GLOBAL WARMING

Counties should take the lead in climate change governance

In Summary
  • Severe droughts and increased instances of extremely intense rainfall, for example, have caused major human suffering and economic losses in the recent past
  • Climate change governance should follow a clear strategy that would lead to coordinated action from the grassroots to the national level
Image: THE STAR

Kenya has witnessed increased instances of extreme climate events. Scientific predictions state that the situation is likely to persist for at least 100 years at global level irrespective of whether countries cut down on greenhouse house emissions.

This is as a result of what is known as the Committed Global Warming—that is the expected increase in global temperatures as a result of the greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere at this moment.

Global ranking on climate vulnerability places Kenya at position 32 and despite having an impressive set of climate change policies and plans, our level of preparedness to handle climate change challenges remains low.

Severe droughts and increased instances of extremely intense rainfall, for example, have caused major human suffering and economic losses in the recent past.

USAID Climate Risk Profile 2018 estimates losses as a result of the 2008-2011 droughts alone at $12.1 billion. With the changing climate, longer heat waves, more severe droughts and increased frequency of floods as a result of intense rainfall are expected.

These challenges are expected to lead to increased conflicts over resources such as land, water, food and pastures as well as increased incidences of diseases. Examples of extreme climate events witnessed in the recent past include flooding in the Rift Valley lake system, which has led to destruction of settlements and commercial entities, displacing people and disrupting livelihoods.

Being closest to the citizens, they can accurately identify the needs of the people and initiate plans, policies, programmes and actions to strengthen the resilience of communities against the devastating impacts of climate change.

In 2019-2020, Lake Victoria experienced a massive backflow that submerged neighbouring lands. Tana River also experienced massive flooding in 2019 and at some point, data showed 75 per cent of the county was flooded.

There is an urgent need to strengthen partnerships and collaborations among stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, the county and national governments to effectively address climate change challenges. 

The counties have a particularly significant role to play in strengthening climate governance. Being closest to the citizens, they can accurately identify the needs of the people and initiate plans, policies, programmes and actions to strengthen the resilience of communities against the devastating impacts of climate change.

Climate change governance should follow a clear strategy that would lead to coordinated action from the grassroots to the national level. This should be done through structures specifically tailored to climate change governance from the highest decision-making organ in the county (the county executive committee) to the lowest level such as the ward or villages.

In addition, the is need to strengthen human resources capacity in the counties specific to climate change. This will increase the ability to predict extreme weather events and put in place appropriate policies, plans and programmes as well as initiate actions that safeguard citizens against the impacts of climate change. Most importantly, there is need to apportion finances specifically to address the impacts of climate change on communities.  

If the plans, programmes and policies are all-inclusive, so that no member of the community such as the youth, women and people living with disability are left disenfranchised, Kenya would not only be in a better position to deal with the devastating impacts of climate change but also put herself in a better position to access global climate finances.

Director, climate change in Vihiga county. [email protected]