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Climate change as top agenda for upcoming general election

The Kenyan economy is paying a heavy price due to climate change. Every year, climate change results in socio-economic loss of approximately 3-5 percent of the GDP.

As we head to the August General Election, presidential candidates’ manifestos must give the way forward on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and provide mechanisms for addressing the issue.

In a broad view, various scenarios are experienced in different parts of the country based on the area’s prevalence to climate change.

These include: droughts, famines, floods, locust invasion, environmental degradation and heatwaves and culminate in food dearth, disease outbreaks, internal displacements, conflicts and death.

Moreover, the above scenarios are experienced before, during or after an election cycle. Sadly, issues related to environment and climate change risks do not feature prominently during campaigns and in political party manifestos.

Candidates are usually silent on matters environment. While they highly focus on macro-economic development, infrastructure and job creation, they forget the negative effects of climate change on the same.

The 2022 General Election, hopefully, will show some level of maturity. This will only happen when political systems mobilise citizens to vote for parties based explicitly on their proposed agendas, which are expected to be translated into State policies and plans.

Therefore, manifestos of various political parties need to have provisions that directly address climate change.

Going forward, the electorate- which is becoming re-sensitive to climate change- will interrogate manifestos to explore how political leaders understand and respond to emerging climate change threats. Parties will need to embrace the climate change agenda in more detail instead of current trends where it is perceived as a non-issue.

The success of the Paris Agreement adopted at COP 21 depends heavily on the effectiveness of national climate change mitigation policies. Political party leaders should formulate manifestos with aspects that consider adaptation and mitigation including proposed financing costs, technology development and transfers.

Read also: Directing more financing towards saving the earth

Political parties have a unique role in shaping climate policies that address the risks, uncertainties and opportunities of climate change.

Introducing this to the political party’s agendas will force politicians to accept that this global challenge is not a fringe issue.

Consequently, climate change experts should review and rank the manifestos on sustainability and climate change aspects and advice the electorates accordingly. The impacts of climate change have affected nearly all sectors of the economy. Hence, the justification to its relevance.

As we subject political aspirants to televised debates, we will need to put them on the spot to explain how they intend to address this challenge and propose the various adaptation and mitigation programmes they intend to embrace.

Political parties’ manifestos need to provide solutions to the environment and climate challenges. Among other key parameters, they should include the following thematic areas; a demonstration of how the party will transform the country from the traditional forms of energy such as charcoal, kerosene and other fossil fuels to clean renewable sources of energy. How the public transport system will be improved and electrified to reduce the number of cars on the roads is crucial.

The natural habitats are being degraded due to the impacts of climate change. The manifestos should state urgent steps to reverse the situation on land and sea. Agriculture needs deep reforms to prevent farms from severe degradation while there is an urgent need to embrace sustainable organic food production.

The blue economy needs to be sustainably conserved; fishing industry needs reworking to enable lakes to recover and enhance communities’ benefits.

Political leaders need to understand that spending money on climate change and nature protection is investing in the future. Policies should propose committing a certain budget proportion to climate and nature plans. The climate change Act of 2016 is a great starting point for consideration by parties as a baseline for engagement.

Considering that Kenya has two forms of government, (national and devolved units) there is a need to look at climate change at both levels.

In particular, there is need to provide a mechanism on how devolution will spearhead and promote climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. The devolved units operate at grassroots level thus are better to develop and design climate change implementation mechanisms.

There’s a need for a paradigm shift where politicians treat climate change as an issue that cannot wait or an emergency issue that needs urgent intervention.