Last week, Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya lamented an invasion of government forests by people who were burning charcoal and even leasing out sections of the forest. Ironically, this grave threat to the environment came just 10 days after the government lifted a 2018 ban on logging.
Everybody, everywhere, has the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. United Nations resolutions from the Human Rights Council in 2021 and the General Assembly last year add this fundamental human right to the library of internationally recognised rights.
On September 4-6, Kenya will host the Africa Climate Week, one of the four regional ones this year for building momentum towards the November-December UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 28) in Dubai. The climate week events will be part of the conclusion of the first global stock take, designed to chart the way for fulfilling key goals of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change.
The regional events will provide platforms for policy makers, practitioners, businesses and civil society to exchange thoughts and ideas on climate solutions, barriers to overcome and opportunities realised in different regions. Conversations will focus on energy systems and industry, cities, urban and rural settlements, infrastructure and transport, land, ocean, food and water as well as societies, health, livelihoods and economies.
The catastrophic impacts of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss are leading to hunger, ill-health, forced migration and lack of water (which affects 28 million Kenyans). That is causing untold suffering and snatching dignity from humans.
Last year, due to climate change, Kenya experienced the worst drought in 40 years, which led to high cost of food, hunger and loss of livelihoods, sinking communities into untold poverty. We are not out of trouble yet. And if we continue to fell trees, it will be impossible to end hunger, ensure safe water for all and end poverty.
However, on December 21, President William Ruto commendably launched a nationwide tree planting campaign to raise Kenya’s tree cover to 30 per cent by 2032. The national tree growing and restoration campaign targets to plant 15 billion trees by 2032.
Disharmony in nature
Lifting the logging ban is, therefore, awkward and confusing. It is ill-timed, contradictory, self-defeating and a big loss for Kenya. It contradicts Article 42 of the Constitution, on the enforcement of environmental rights—including that to have the environment protected in the present and future generations.
Allow logging stands in the way of a just and sustainable future and creates disharmony in nature. Trees are a common good and there is no justification for cutting them down. In a forest, trees have a way of culling themselves and regenerating as needed. They do not need human intervention.
How will Kenya even host Africa Climate Week discussions on food and water, health, livelihoods and economies? How shall we speak of achieving sustainable development? I urge the government to listen to the cry of Kenyans and swiftly reverse the order.
May each and every one of us plant and nurture trees. And not one more tree should be cut down.
Ms Muathe is a communications specialist. [email protected].