, but I am happy to announce that we are making significant progress as we approach week two of the conference,” said Ottichilo, who is also the Vihiga Governor.

Giants club

As one of the lead negotiators for Kenya, the Vihiga Governor accompanied the President to a high-level event on natural solutions that focused on combating climate change by investing in Africa’s natural carbon sinks. The meeting was convened by the African Development Bank.

At the event, the President announced Kenya’s plan to work with other African countries that form the ‘Giants Club’ conservation group to raise resources for investment in the continent’s climate change mitigation programmes.

This strategy is particularly important because developing countries, who contribute less than 10 per cent of the global greenhouse emissions, yet they suffer the biggest brunt, need billions of climate funds US dollars to cope with climate change and transition to green energy solutions. Ottichilo said the team had engaged with a number of countries that are leaders in climate action and that they discussed innovative climate smart solutions that can benefit Kenya. Kenya, he said, had engaged with the Japanese Embassy on a project on how to recycle plastic waste into various products through a chemical process of monomerisation, pyrolysis and gasification. 

“We also discussed with the team from Japan how to use carbon negative concrete for construction, a technology that absorbs and permanently stores carbon dioxide during the hardening process of concrete,” he said.  

Also of significance, he noted, is that world leaders signed the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use, a bold declaration on forest protection.

“Making a declaration to end deforestation is a big milestone in the fight against climate change. This emphasizes the critical and interdependent roles of forests of all types, biodiversity and sustainable land use in enabling the world to meet its sustainable development goals,” Ottichilo explained.  To further steer the deforestation agenda, the governor said already the Korean government was assisting Ethiopia on the Peace Forest Initiative and further engagements would lead to support in Maragoli Hills and Kibiri Forest restoration.

Ottichilo also joined Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani in a panel discussion on financing a more resilient world in efforts to supporting adaptation.

Of importance, he said, was the pledge by world countries, multilaterals and private sector to commit $130 trillion towards realisation of carbon zero emissions by 2050 through the Carbon Investment Fund.

“This fund will mainly be used for adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Further the discussion centred on how to create a special carbon transition fund that will help countries, both developed and developing, to transition from fossil based economies to renewable energy based economies.” To access these funds, standards and regulations will have to be formulated to be met by the beneficiaries of the same. 

At the centre of the talks is the hot debate on climate financing, given that developed nations pledged to mobilise $100 billion (Sh11 trillion) every year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change and transition to greener projects.

“I also attended sessions at the US pavilion, where issues of climate financing were discussed and how satellite data modeling is used by NASA to monitor the impact of climate change globally,” Ottichilo said. Some 25,000 people are attending the vast COP 26, from heads of State to activists and charity workers.