Which way forward for Kenya's climate?

Climate change has become a topic of great interest in the current setting; this is due to the diabolical effects associated with it that have affected life; food insecurity, increased natural disasters including floods, prolonged drought, increased disease outbreak, resource conflicts, water shortage and threatened source of livelihood. The reality of climate change is no longer in question; since a global consensus has been reached marking the culmination of the Sustainable Development Goals and the consistent agreements within the Conference of Parties (COP) mainly on adaptation, mitigation and financing for the climate change agenda.

According to research, the non- annex 1 countries with an example of Kenya are among the worst affected by climate change. High levels of poverty and underdevelopment combined with insufficient infrastructure exacerbate the already severe impact of global warming on resources, development and human security. In order to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, the developing economies like Kenya are expected to implement more robust environmental policies, increase local human capacity and encourage renewable energy entrepreneurship. Within international fora, they must better coordinate their position as some of the smallest contributors to global warming and locally seek to mainstream climate change through innovation and technology.

To prevent uncontrollable changes of climate, concerted efforts have been proposed primarily geared towards stabilization of green-house gases at a level equivalent to double the pre-industrial CO­­2.  These efforts are however predicted to have no counter-productive response in a population increasing world by 2050 which only raises concerns on the magnitude to which emission reduction measures should be undertaken. This will involve efficiency in energy policy that controls per capital energy consumption as well as energy source type.

Although efforts have been made to determine efficient, clean, cost- effective and productive energy sources, it is unclear which path to take: hydro-electric power expansion in use has been precluded by environmental concerns, biomass expansion has been plagued with human rights concerns since it requires vast areas of land possibly infringing rights to food as well as natural ecosystem preservation (Biomass- food production –ecosystem preservation competition), as well as solar photovoltaic and wind power economic competitiveness concerns especially distribution viability with distance and storage cost. Further considerations that deem currently non-viable and early-in-stage have been the ‘decarburization’ of fossil fuels which involves removing and sequestering carbon dioxide­­­­1.

The concerns of fossil fuel as primary determiners of climate change has been for long been researched. Initially there were suggestions that the burning of fossil fuel results to emission of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide which has warming and cooling effects respectively; a phenomenon that could lead to offsetting one another’s effect on climate. The claim however was contrasted after thorough intervention of the green- house effect especially the sky radioactive effects2 and the cloud albedo modification 3.

Energy crisis is one of the greatest challenges in Kenya. An oil- dependent nation like Kenya which historically import an approximation of 80,000 barrels of oil a day4 has been plagued by corruption and high costs; the two burdensome threats that affect growth in the country. Such high fuel dependence in products production and transport logistics results to high cost of production which is ultimately reflected on commodity price crisis. When this applies to food transport and production, right to food is massively infringed.

Burning of fossil fuel in production and transportation as well as the use of organic fertilizer in agriculture creates environmental pressures that threaten land use and productivity. Water shortage and safety are some of the challenges that seem to continue affecting communities especially the poor and the marginalized. This has been a source of conflicts within communities.         

With the advocacy of the adoption of renewable clean energy, Kenya which has faced macro-economic challenges especially high unemployment rate with a high percentage being the youths creates a greater incentive to offset these. Following renewable investment including wind power, solar, nuclear investment as well as hydro- power creates a great platform for innovation and inventions among the youths.

With the discovery of oil and coal deposits in Kenya, a great concern remains whether our ‘break-free’ pleas would be taken into consideration, but with freedom of speech and role the media plays in influencing change there is great hope in influencing mitigation activities among the communities and professional through knowledge management and information dissemination.