KATIBA CORNER

Why counties need to increase investment in climate change, disaster risk reduction

Equity is a central theme of the Constitution, especially in connection with finance.

In Summary

• The Climate Change Act was passed by the national Parliament in 2016 but it imposes many responsibilities upon counties, particularly to “mainstream” climate change in their work.

•  Various constitutional responsibilities of the counties, set out in Schedule Four, touch on climate change issues, including agriculture and physical planning.

Kilifi county meteorological director Ramadhan Munga presents data on effects of climate change at Pwani University, January 29, 2018
Kilifi county meteorological director Ramadhan Munga presents data on effects of climate change at Pwani University, January 29, 2018
Image: ELIAS YAA

Equity Week is an annual event organiSed by the International Budget Partnership Kenya and its partners, including the Senate, Commission on Revenue Allocation and development initiatives.

It is a national week of reflection to highlight issues of equity in resource mobilisation and distribution in Kenya. The aim is to stimulate a broad-based conversation about how resources are shared at the national and county level through a series of events to share views and ideas related to equity with academia, civil society, government officials, the arts community, development organisations, and citizens.

Equity is a central theme of the Constitution, especially in connection with finance. It is a national value, and thus must be respected throughout the operations of government, but appears with particular force in regard to devolution and resources.

 

First, equitable sharing of resources is one of the reasons given for devolution. Then the share of revenue raised nationally that is to go to the counties (the subject of much tension, especially in Parliament, as the Division of Revenue Bill was held up for so long) is called the “equitable share”, and set of criteria is set out to guide the Commission on Revenue Allocation, Treasury and Parliament on what “equitable" means in this context.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AT  COUNTY LEVEL

The Constitution does not mention climate change. And as a subject, this means it is mainly a national matter. The Climate Change Act was passed by the national Parliament in 2016 but it imposes many responsibilities upon counties, particularly to “mainstream” climate change in their work.

Clearly, it makes sense for the national government to have considerable responsibility and resources, and to be able to coordinate resources. Climate crises will not arise at the same time in all counties, and some resources need to be flexibly available.

But, as the realisation of the reality, the causes, and the seriousness of climate change grows, it is clear that the counties will be at the Kenyan frontline. They are the first point of contact with climate-affected populations and need to play a pivotal role in managing climate change and disaster risk reduction investment.

Indeed, this year has surely brought home to us the vulnerability of many parts of the country. Whether the current heavy rains are connected to climate change is unclear – the Indian Ocean Dipole apparently takes place roughly every 10 years. But it should be taken as a warning of our vulnerability.

Various constitutional responsibilities of the counties, set out in Schedule Four, touch on climate change issues, including agriculture and physical planning. And “disaster management” is mentioned specifically as both a county and a national responsibility. Counties are also responsible for refuse disposal (ensuring it does not block drainage making flooding worse), and for “stormwater management systems in built-up areas” and “water and sanitation services”.

 
 

So though Article 203 does not specifically mention climate change responsibilities as one of the factors to take into account in allocating the “equitable share” of national revenue to the counties, it is clear they have a major climate change burden. It only right to mention that Article 203 does state fixing the equitable share for the counties must take into account the responsibilities of counties.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISASTER RISK REDUCTION SPENDING

County governments are missing a key opportunity to invest in their poorest and most vulnerable populations. Climate change and disasters are among the leading causes of inequality, poverty and vulnerability in recent times, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2019. Climate change directly caused losses of $346 million on average per year in Kenya between 1998 and 2017 – and we know it is the poorest and most vulnerable who are bearing the brunt of this impact.

Spending on climate change and disaster risk reduction is, therefore, one of the surest ways of reaching the poorest and most vulnerable people first, and ensuring they benefit from the resources available for development in the country.

Development Initiatives is an independent international development organisation working on the use of data and evidence to drive poverty eradication and sustainable development in Africa.

In a recent set of studies, DI discovered that in some counties, less than two per cent of the overall budget is being allocated directly to disaster risk reduction programmes, and as little as three per cent is earmarked for projects with a principal focus on climate change.

Development Initiatives analysis of budgets for Baringo, Kisumu, Laikipia, and West Pokot between 2016 and 2019 reveals low levels of funding for climate change and DRR activities relative to other sectors. This is despite the fact that all four counties are at a comparatively high risk for extreme weather patterns like drought and flooding – something that has become tragically clear, especially in the past one week.

Even the counties that contributed most to DRR and climate change projects only managed to allocate 8.7 per cent and 7.9 per cent of their respective budgets to projects with relevance to these areas. We also found that counties tend to focus more on disaster emergency response rather than preparedness and mitigation.

County governments are facing obstacles in establishing clear budgetary and accounting procedures and collecting accurate spending data – most of the 47 counties are not clearly disaggregating climate change or disaster risk reduction expenditures. This hinders comprehensive tracking of all the budget lines.

As part of Kenya Equity Week event (two weeks ago) governance and policy experts warned attendees at events in Busia, Baringo and Nairobi that the problem is also being compounded by weak institutional capacity for evidence-informed planning and inadequate budgetary allocations to directorates of environment and resources mismanagement.

DI’s presentation of the analysis was followed by an in-depth discussion with participants at this event to demonstrate how sufficient resource allocation for climate change and DRR by the county governments has the potential to support the progress of people out of poverty. The participants – including the county government officials in charge of climate change and DRR dockets, development partners, policy researchers, CSOs and media representatives – reiterated that Kenya’s economy is highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, tourism, transport and energy. And that this intrinsic link, if not well managed, can pose a risk to the country’s potential for economic development and prosperity.

WAY AHEAD?

This is a complex issue to resolve but part of the solution might be the establishment of dedicated county climate change funds to finance priority actions at the subnational level. Such funds, which were piloted in five counties between 2013 and 2018, are citizen-centred and participatory in their allocation of funds – and also provide an opportunity for local people to feed back into county budgeting processes. 

To establish county climate change funds in the four counties, we analysed, there would be a need to mobilise political will at the county executive and assembly levels, and to fast-track establishment of legal, policy and institutional frameworks that would be required – but the benefits for vulnerable communities could be great.

Adequate expenditure to address climate change and reduce disaster risk would have a ripple effect on the country’s economy, ensuring sustainable development and returns to the poorest people.

This Equity Week, policymakers at the county and national level considered what action they can take to ensure that Kenya does not miss this vital opportunity. County governments were urged, as the first point of contact with climate-affected populations, to play a role in managing climate change adaptation and mitigation, and DRR investment.

The participants observed that despite efforts by county governments, the problem is likely to be compounded by governance-related problems. In a number of the counties under discussion, for example, specific legislation and policy framework for climate change and disaster risk reduction were not in place.

The consequences of climate change can be catastrophic, and must be planned for. But, as usual, prevention is better than cure.

Henry Odhiambo is the Engagement and Partnerships manager at Development Initiatives, AfricaHub in Nairobi.