Number 6: Sustainable Development Part 2
CLIMATE CHANGE: KENYA'S RESPONSES
by Jason S. Ogola
There had been growing concern about climate change as a result of increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. The first major international meeting on climate change, held in Geneva in 1979, discussed climate variability and how changes might affect human activities. In 1985, the Villach Symposium in Austria concluded that the increase in greenhouse gases could induce global warming and produce serious sea level rise. This led to the presentation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, which noted that climate change is a global phenomenon which requires all nations to seek mitigation measures at all levels.
This requires a compromise in the economic and social lives of nations in the exploitation of natural resources, energy production and utilization, disposal of wastes, international trade and technological transfer as well as information acquisition and dissemination. Sustainable policies can only be implemented if national and local authorities embrace the causes to be defended, understand and agree on the strategies to be used, and see the stated international objectives as their own.1
In Kenya, despite the government's assertion that it "aims at integrating key provisions of Agenda 21 at all levels in planning and decision making," it further states that "the need to drastically reduce poverty, be ensuring (sic) that the poor get a larger share of development benefits as well as greater access to resources is paramount." From this, it is apparent that priority would not be given to GHG mitigation options in the event of a conflict between GHG effects and human needs.
The Climate Change Debats
Under the UNFCCC, every country is required to develop a climate response programme that integrates climate change activities into all relevant sectors including energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management. Climate change has devastating effects on the lives of people, so any action taken to reduce its potential impacts should seriously consider social, economic and political problems.
Whereas African GHG emissions are comparatively low due to low levels of industrial development and economic growth, it would be wrong to assume that the African environment would not suffer from effects of climate change. To maintain low levels of GHG emissions in Africa, developed countries responsible for high GHG emissions must provide Africa with adequate resources. This would offset the extra costs of cleaner energy, use energy more efficiently, halt potential environmental degradation, and shift to modes of transport with lower gas emissions.
Kenya has been playing a prominent role in the climate change debate. The first significant declaration on climate change in Africa was made in Kenya in 1990 during the Nairobi Conference of Global Warming and Climate Change. It became known as the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change: "Global climate change is fundamentally different from the conventional environmental agenda where the practice has been to react and correct. The challenge now is to anticipate and prevent." The conference played an important role in introducing African countries to the international debate on climate change. Subsequent international meetings in Kenya included the Conference on Policy Options and Responses to Climate Change in Nairobi in 1994.
The role of Kenya in the climate change debate has been boosted by the activities of Climate Network Africa (CNA) and the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), both organizations based in Kenya, and by the support of the Swedish Environmental Institute (SEI). These organizations have played a leading role in Africa in creating public awareness on climate change issues and in building an African position on the climate convention.
Kenya has been well represented in most climate change debates at scientific, intergovernmental and non-governmental fora. As a result of these efforts, there have been several publications in the country, including those by CNA (Impact Quarterly), ACTS/SEI, the Kenya Academy of Sciences, and individuals. Despite all these efforts, there is still a lack of research and of general awareness about climate change issues, about the existence of the UNFCCC, and about the opportunities it provides for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
Land Use and GHG Emissions
In Kenya land use is changing rapidly due to high population growth and economic expansion. This has led to encroachment on forests and savannah land for agricultural and pastoral farming, woodfuel and timber for construction. Land use conversion results in burning of large quantities of biomass, with subsequent emissions of CO2, CO, CH4 and N2O into the atmosphere.
While attempts have been made to assess GHG emissions from land use changes in Kenya,2 this type of study has been hampered by several factors:
The greenhouse gas emissions from land use changes in Kenya for 1990 reveals that total CO2 emissions were &endash;57,181Gg. This implies that Kenyan forests act as sinks for CO2. The study further established that the higher GHG emissions come from grassland conversion into agricultural land, while the abandoned managed lands act as sinks. If sustainably managed, woodfuel and other forms of biomass energy sources may provide no net GHG emissions.
Energy Systems and GHG Emissions
Most GHG emissions come from energy use, particularly the use of fossil fuels. Kenya's economy depends on the following energy systems: woodfuel, fossil fuel, electricity, ethanol, coal, wind and solar energy. Fossil fuel is imported as crude oil and refined at the Kenya Oil Refineries in Mombasa. The oil products are transported up-country by road and by pipeline to Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret. Electricity comes mainly from the seven hydro-electric power stations along the Tana river and from the Olkaria geothermal station in the Rift Valley. Coal is imported through Mombasa.
There is a strong correlation between increased energy use in the industrial sector and economic growth in Kenya. This indicates that with further industrial advancement, energy consumption in the country will rise proportionately. Consequently, if not properly investigated, the impacts of energy systems on climate change could have devastating effects on the environment.
Since energy demands are increasing rapidly with industrialization, it should be recognised that today's energy production and consumption patterns will determine environmental impacts well into the future. These impacts will get worse unless new understanding and new energy patterns are developed.
With the growing concern on climate change, the Kenyan government established the National Climate Change Activities Coordinating Committee (NCCACC). Its members are drawn from ministries of agriculture and forestry, energy, planning, finance, industry, research and technology, municipal councils, public universities, the private sector and from non-governmental organizations. The NCCACC aims to:
The task before the NCCACC is heavy, and requires adequate resources and capacity building if it is to carry out its work effectively and with integrity.
Private Sector Institutions
The industrial sector relies on energy production, mainly from non-renewable sources. It is therefore one of the major contributors to GHG emissions. For a smooth transition to joint implementation, the private sector will need to build capacity. In Kenya, this role could be played by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). The informal sector, through the Kenya Jua Kali Association could also play a prominent role in GHG mitigation options.
1. Silveira, 1994.
2. Kinuthia, et al., 1994.
CNA, Political and Practical Constraints to the Acceptability of Joint Implementation under the UNFCCC. Interim report. Nairobi, 1995, p. 23.
Glantz, M. Kartz, R. and Krenz, M. (ed.), Impact: Climate Crisis. United Nations, New York, USA, 1987, p. 104.
Houghton, J.T., Meira Fiho, L.G., Bruce, J., Hoesung Lee, Callander, B.A., Haites, E., Harris, N. and Maskell, K. (ed.), Climate Change 1994: Radioactive Forcing of Climate Change and an Evaluation of the IPCC IS92 Emissions Scenarios. Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 339.
Kinuthia, J.H., Agatsiva, J.L. and Aligula, H.M., Greenhouse gases inventory from land use and forestry changes in Kenya, CNA interim report, Nairobi, 1995, p. 38.
Okoth-Ogendo, W.H.O. and Ojwang, J.B. (ed.), A Climate for Development: Climate Change Policy Options for Africa. ACTS press, Nairobi, 1995, p. 264.
Ottichilo, W.K., Kinuthia, J.H., Ratego, P.O. and Nasubo, G., Weathering the storm: Climate Change and Investment in Kenya, ACTS Press, Nairobi, 1991, p. 91.
Silveira, S. (ed.), African Voices on Climate Change: Policy Concerns and Potentials. ACTS/SEI Publ. Stockholm, 1994, p. 39.
Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Kenya's Indigenous Forests. Nairobi, 1995, p. 12.