Climate change to headline counties forum

devolution conference

Workers offload equipment at the venue of the devolution conference in Wote, Makueni County, yesterday. The event will kick off tomorrow and end on Friday. 

Photo credit: Pius Maundu | Nation Media Group

 Lobbying for funding to curb climate change and extra allocations to counties will feature at an annual devolution conference that opens today in Makueni.

The push to fully implement a 2016 law that seeks to unlock funds for building resilience and mitigating the effects of climate change is expected to dominate discussions during the four-day meeting at Makueni Boys High School in Wote town. The meeting takes place as a severe drought continues to ravage parts of the country.

Delegates are expected to come up with practical ways of combating climate change while cultivating a healthy relationship between the national and county governments and non-state actors. Delegates will also take stock of the fight against Covid-19, which thrice forced the cancellation of the conference. They will explore measures to reduce the impact of the pandemic that has devastated the economy and strained health systems. It will be the last annual devolution conference as subsequent meetings will be held every two years.

The conference also marks a milestone for governors who are serving their constitutional limit of two terms. More than 3,000 delegates are expected to attend the high-level meeting, said Kisii Governor James Ongwae, the chairman of the committee planning the event.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open the meeting tomorrow while his deputy William Ruto is scheduled to draw the curtains on Friday. Orange Democratic Movement party leader Raila Odinga will address the conference on Thursday. The meeting comes as the government is racing against time to increase Kenya’s forest cover to 10 per cent by the end of next year, up from 7.2 per cent reported by a Kenya Forest Service census six years ago.

Financing climate action has been at the centre of a raging dispute between devolved units and the national government.

For five years now, county bosses have accused Mr Kenyatta’s administration of being a stumbling block in the fight against the harmful effects of climate change by cherry-picking the laws to implement.

“Although we have good laws on managing climate change, we are not implementing them,” Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo, the chairman of the Committee on Climate Change at the Council of Governors, said recently.

“For instance, the Climate Change Act (2016) calls on the Treasury to create a Climate Change Fund and the money should be available to counties. The same law calls for the creation of a National Climate Change Council, which should be chaired by the President. The council has not been operational since the enactment of the law five years ago.”

Although the Ministry of Health has been reporting reduced Covid-19 cases, organisers said they could not take chances.

“[All participants] must have received full Covid-19 vaccination,” Mr Ongwae said recently.

Makueni County Police Commander Joseph Ole Napeiyan assured guests that adequate security will be provided.

He urged residents and guests to report suspicious individuals to the police.

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