Floods and droughts should make world to take more action

Flooded homes in Uthiru, Nairobi, following heavy rains in May 2024. [Kimaku Chege, Standard]

The heavy rains we are experiencing have been attributed to the Indian Ocean Dipole and climate change. It is, however, no secret that they have over the past month proven to be unbearable and destructive.

It is indisputable that we have not experienced such rains for a very long time. Floods have killed more than 200 people and displaced over 300,000 families.

In recent years, Kenya has also experienced severe drought spells that have led to the loss of human and livestock lives.

These acute weather scenarios point to one thing - climate change. It is a notorious fact that climate change is real and with us right now. We are experiencing weather extremes.

The world has been mulling climate change, especially due to the extensive industrialisation which has been on an upward trajectory since the 15th Century. There have been enormous emissions of greenhouse gases injuring the atmosphere and the ozone layer.

It is because of this that over 192 countries adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The protocol has been instrumental in aiding the repair and healing of the ozone layer by introducing carbon credits and carbon trading to mitigate the effects of climate change by making it expensive to emit harmful gases.

The biggest emitters compensate for the damage caused. Kenya, for instance, through the Northern Kenya Rangelands Carbon Project, one of the world’s largest soil carbon removal projects, has generated over Sh2.3 billion through carbon trading.

The main objective of the Kyoto Protocol is to enhance the goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. There has been a considerable reduction of the ozone layer hole since the enactment of this protocol.

Needless to say, such declarations and treaties have been the order of the day in all world summits. The signing of these treaties is welcome. However, like with many other international laws, there has been no follow-up framework to ensure compliance.

Africa has the potential to take the lead in mitigating the effects of climate change as it has the largest renewable energy potential in the world.

There have been commitments and promises from the largest companies in the West to pump resources into Africa by setting up carbon markets. However, some of these programmes are designed to benefit the same polluters more than the host countries.

The companies are not willing to invest in renewable energy projects in Africa or even close shop in their countries and set up firms in Africa by utilising the available green energy resources instead of carbon fossil back in their countries.

It is notable that the greatest emitters have the largest muscle and capacity to handle the extreme effects of climate change. While the least emitters, mainly in Africa and Southern America, do not have the capacity to deal with the effects that come with climate change including floods, hurricanes and cyclones, ironically they are largely faced with these effects.

The United Nations through its enactments, commitments and treaties has mandated and obligated countries to make efforts to mitigate the effects and prevent damage to the atmosphere and the environment generally.

Greenhouse emissions do not have respect and concern for political and territorial boundaries and so it is important for the whole world to set aside its differences and make concerted efforts for a successful mitigation plan.

Kenya has named October 10 Mazingira Day. This is a good step in promoting environmental conservation by encouraging the planting of trees which is in line with the call by the Kyoto and Montreal protocols. But there is a need for us to do more.

We should have a national budget to deal with the effects of climate change and also allocate funds to assist in science and innovation, including promoting research programmes to deal with climate change.

Environmental conservation should be introduced as a subject in all our institutions of learning to create awareness about climate matters.

The Bretton Woods institution should employ its influence in policy reviews and enactment of laws by compelling countries seeking monetary support to have in place programmes that aid in mitigation and conservation of the environment.

Finally, Kenya and East Africa should store enough water when they have a lot of rain, like currently, so that the same can be used during times of drought.

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