Kenya's long climate battle since COP21

Soi Safari Lodge at Lake Baringo submerged in water in this photo taken on September 22, 2020. [File, Standard]

In his Presidential Memoir, A Promised Land, former US President Barack Obama recounts vividly the events that preceded the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference of 2015, commonly referred to as COP21 was on the verge of collapse before he landed in Paris.

He recounts confronting the European Union Caucus with the only deal he thought he could get passed in Congress before storming into the BRIC countries caucus without invitation.

In an operation that took about two hours, he got the key players to rally behind what was agreeable domestically in the US.

One of his Aides will later characterise it a 'gangster' kind of operation that saw him spend only about two hours in Paris on this particular day a deal was made.

The US could only agree to a treaty that was agreeable at home following the experience of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Then, President Bill Clinton was never able to get the Protocol passed by Congress.

Under the Paris Agreement, the 196 Parties to it have an ambitious target to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Reality Check

The consequences of global warming are here with us. The country has witnessed unprecedented drought and famine. So far, millions of livestock have perished in the Northern Frontier Counties.

Locals in these regions have reported it has been over three years without a drop of rains in most parts in Mandera County.

On the Rift Valley, Lakes Nakuru, Naivasha, Baringo, Ol' Bolossat and Bogoria have expanded to levels not seen in over 75 years. The same scenes have been replicated across Lakes Solai, Elementaita, Kamnarok and Oloiden leading to destruction of properties and livelihoods.

For instance, in around Lake Baringo over 5,000 people had to abandon their homes recently due to flooding. Lake Naivasha has threatened to overrun massive investments in hotels along its banks.

As we look forward to COP27 on the Sharm El Sheik in Egypt, starting on November 6, 2022, it is good to look back and take stock on what we have achieved as a country.

Key achievements

From COP21, the country has taken bold steps towards climate change action; contributing expertise at high levels of global negotiations.

The first key achievement was the development of legal instruments and enabling policies to facilitate climate action. The Climate Change Act of 2016 established the requisite institutions with the Council chaired by the President as the apex governing body. The country submitted its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts.

Under the first National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (NCCAP) in 2013-2017, 38 priority actions, including nine mitigation and 29 enabling actions in the areas of Climate Change Finance, Knowledge Management, Capacity development, policy and regulatory framework, and performance measurements.

Key milestones under this plan were made in expansion on the countries toward more green energy sources, adoption of Standards Gauge rail to cut of cargo transport through roads, reforestation and afforestation.

Key actions were mainstreamed in the Medium Term Plan III, thus integrated into national plans and budgets. The enabling National Climate Change Policy and Climate Finance Policy have been approved.

At the devolved levels, five counties including Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, Kitui and Makueni have enacted the Climate Change Funds.

At least 42 counties have passed the enabling legislation and all the counties have the Climate Change unit established under the Governor's office.