Friday, July 19, 2024

Hurdles remain in Kenya’s quest to achieve climate action goal


Only eight nations across the globe are making sufficient efforts to contain global warming below two degrees Celsius (2°C) – the level that the Paris Agreement on climate change requires nations to commit to.

Of the eight, only two – Gambia and Morocco – are acting responsible enough to cap global warming below 1.5°C.

Studies indicate that the world needs to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C – 2°C above pre-industrial levels to avoid a future apocalyptic catastrophe.

The rest include two Horn of Africa nations – Ethiopia and Kenya, whose green profiles have been boosted by heavy use of renewable energy, and are grouped together with Bhutan, Costa Rica, India and the Philippines. This is according to a study by Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

Gambia and Morocco’s strategies and polices, in particular, are exceptionally impressive and lead the pack in efforts to limit global warming, the chief culprit behind climate change.

The study examined the effectiveness of climate action strategies deployed by nations across the globe, including current policies (what governments are actually doing) to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Also, the researchers evaluated the content and practicality of each country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – what governments propose to do next.

Climate action is goal 13 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) outlined by the UN in 2015. SDGs inherited the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were adopted at the turn of the millennium.

Climate action is the only goal among the 17 SDG goals that Kenya is on course to achieving ahead of the 2030 global target. Even then challenges still persist around the climate action pillar.

While Kenya has performed exceptionally well in greening its electricity generation mix through progressive and climate-smart policies, the same cannot be said of its transport sector.

Currently, geothermal serves as a reliable baseload in Kenya while hydropower stations, which are very flexible to adjust power output, are acting as spinning reserve for balancing out fluctuations in wind and solar sources. This synchronised ecosystem is working just fine, indicating renewables can be self-sustaining. The share of thermal plants in the generation mix has slipped below 10 percent compared to over 30 percent in 2013.

Unfortunately, the gains made in the power space risk being wiped out by growing levels of air pollution from automobiles emitting noxious gases from tailpipes.

Kenya has dragged its feet since 2015 when the intention to adopt a non-emissions policy was first announced.

Should the country eventually adopt the proposed feebate (fee/rebate) system, buyers of environmentally-friendly electric and hybrid vehicles alongside newer brands that pollute less would be offered rebates. On the other hand, owners of cars with carbon emissions in excess of a set limit will be penalised.

Time is ripe for such a programme in light of the worsening air quality on Kenyan motorways.

Expanding Kenya’s tree cover and conserving strategic water towers is yet another frontier policymakers should focus their attention if the country is to ring-fence the gains made around the climate action field.

To assess progress and enable incremental improvement in mitigating climate change, the government should put in place monitoring frameworks to periodically evaluate the intended outcomes from implemented projects and policy actions.

To this end, all nations need a proactive approach towards fighting climate change, which is threatening the survival of humanity.

Extreme weather disasters like cyclones, floods and wildfires caused economic damage amounting to $232 billion (nearly the economy size of Egypt) in 2019 – the second warmest year on record.

Scientific research indicates that the effects of climate change in form of natural catastrophes could get worse in coming years if nothing changes.

When it comes to overall performance across the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), Nordic countries – Sweden, Denmark and Finland – lead the way worldwide. The rest of the world should perhaps pluck a leaf out of their green book if humanity is to make the universe a better place to live, work and play.

Sweden leads in this year’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) index with a score of 85, followed by Denmark and Finland.

Sweden has so far fully achieved four SDG goals – no poverty (goal one), good health and well-being (goal three), gender equality (goal five) and affordable and clean energy (goal seven). The country is on course to fulfilling the remaining 13 goals ahead of the 2030 deadline.

Comparatively, the United States is yet to achieve any SDG goal, a case of big brother failing to lead by example.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Cape Verde is the best performer in this year’s SDG index with a score of 67.2 and ranked at position 92 globally, followed by Ghana and Mauritius.

Kenya is eighth on the continent and 123 globally, meaning it is still far off from achieving the SDG goals. Therefore, more efforts need to be mobilised around sustainability initiatives by both public and private sector players to secure the prospects of current and future generations.

Read also: Morocco, Gambia top the world in efforts to contain global warming

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