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Step up Kenya’s climate change response to ensure food security

OPINION
By Jared Othieno | August 27th 2021

Rainfall patterns have generally changed over the last few decades. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

A recent assessment carried out by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG), county steering groups and the United Nations, states indicates Kenya is facing a worsening drought situation due to two failed rainy seasons.

Over 1.4 million Kenyans are facing food insecurity, and the number could go up to 2 million by end of the year. Rainfall patterns have generally changed over the last few decades, with the long rainy season becoming shorter and dryer and the short rainy season longer and wetter. The change has had a huge impact on Kenya because 98 per cent of our agriculture is rain-fed.

Climate change has been singled out as a key contributor to more frequent extreme weather events like droughts which tend to last longer than usual. Kenya’s total greenhouse gas emissions (key driver of climate change) have increased from 56.8 MtCO2e in 1995 to 93.7 MtCO2e in 2015 and are projected to increase to 143 MtCO2e by 2030 as the country pursues the Vision 2030 development agenda.

Kenya’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) report released in 2016 shows that in 2015, the leading source of emissions was agriculture at 40 per cent of the total national emissions, mostly due to livestock enteric fermentation, manure left on pasture and agricultural soils and fertiliser application.

This was closely followed by land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities at 38 per cent because of deforestation and energy, including transport at 18 per cent. The balance is from industrial processes and product use (IPPU) at 3 per cent and waste management at 1 per cent.

However, projections show by 2030, energy will be the leading contributor to emissions because of increased consumption of fossil fuels in generating electricity, meeting domestic, commercial and industrial heating demands and transportation.

Renewable energy especially geothermal energy is now considered one of the most important alternative energy sources to minimise climate change. Geothermal energy is generally accepted as environmentally friendly source for power generation or direct use with little or no greenhouse gas emissions.

Solar panels at Olaitotioni Farm. [Jeckonia Otieno, Standard]

Increased geothermal energy development is well suited to climate change mitigation because it provides base-load power and heating from a large energy resource well-distributed globally. Kenya has a high geothermal resource potential of around 10,000 MW along the Rift Valley. The current installed geothermal capacity is 745 MW, with most of it in the Olkaria fields.

As the country joins the rest of the world in assessing progress made in reducing global emissions during the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference from 31 October to 12 November 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom, the government has committed to abate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Kenya has put in place strong policy measures to address climate change. Kenya has enacted the Climate Change Act (Number 11 of 2016). This is the first climate change-dedicated legislation in Africa and provides a regulatory framework for enhanced response.

The Act provides for a regulatory framework for enhanced response to climate change and mechanism and measures to achieve low carbon climate development. The Act established governance structures for climate change management with the National Climate Change Council being responsible for oversight and coordination.

Climate change actions have been incorporated into the Third Medium-Term Plan (2018-2022), where climate change was mainstreamed across sector plans.

The country will need to hasten its climate change goals as the World Meteorological Organisation is predicting that temperatures could temporarily exceed 1.5°C as early as 2024. This could severally impact sectors such as agriculture, health and water which are sensitive to temperature changes. We can accelerate collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society to deliver on our climate goals faster.

There is still a limited number of companies, investors, county governments, academic institutions and civil society groups focused on climate action, public awareness, and advocacy. Greater multi-stakeholder collaborations in support of climate action are critical now.

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