Collective action needed to mitigate climate crisis

Climate change

A healthy planet is necessary for humanity and, in turn, business to thrive.

Photo credit: Pool

Tomorrow, world leaders will congregate in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27).

Faced with an intensifying energy crisis, record greenhouse gas concentrations and an increase in extreme weather events, COP27 seeks renewed international solidarity to reaffirm countries’ commitments to people and the planet.

The COP27 will reflect on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on critical issues to tackle the climate emergency, by urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience, adapting to the unavoidable effects of climate change, and delivering on commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.

One of this year’s missions is mitigation, which dictates that we must band together to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and to work hard to keep the 1.5-degree Celsius target alive.

This necessitates bold and immediate action, as well as increased ambition on the part of all parties, particularly those in a position to do so and those who can and do lead by example.

It is, however, interesting to note that even though Africa contributes an insignificant amount to global warming, the continent has borne the brunt of climate change.

According to the State of the Climate in Africa report, released by the World Metrological Organization (WMO), Africa only accounts for about two to three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions but suffers disproportionately from the results.

According to the report, a joint initiative between WMO and the African Union Commission, Africa warmed at an average rate of around +0.3 °C/decade between 1991 and 2021, faster than the warming from 1961-1990, at +0.2°C/decade. In fact, the year 2021 was among the warmest on record for Africa.

Sea level rise is another issue highlighted in the report. It is a major concern, especially along the African coastlines, currently higher than the global mean rate.

Without the necessary interventions, it is estimated that by 2030, some 108-116 million people in Africa will be exposed to sea-level-rise risks.

Even more relatable is drought in East Africa, which has worsened, leaving more than 58 million people in conditions of acute food insecurity. Over the past 50 years, drought-related hazards have claimed the lives of more than half a million people and led to economic losses of more than US$70 billion in Africa. In Kenya, currently nearly five million people are facing starvation because of the current drought.

It, therefore, goes without saying that a healthy planet is necessary for humanity and, in turn, businesses to thrive. This puts Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations at the forefront of business decisions, supported by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and increased awareness of the climate emergency.

Environmental sustainability

At the East African Breweries Limited (EABL), investing in environmental sustainability is core to the future growth of our business and imperative to our ambition to become the best-performing, most trusted and respected consumer products company in the world.

We have developed a 10-year action plan sustainability strategy that drives our actions to protect the environment. Dubbed Society 2030: Spirit of Progress, it has three pillars that we must prioritise in this Decade of Action. One of the pillars is Accelerating Grain to Glass Sustainability, under which we endeavour to ‘Accelerate to a Low-Carbon World’ as an area of focus.

This pillar guides our actions towards creating a sustainable low-carbon future and protecting the environment. Our objective is to become Net Zero in our direct operations (Scope 1&2 emissions) by 2030.

To this end, EABL has invested billions of shillings in biomass power to replace heavy oil fuel with sustainable raw materials such as bamboo, macadamia husks, coffee husks, bagasse, and rice husks at our plants in Kenya and Uganda.

The shift is expected to cut carbon emissions by 95 per cent; about 42,000 tonnes a year. This is spread across our sites in Kisumu – 8,000 tonnes, Nairobi –26,000 tonnes and Kampala – 8,000 tonnes.

Beyond decarbonising own operations, we are also working with suppliers to help them accelerate their journey towards net zero by partnering with them on the circular design. This will reduce our indirect carbon emissions by a further 50 per cent.

The success of these initiatives confirms our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and addressing climate change and is a constant reminder that we are responsibly growing our business sustainably and creating shared value.

To achieve much more and on a bigger scale as a country, we must bring everyone on board. It is important that all of us, the national and local governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organisations, deliver a coordinated response to the climate emergency.

Mr Kiniti is the Group Corporate Relations Director at East African Breweries Plc .