Walk the Talk, CS Tobiko urges corporates on climate action

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko during the Corporates in Climate Action meeting. [David Guchuru, Standard]

“Our house is burning. It is time to move from boardroom discussions to action.”

This was the resounding message from Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko speaking during the Corporates in Climate Action Breakfast in Nairobi on July 6.

CS Tobiko noted that there was enough discussions on climate change and it was now time for concrete commitments from all stakeholders to save mankind from the threat of global warming.

Clear commitments

“I expect clear commitments from the captains of industry,” he challenged the leaders at the event that was organised by The Standard Group Plc in partnership with Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC).

Stressing how urgent the climate situation is, Tobiko cited the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report where scientists warned that all evidence to a dire situation.

“We are no longer talking of climate change but climate crisis or emergency. IPCC report warns that our house is on fire. This business as usual attitude needs to end.”

“No country is immune from the dire consequences of a warming earth,” he warned.

Given the urgency of the matter, the CS stated that it is no longer about maintaining 2 degrees celsius but holding global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius.

 “For Africa¸1.5 is about life and death,” Tobiko said.

Why 1.5 degrees celsius is critical

According to Reuters, the 2015 Paris Agreement commits countries to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5 degrees celsius.

Scientists have said crossing the 1.5 degrees celcius threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems.

More global warming to 1.5 degrees celcius and beyond will worsen impacts of climate change like heat, drought and floods, quotes Reuters.

“For every increment of global warming, changes in extremes become larger,” climate scientist Sonia Seneviratne at ETH Zurich told Reuters.

An extreme heat event that occurred once per decade in a climate without human influence, would happen 4.1 times a decade at 1.5 degrees celsius of warming, and 5.6 times at 2 degrees celsius, according to the UN climate science panel.

CS Tobiko also shared some of the deliberations that came out of the just concluded 2022 UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by Kenya and Portugal in Lisbon.

“We are just from the Lisbon event where we discussed health of the oceans. Our oceans are now absorbing too much carbon dioxide. Now we have challenge of acidification and the oceans are warming.”

From left: Environment and Social Lead Airtel Africa - Michael Koech, KCB Head of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability - Judith Sidi Odhiambo, Climate Change Ministry of Environment Director - Ogola Pacifica, WWE Energy and Climate change coordinator - Jackie Kimeu, Society of Crop Agribusiness Advisors of Kenya CEO - Jane Musindi and moderator Laban Cliff during the Corporates in Climate Action meeting. [David Guchuru, Standard]

“We discharge toxins into our oceans. We have killed our marine and aquatic life.”

According to the United Nations eight million tonnes of plastics are dumped into oceans globally every year. And if that trend continues unchecked, the CS warned that by 2050, we will have more plastics in the oceans than fish.

To compound the problem, CS Tobiko pointed out there is also illegal and unregulated fishing which is upsetting the ocean health.

Oceans he noted, occupy 70 per cent of the planet, they absorb 30 per cent of the deadly greenhouse gases, provide 51 per cent of the oxygen that we breathe and absorb 90 per cent of the global heat.

In addition, they sustain 3.2 billion people on the planet.

Sadly, when the oceans are chocking with plastics and other toxins, they cannot play their critical role.

That is why it is critical for every individual, household, corporate and governments to play their role in protecting this critical asset.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) the ocean is our greatest ally against the climate crisis.

Lungs of the planet

It is not just ‘the lungs of the planet,’ but also the largest ‘carbon sink’ – a vital buffer against the increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

UNEP warns that the ocean is facing a global emergency. Climate change poses adverse effects on the ocean and marine life, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, deoxygenation, sea level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, decrease in marine biodiversity, as well as coastal erosion and extreme weather events and related impacts on island and coastal communities.

On his part, KCIC Consulting lead partner Dr Edward Mungai brought to light critical gaps in climate action financing and the way forward.

“State committed to 32 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve that we need Sh600 billion for the next eight years. Currently we are receiving only Sh300 billion. This is where private sector can step in to help us mobilise the funds,” Dr Mungai said.

Interestingly, out of the Sh600 billion target 80 per cent should go to adaptation while 20 per cent should go to mitigation efforts.

Unfortunately, Dr Mungai said 80 per cent is directed to mitigation while 20 per cent goes into adaptation.

Mitigation vs adaptation

But what exactly is the difference between mitigation and adaptation?

Climate Reality Project aptly captures it.

Imagine you’re on a ship that’s sinking because of a leak. If you want to stay afloat, you’ve got to act. The first thing you could do is grab a bucket and pour water out as it gushes through the hull. This response is adaptation — addressing the effect (the water in the boat), but not the cause of the problem (the hole).

In the climate world, the IPCC defines adaptation as “the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects.” It’s doing what we can to live with and minimise the destruction and suffering that comes from climate change.

Mitigation

According to Climate Reality Project, if adaptation is pouring water out to stay afloat in the moment, sealing the leak to halt more water coming in is mitigation. In other words, it’s addressing the root cause of the problem rather than dealing with its effects.

In a climate context, as the IPCC describes, mitigation is “human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases”. 

Chief Officer Operations and Strategy Standard Group PLC Benedict Omollo and KCB Head of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Judith Sidi during the Corporates in Climate Action meeting. [David Guchuru, Standard]

Climate Reality Project further explains that from a policymaker’s perspective, adaptation is a local, private good with often clear and immediate benefits.  On the other, mitigation is a global, public good with far-away benefits.

Water crisis

Speaking at the forum, AFDB East Africa Dr Olufunso Somorin principal officer in charge of climate change and green growth noted that climate change in Kenya is manifesting as a water crisis.

“If it rains, it is too much and causes floods. If it does not, it leads to drought,” Dr Somorin noted.

Dr Somorin said in the past few days they visited Makueni and Samburu counties and come face to face with the real realities of climate change and the solutions locals had embraced in a bid to adapt.

Noting that most financing has been directed at mitigation efforts, he cited the need for a financing framework that targets adaptation.

Speaking on behalf of The Standard Group PLC Chief Executive Officer Orlando Lyomu, Joe Munene (Managing Director Broadcast) said the company is committed to ensure that the climate action conversation continues in all its platforms- print, TV, radio and digital.

“As a media house, we are committed to highlight issues affecting our society like climate change. We are happy to work with all stakeholders,” Munene said.

Citing innovative solutions like green bonds, Head of Conservation at WWF Kenya Jackson Kiplagat challenged corporates to develop innovative solutions that help farmers cope with harsh effects of climate change.

Safaricom Plc Sustainable Business director Karen Basiye said in a bid to walk the talk, the company is committed to be a net zero company by 2050.

“We have individual carbon calculator where every employee can look at their carbon footprint and make steps to reduce it,” she said.

The company has also invested heavily in renewable energy to support their infrastructure and operations and is committed to decarbonizing the society.

The Corporates in Climate Action breakfast came to a close with a call to all stakeholders to foster a partnership with the Standard Group Plc to address climate change.

The forum is critical in pulling efforts and resources for climate action ahead of the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022.

Other corporates that have joined The Standard Plc in the initiative are Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), Airtel Kenya and KCB.

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