African nations have been urged to do more to fund climate change mitigation even as they wait for developed countries to fulfil their pledges on funding.
This was said at the fourth edition of the Kusi Ideas Festival at Karura Forest in Nairobi, which brings together environment champions.
Exploring African responses and solutions to climate change is timely, because climate breakdown threatens Africa and the world, said Prince Rahim Aga Khan, the Chairman of the AKDN Environment and Climate Committee.
The Prince promised to spearhead responsible stewardship of the environment and promote research to address environmental degradation and climate change.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Prince Rahim also promised that the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) targets to have zero net emissions by 2030.
This, he said, would help restore the natural environment, whose degradation has been occasioned by greenhouse gas emissions.
“The continent has, in recent times, seen a multitude of natural disasters due to climate change, including floods, locust infestations, water scarcity, and food shortages.”
“Currently, some 40 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing famine as a result of the drought, which is robbing Africa, whose strength has always been her people and their resilience, of her most valuable resource,” said Prince Rahim.
“Today, you will hear how temperatures in Africa are rising — and are set to rise faster than the global average during the 21st century.”
“You will also hear that, while Africa has contributed negligibly to the changing climate; being responsible for only two to three percent of global emissions, it stands out disproportionately as the most vulnerable continent in the world to climate change — a vulnerability exacerbated by the continent’s prevailing low levels of socioeconomic growth.”
“This festival brings together some of the best minds in Africa to take this agenda forward and, most importantly, implement the ideas and solutions that will be discussed here,” he added.
As a way of leading by example, Prince Rahim explained, AKDN has eliminated 4,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by installing solar plants, and generated six million kilowatts of clean energy.
The next plan, he disclosed, is to plant more than 500 acres of mangroves in the Kenyan coast to enable carbon sequestration, as the Nation Media Group (NMG) embarks on cutting emissions by implementing a digital transformation.
In a speech read on his behalf by Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya, President William Ruto said Africa has the potential to provide solutions for the global climate change crisis, even as it recovers from Covid-19 and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, drought and high food prices. He, however, noted that this may be curtailed by inadequate finances.
“It is projected that Africa will need to invest over Sh368 trillion for mitigation and adaptation by 2030 to implement its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement.”
“The bulk of these resources were supposed to come from the rich industrialised nations responsible for the heaviest pollution, but this has never taken off.”
“In East Africa, our Climate Change Master Plan is woefully underfunded. I challenge this festival to tackle the question of how to resource Africa’s response to climate change without relying on outside help,” said the President.
“I urge every Kenyan to plant trees equivalent to their age on each birthday. Our population is about 55 million and its median age is 20 years. The trees that would be planted through the scheme are 1.1 billion annually.”
“If the world, whose median age is 30 years, were to adopt this strategy, it would result in planting 120 billion to 240 billion trees annually, thus providing the rapid healing the world needs,” he urged.
“If each Kenyan plants four trees every year on Mother’s Day, to honor Mother Earth, Mother Africa, Kenya, our Motherland and our mother, the biological parent, the initiative would yield 220 million trees annually. If, once again, the world adopts our approach, the number of trees planted would be 32 billion, now that the world’s population has hit the eight billion mark,” added President Ruto.
Dr Wilfred Kiboro, the chairperson of the NMG board, said that Africa needs to generate solutions to its pressing problems, while helping the continent find its place in the global sphere.
While announcing the setting up of the Nation Media Foundation, Dr Kiboro explained that the foundation will advance climate change initiatives, which will also be supported by the government and development partners.
This, he said, will further boost what NMG has done in dealing with plastic waste, promoting tree planting, and providing leadership in reporting the big environmental and climate change issues of our times.
“Climate change is as important a reason as any for Africa to come together. Our shared lakes and rivers are either overflowing and causing disastrous floods, or drying out and plunging tens of millions of our people in hunger.”
“Karura Forest is a monumental symbol of victory from an intense environmental struggle of the 1990s in Kenya, and is a perfect backdrop to the question of the climate change crisis,” said Dr Kiboro.
“With a different set of circumstances, Karura might not have survived. We owe its survival to many brave Kenyan activists, some of whom paid the ultimate price for their action with prison, and death. I am proud to point out that the Nation Media Group answered the call of duty and offered its muscle to bolster the campaign to save Karura.”
“NMG raised funds for the fencing off of 440 kilometres of the Aberdare Forest to save the water tower for Nairobi. This also contributed to reducing human-wildlife conflict,” he added.
Threat to Africa’s development
In a virtual speech, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the climate crisis is a threat to Africa’s development, as he called on the big emitters to make true their vow on climate financing.
Tanzania’s Vice President Philip Mpango said agricultural production in most African countries has gone down and leaders should explore options of building innovative technology to deal with challenges of increasing food safety.
“It is apparent that the current climate crisis is curtailing our efforts to achieve accelerated economic growth, sustainable development, and poverty reduction targets. Let us join forces and invest in innovative technologies to fight and combat climate change and associated challenges towards a better future,” Dr Mpango said.
The latest report from Kenya's National Drought Management Authority shows that a total of 4.35 million people living in arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) are still in need of humanitarian assistance due to drought; 942,000 children aged between six months and five years and 134,000 pregnant or lactating women are also struggling with acute malnutrition as they access treatment.
With northern Kenya struggling with poor rainfall attributed to climate change, the situation is likely to get worse, as regions such as Mandera and parts of Wajir and northern eastern Marsabit are forecast to receive near average to below average rainfall during in December.
Parts of agro-pastoral clusters, including the southern parts of West Pokot and western Baringo, are also forecasted to receive near average to below average rainfall.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that Africa is highly vulnerable and adversely impacted by climate change, and that the effects of climate change such as increasing temperatures and sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and more extreme weather threatens human health and safety, food and water security and socio-economic development.
“Increases in temperature and changes in rainfall patterns also significantly affect population health across Africa. Warmer temperatures and higher rainfall increase habitat suitability for biting insects and the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever.
“In addition, new diseases are emerging in regions where they were previously not present,” says IPCC.
Reporting by Mercy Chelang’at, Leon Lidigu and Ndubi Moturi