We should take climate debate to the grassroots

global warming, rising temperatures, climate change

Climate change has already happened, its ramifications are here and the urgency is real.

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I recently attended a conference organised by the Global Centre for Policy and Strategy (GLOCEPS) themed Shaping the future of climate change action plans for sustainable development in Eastern Africa.

Experts spoke passionately about how global warming has negatively impacted the environment, leading to increased water levels, prolonged and severe drought, frequent flash floods, and wild fires.

In the words of one panelist, and quoting the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the world was at a tipping point and had, in fact, moved from the phase of global warming to “an era of global boiling”.

While climate change is a global threat to humanity, there are skeptics, including former US President Donald Trump, who pejoratively referred to the climate change as “mythical”, “non-existent”, or “an expensive hoax”, although acknowledging that the subject was important to him. To such skeptics, those calling for climate action were simply alarmists and prophets of doom.

Although the climate change debate is essential for the survival of humanity, Trump’s skepticism mirrors that of many ordinary people, the hustlers in the Kenyan sense, who are often left behind in the climate change debate and action plans. To the ordinary mwananchi, who is not able to attend the summits to get facts and statistics, the climate change agenda may simply pass as non-existent, or having to do with the elite in society, yet the ramifications affect the poor and vulnerable, mostly in Africa.

As President Ruto hosts the Africa Climate Summit this September, it will be important to stress the need for Africa to locally drive the climate agenda, and not to heavily rely on their counterparts from the global North for financing and mitigation.

Consequently, there is need to model the agenda from the grassroots – the bottom-up approach as opposed to the present top-down approach. This way, the ordinary people will understand the implications of climate change, and hence make individual behavioral changes that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help preserve biodiversity. The GLOCEPS Conference included a local farmer and youth representatives, a good attempt at making the climate debate as inclusive as possible and to include especially the young generation.

In Europe, the climate action debate has gained traction by involving youthful activists, which has led to influential environmental student campaigns like the Fridays for Future, which has mobilised millions of students into the climate action by pushing for political action to remedy climate change. Through its actions, Fridays for Future has been recognised by United Nations Environmental Program as champions of the earth.

In this regard, Kenya and Africa needs to consider incorporating climate change courses into the education system from the primary to the tertiary level. Governments must insentivise green initiatives and businesses, to ensure that they favourably compete with others as they innovatively devise climate friendly technologies.

Dr Kirui teaches History and Government at University of Eldoret, [email protected]