What you need to know:
- Bolstering counties with power, authority, resources, responsibilities and accountabilities will be a game changer and an inflection point in turning the tides against climate change.
- Climate change policy development and challenges need to be viewed through the lens of a particular place to have a context-specific approach.
- Devolved units enable local leaders to participate in budgeting to determine expenditure priorities and mobilise resources.
In the face of impending catastrophe, whose warning signs are already unbearably disastrous, weak action is unwise. No action is dangerous.”
The national government is the starting point for climate change mitigation. President William Ruto has, indeed, made up for his eloquent quote at the COP27 in Egypt by establishing, through an executive order, a state department for environment and climate change under the Ministry of Environment.
I posit that the department will be well funded going by the President’s commitment to mobilise massive afforestation of “five billion trees” that might, in effect, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity.
He has been criticised for scrapping Kazi Mtaani but the tree-planting drive should employ the youth for a more worthy cause than clearing drainages and sweeping of rural streets.
By this singular action, I envisage, the department will coordinate to create better-paying jobs in clean energy, and protect communities from climate impacts like the prolonged drought and extremes of weather that will inevitably follow, such as flooding, wildfires and landslides.
The President has done his bit at the national level; what about the devolved units? While the national government is a starting point, mass mobilisation can only be realised at the sub-national level, starting with one citizen and synergised by county governments.
I see the political system and statecraft as mimicking the biological system. For instance, a man as an organism is made up of cells, which group to make tissues; different tissues performing a singular function are an organ; organs group to form an organ system, like the digestive system; organ systems combine to form a ‘whole’ we call an organism.
While we imitated God in designing our governance, through devolution, then, an individual citizen is the most basic unit of the organ system we call the state. As such, it is true to infer that in the bottom-up dynamics fronted by the Kenya Kwanza government, the individual is the cornerstone for the achievement of devolved action on climate change.
A centralised state may provide generic leadership but it is not sufficiently flexible or creative to respond effectively to the challenges of climate change.
This is where devolved units as the middle ground between the national government resources and the citizen, has massive potential.
Bolstering counties with power, authority, resources, responsibilities and accountabilities will be a game changer and an inflection point in turning the tides against climate change. Climate change policy development and challenges need to be viewed through the lens of a particular place to have a context-specific approach.
While improving water management systems and acquiring climate-smart irrigation technologies would be considered priorities for flood-prone areas, growing drought-resistance crops, improving disaster risk management systems and enhancing early warning systems should be a priority to the arid regions while clean cooking and solarisation of energy take precedence in urban counties.
Devolved units enable local leaders to participate in budgeting to determine expenditure priorities and mobilise resources not only from local government but using international networks of climate change actors and financial intermediaries. Heck. Counties can even directly participate in carbon trading and sequestering.
The theme for the 7th Annual Devolution Conference was “Multi-Level Governance for Climate Action” and the objective was “Strengthening sub-national governments to act on climate change and develop stronger mitigation capacities”.
The governors cited the weak link in climate change mitigation as funding, averring that “county resources are limited, hence most counties have not set aside a percentage of development budget towards climate change initiatives”.
On climate change at the local level, the buck stops with governors. The World Bank has provided a $251.4 million (Sh31.5 billion) facility, Financing Locally Led Climate Action (FLLoCA) programme. All they need to do is enact climate change laws and regulations to unlock funding, not to kowtow to the national government for climate change resources.
Ms Hassan is the business development manager, Solarnow (K) Ltd. [email protected].