To feed wildlife or dying humans? Waiguru reveals Kenya’s dilemma at climate meet

Anne Waiguru's take on climate change at COP27

In Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Council of Governors chairperson Anne Waiguru has urged the world to put loss and damage financing at the heart of the ongoing 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Addressing a high-level panel that was dissecting the role of states, regions and other non-state actors in international climate processes and in driving progress on climate change mitigation and adaptation, the governor highlighted how the climate crisis is affecting Kenya.

“In Kenya, we have very serious problems related to climate change. Some counties have not seen rain for four years and these are [the] effects of the climate crisis,” she said.

“Our arid regions [have] challenges of food, water and livestock, loss of lives as well as land. We also have lakes rising in the Rift Valley in places like Baringo County where schools and businesses are now submerged.”

She added: “We are therefore pushing for resources for loss and damage. That conversation needs to come because we need to see whether we can set up special funds for emergencies and wildlife conservation because we are now torn between making available money for wildlife when at the same time we do not have money for food and water for our people.”

The panel was of the view that states, regions and provinces are on the frontline of the climate crisis and as such, they’ve become natural leaders in enacting practical actions to tackle it.

“Their direct connection with citizens, and capacity to mobilise and engage with all local actors is crucial to the fight against climate change. National governments will only be able to reach their climate targets (including those affecting all SDGs, and notably biodiversity) if all levels of governments are involved,” the organisers explained.

They reminded the world that at COP26, regional governments took the lead and made a series of announcements aimed at reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, as well as concrete actions on adaptation and resilience.

Race to Zero

“They also committed to the United Nation Framework Convention for Climate Change(UNFCCC’s) Race to Resilience and Race to Zero campaigns and called for more global recognition of the vital work they do in tackling the climate crisis,” they said.

They want COP27 to be an important moment to demonstrate states’ and regions’ contributions to climate mitigation and adaptation, and make the case for further integration and access to international climate processes and negotiations.

“It will also help to increase momentum for further action, and enhance climate commitments at all levels of government. 2023 will be the year we assess progress through the Global Stocktake, and it’s more important than ever that all levels of governments are heard,” they said.

The number of flamingos in Lake Nakuru has dwindled, Governor Waiguru said.

“Because of the change in biodiversity, we no longer have flamingos on Lake Nakuru. This is why we are here, to move from theory and rhetoric so as to push for compensation for loss and damage so that communities that have been affected, who are the least polluters, are able to adapt,” she said.

Agreeing with the sentiments of President William Ruto – who told the global meeting earlier this week that it cannot afford to continue ignoring the urgent warnings of science with impunity and that effective response to climate change requires adequate and predictable financing, capacity building, technology development and transfer – Governor Waiguru said climate change finance is the single most critical enabler in unlocking action and especially addressing adaptation in vulnerable communities in the global south.

Between 2019 and 2020 some $11.4 billion was made available to Africa for adaptation, against the estimated need of $579 billion in adaptation investment by 2030.

But according to President Ruto, this level of financing falls far below what is required to build resilience in Africa, calling for the doubling of adaptation finance agreed upon in Glasgow and the urgent implementation of the $100 billion commitment.

Help conserve the environment

Ms Waiguru, the Council of Governors chair, also explained education is needed in a language that communities understand to help them adapt to climate change, to practise climate-smart agriculture, water harvesting and other things that will help conserve the environment.

Speaking to the Nation, Governor Waiguru observed that the role of young people in helping the world safeguard Mother Nature in her hour of need cannot be wished away.

“Any conversation on climate change cannot happen without our young people. They must be participants, refurbishing, recycling, waste management, among others, cannot happen without them,” she said.

“In Kirinyaga County, we will soon be giving electric bikes to our ‘bodaboda’ riders to replace [those that] use [petrol] because we need to transition to clean energy.”

The impacts of climate change, she said, are more severe on women.

She said most women in Kenya are involved in agriculture. “They are primary caregivers who also have to walk long distances [in search of water and food], and this is why when we were even doing our planning at sub-national level we had to consider gender-focused climate change financing,” she said.

“They also have many challenges in terms of culture because mostly they take care of the land and don’t own it [and] hence have no way of getting resources when the land is submerged. This is why adaptation finance is very important.”