Global warming: Why Kenya is among countries at crossroads

A Turkana tribesman carries his gun in order to protect his cattle from rival Pokot and Samburu tribesmen near Baragoy, Kenya February 13, 2017./REUTERS
A Turkana tribesman carries his gun in order to protect his cattle from rival Pokot and Samburu tribesmen near Baragoy, Kenya February 13, 2017./REUTERS

Kenya, just like other developing countries, is at the tipping point of global warming. Its high dependence on climate-sensitive agricultural production leaves it in a precarious position.

The country’s nationally determined contribution, which outlines that it will cut its carbon emissions by 30 per cent in 2030, is now giving scientists sleepless nights. This is because countries such as Kenya lack climate finance, technology and capacity.

Already, an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, has hit many regions across the country.

This is posing a problem to the Big Four agenda: housing, manufacturing, food security and universal health coverage. It also undermines attainment of the Vision 2030 development agenda.

The poor, women and children are the most affected groups due to their low adaptive capacity.

For instance in 2016, Marsabit county lost about 60 per cent of its livestock, its source of livelihood.

In some counties, fighting has erupted due to water shortage.



A new report that was released on Monday by the world’s leading climate scientists paints a bleak future if no immediate action is taken. The report is by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It warns that the planet is set to reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030.

Such temperatures are likely to precipitate the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages, dealing a major blow to many countries, especially nations that are struggling, such as Kenya.

Governments invited the IPCC to prepare the report in 2015, when they adopted the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

For International Development Research Centre’s Evans Kituyi, the report has several benchmark findings. Kituyi is a senior programme specialist in the climate change programme. He said five findings particularly stand out for developing countries.

First, there is very high risk that under current greenhouse gas emission trajectories and national pledges, global warming will exceed the 1.5°C threshold above pre-industrial levels.

“Secondly, the 1.5°C global warming limit is being approached very quickly, and is expected to be reached within a decade or by 2040 at the latest. This points to problems for adaptation at local scales,” he said.

Kituyi said thirdly, even if global warming is effectively limited to 1.5°C, climatic trends and changing extreme events in oceans and over land imply appreciable climate risks for ecosystems and human societies that will be larger than today.

This is especially so for individuals and communities experiencing multidimensional poverty and persistent vulnerabilities.

Fourthly, the number of people affected by multiple climate change risks could double, if global temperature rises by 2°C compared to a rise of 1.5°C.

Similarly, economic development is bound to be significantly affected by exceeding the adaptive capacity of vulnerable systems at temperature increases higher than 2°C.

Lastly, to meet the 1.5°C or even the 2°C target will be a difficult task. For many scientists, these targets are technically feasible but politically or socially unrealistic.

These call for slowing the pace of warming and investing in resilience to the unavoidable warming already locked into the climate system. It implies transformational adaptation and mitigation, behaviour change, supportive institutional arrangements and multi-level governance.



Yesterday, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko said the Climate Change Act (2016) and Policy have been put in place, providing a framework for mainstreaming climate change actions across sectors at the national and county levels.

“The Act recognises the National Climate Change Action Plan as a mechanism for mainstreaming climate change into all sectors and the County Integrated Development Plans,” he said.

Tobiko made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by Chief Administrative Secretary Mohamed Elmi during the first National Conference on Climate Governance.

The event at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, was organised by Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance, UKAid, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Christian Aid, Trócaire and Deepening Democracy Programme. It also involved the Environment ministry and the Council of Governors.

Tobiko said the second National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018-22 identifies priority adaptation and mitigation actions aligned to MTP III as well as contribution to the government’s Big 4 Agenda. The latter involves enhancing the manufacturing sector, food and nutrition security, universal health care and affordable housing.

Furthermore, the CS said, NCCAP informs the implementation of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“As you are aware, access to climate finance (especially in the form of grants) for implementation of climate change actions is a challenge,” he said.


Even though the Paris Agreement made it clear that developed countries will continue to provide and mobilise finance to support developing countries, some like USA have differed.

The agreement pointed out that developing countries should get $100 billion (Sh10.1 trillion) climate funding every year until 2025. The funds are meant to turn the world into a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future.

Under the agreement, governments agreed to balance public funding between adaptation and mitigation, and agreed to significantly increase support for adaptation before 2020.

And to ensure transparency, countries have committed to improve reporting on finance, with everyone providing information about finance provided or received at an appropriate time.

Depending on the impact of the funding, a higher budget may be adjusted after the expiry of the time set.

DFID Kenya acting head of office Sarah Montgomery said devolution is important as it offers important opportunities to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change.

“It is fantastic that five counties in Kenya (Garissa, Isiolo, Kitui, Makueni and Wajir) are successfully applying a model of devolved climate finance — the County Climate Change Fund Mechanism,” she said.

The fund mechanism integrates climate risks and empowers poor and vulnerable communities in the face of climate change.

The five counties have put structures and processes in place that enable them to access and manage climate finances in a transparent and accountable manner.

“We hope other counties will not only learn from them but also follow their example,” Montgomery said.