The Kusi Ideas Festival closed yesterday with calls to the government, private sector and communities to seek innovations and solutions to fight climate change.
US ambassador Meg Whitman said every tenth of a degree warming averted means less drought, less flooding, less sea level rise, and less extreme weather prevents losses and saves lives.
She explained that limiting global warming would have been achieved to some extent if the agreements that were made in Glasgow during COP26 were fully implemented.
“Last year, nations that represented 65 per cent of global GDP (gross domestic product) had committed to 2030 targets in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Then, the International Energy Agency (IEA) calculated that if all commitments and initiatives made were fully implemented, we could reduce warming to 1.8 degrees.
“Following the conclusion of the COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh (in Egypt) a month ago, the IEA now tells us that if the new commitments announced are fully implemented, we could limit warming to 1.7 degrees,” said Ms Whitman during the fourth edition of the high-profile annual event organised by the Nation Media Group and its partners.
“Climate change is global. It is not bilateral, and we need grassroots efforts and grassroots ideas combined with big ideas from larger players and initiatives.”
She disclosed that the United States, which is one of the world’s biggest polluters, has committed to tackling the climate crisis by scaling up climate finance to more than $11 billion.
The US and partner governments, she said, have also committed to reducing emissions by 50 to 52 per cent to below 2005 levels by 2030.
She explained that the US doubled the pledge to the adaptation fund to $100 million, and an extra $150 million to new funding to accelerate adaptation efforts across Africa.
“To help countries manage loss and damage, we contributed $24 million to the global shield against climate risks and an additional $20 million to the UN funds that provide humanitarian relief and help protect immigrants with particular focus on climate change,” said Ms Whitman.
The ambassador added: “I also believe that technology has a huge role to play in advancing the greater good. Here in Kenya, one great idea is the Northern Kenya Rangelands trust carbon project which is the world’s biggest soil carbon removal project.
“Just officially launched at COP27, this project was just an idea more than 10 years ago to sustainably manage livestock grazing, which both benefits local communities and reduces carbon.”
She explained that the United States Agency for International Development anticipates that in 30 years, a million tonnes of Carbon dioxide will be removed from the atmosphere as a result of this project. “Ideas like these are game changers,” she said.
She said that even though Africa is young and innovative, it also suffers disproportionately the effects of climate change and needs innovations to create a future where the continent becomes more resilient, secure, peaceful and prosperous.
“By 2050, one in four people will live on the African continent. By the same year, one in three working age people will live on the continent. The future is definitely African,” said Ms Whitman.
Nation Media Group Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama said in his closing remarks that Africans need to come together to conserve the environment, noting that Karura Forest would have been grabbed had it not been for Prof Wangari Maathai, a passionate environmentalist who won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Other climate change experts called for nature-based solutions, and involvement of communities in restoring nature and fighting effects of climate change.
While speaking about the importance of conserving water and resources, Equity Group Foundation associate director Eric Naivasha called on Africa to develop solutions to better utilise water.
“Let’s not blame climate change for all our suffering. We can still manage the resources that we have if we increase our investment in water resource management. We are developing solutions to better utilise water. In the past year alone, we have put about 100 million litres of water into our communities. The second approach is introducing underground water,” he said.
Christopher Gordon, the founding director of the Institute for Environmental and Sanitation Studies at the University of Ghana, explained that 250 million people currently experience water stress and in eight years the figure is likely to reach one billion.
Young environmentalists, however, expressed hope that solutions to climate change will be found, as they urged Kenyans to plant trees, cut greenhouse gas emissions and do whatever they could to protect Mother Earth.
“Having been in spaces where governments come together to find solutions to the climate crisis, it’s hard to find hope because commitments are not being met. However, I find hope because young people are rising up to demand climate action, and because they have realised that power is taken, not given,” said Eric Njuguna, climate justice organiser.
Karen Wanjiru, a 10-year-old environmentalist and founder of Green Generation Initiative, Climate Leader, Wangari Maathai Foundation, expressed hope that by planting trees, her future will be greener, and Mother Earth will freely “breathe”.
She urged: “Let us plant trees in proportion to our age to help our nation become greener and restore our Mother Earth.”