Clean energy has become the current buzzword for fighting the increasing threat posed by global warming.It is now beyond scientific discourse that there is an urgent need to contain the rising temperatures before they increase by a fatal 2⁰C. Indeed, countries in the just ended COP 21 in Paris, France put a ceiling to this increase at 1.5⁰C. The continued use of carbon fuels, which release the so called greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere, has been identified as the major cause of climate change.
The drive towards promoting the use of clean energy is an initiative of several players including developed countries led by the U.S., international non-governmental organisations particularly the United Nationsand multi-lateral lending agencies including the World Bank, and even the world’s richest individuals like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Virgin Group head Richard Bransonunder the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
Notwithstanding its enormous pollution challenges and status as a developing country, China has also made massive commitments to fund green energy projects,both at home and in other developing countries.The amount of money that has been promised to support developing countries as a whole is stupendous.For instance, America has pledged at least USD 800million in support of clean energy projects, including investments in research and development.
Recently,China announced the establishment of a 20-billion-yuan (about USD 3billion) China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to help other developing countries combat climate change. The money will go towardslaunching cooperation projects for 10 low-carbon industrial parks, 100 climate mitigation projects in other countries, and facilitating 1,000 training opportunities for tackling climate change
As necessary as it has been in enhancing the rate of economic development in many countries, the use of both fossil fuels and coal, especially in industrial production, has become untenable. What happened in many developed countries during the industrial revolution is now plaguing emerging industrial powerhouses like China, which is now suffering near suffocation from carbon emissions.Although the U.S. is still a major emitter of GHGs, it has invested in advanced pollution arresters.
Basically, the billions of dollars in financial pledges made to developing countries must be invested in initiativeswith tangible and measurable outcomes. This is because our history of utilising donor funds has been extremely wanting. While colossal amounts of aid and grants have been given for various social and economic projects to developing countries like Kenya, the visible benefits are hardly commensurate. Therefore, donors and recipients must create effective monitoring and evaluation frameworks involving different players.
Of course, the government will take the lead in pursuing clean energy projects. But the private sector is also critical in ensuring that their production processes are weaned the use of carbon fuels. Kenya has taken the first step with the Turkana wind power project.More focus and resources should be aimed this way to cut off any use of diesel to meet power production shortfalls. Still, we have a lot of sun but seem to be doing nothing in capturing solar power. This is ironical as temperate countries in Europe like Germany have invested greatly in this area, and have already incorporated significant percentages of solar electricity in the grid.
With innovation, there are more sources of non-carbon power that can be used for both domestic and industrial purposes. For example, with serious R&D, the sewer depot in Ruai and bio-degradable waste at Dandora dumpsite can be turned into power sources for the Eastlands part of Nairobi County, Kenya’s capital city. The essence of clean energy is to minimize and edge out dependence on carbon fuels and other sources of energy that pollute the environment. Consequently, we should suspend indefinitely plans for both coal and nuclear production. The environmental damage caused by these two in other countries is self-evident
The water problem in Africa is as old as the continent. Historically, Africans have travelled long distances and migrated in search of water security.The lifestyle, demographics and settlement of millions of Africans has been dictated by the rainy seasons, as water sources fill in and dry up. Major wars have been fought between communities, and even countries, as each lay claim to sources of this life-sustaining commodity. While the foregoing has eased somehow in recent times as diplomacy is employed to manage water related conflicts, there are still major concerns about the sharing of water resources, both within and outside borders. A good example is the ongoing demands by countries along River Nile to redraft the Nile Treaty that was signed between them and Egypt. The treaty gives the latter almost exclusive rights to Nile waters at the expense of nine countries, including Kenya
The importance of water in the overall development of any country cannot be overemphasised. From domestic to industrial needs, nothing can happen without water. For instance, Kenya needs Sh 477 billion to achieve water for all as stipulated in the Vision 2030 development blueprint. This is almost a third of our current annual budget. The figure does not include the Sh 17.5 b urgently needed to rehabilitate the existing dilapidated water systems
Unlike many countries outside Africa that have longer rainy periods and snow that keepwater reservoirs and channels full all year round, we have prolonged dry periods that suck up what settles on the ground after it rains.Worse still is the poor management of what we get, with half of rainwater going to waste as run-off. Kenya is a case study of the perennial water crisis facing Africa. Indeed, the 2015 Water Sector Improvement Report published by the Water Services Regulatory Board paints a gloomy picture of the situation. According to statistics, over 17 million people, which comprises about half of Kenya’s population, do not have access to safe drinking water. And this population is not just in informal settlements or rural areas. The lack or shortage of constant running water is a universal phenomenon
The needless diversion of money by people and companies to buy water, and the lost man hours in search of the commodity on a daily basis, is a great cost to the economy. Those who receive tap water also have to invest in means of purifying it for consumption or industrial use. But this is a global phenomenon where even Five-star hotels in major cities warn against drinking of tap water within their premises. Now, imagine in most cases a litre of bottled water today costs more than a litre of fuel. So, what is the way forward? First is to stop procrastinating and start implementing the various reports that have been published on the country’s water sector. For instance, in 2002, I was part of a World Bank project that studied the viability of private sector participation in the provision of water and sewerage services in Mombasa and the Coast region. If the report’s recommendations were subsequently implemented by both the public and private sector stakeholders, may residents of the region would have adequate, if not sufficient water, to meet all their needs today
The core of many water strategies in Kenya are based on public-private partnerships. This is due to the massive investment involved. But we must also go beyond the traditional methods of providing water and invest in technologies that can, for example, clean up sewerage water for re-use. Though highly expensive, today we have technologies that can also clean up both sea and lake water. With global warming and climate change, the water situation in Africa can only get uglier, obviously stagnating and even retarding development. Reforestation and similar environmental measures must be implemented to rehabilitate riparian areas. Ultimately, water reservoirs must be constructed as top priority, something that seemed to have stalled with the former Narc government.African governments must tackle provision of water to all with the same zeal they address other utilities like electricity
Wildlife is one of Kenya’s top foreign exchange earners. Coupled with the country’s lovely beaches, the so called Big Five - lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros – attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Kenya is world renowned for her teeming wild animals of various shades and sizes in both national and game parks. Our wildlife is a sight to behold, particularly the annual wildebeest migration..
For many years, tourism has been a major source of revenue, not just for the country, but for thousands of businesses and people that rely either directly or indirectly on this sector. Unfortunately, the foregoing scenario is under threat from a few challenges experienced both in the short and long term. While terrorism has been the bane of tourism in recent years, a much more permanent problem awaits us if we do not take immediate action to save our wildlife from diminishing.
Indeed, the dangers faced by wildlife are of international concern. At its 68th session on 20th December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 3rd March as the UN World Wildlife Day. The day, which marks when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was ratified, aims at celebrating and raising awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.
This year’s theme is “The future of wildlife is in our hands”. However, countries are encouraged to customise the theme based on animals and plants that face the greatest threat in their areas. In Kenya, for instance, the focus is currently on elephants. Due to increase in demand of elephant tusks particularly in the Far East, Kenya and Africa as a whole are losing tens of thousands of elephants every year.
Women are important voices in today’s society. Sometimes we are too ‘machista’ and we don’t make room for women. Women are able to see things differently than men, and they ask questions that men don’t just get.” The foregoing, which is one of Pope Francis’ famous quotes, describes a major follyafflicting mankind today.
The Pope is saying that the reason why the world seems stuck in a myriad of social, economic, environmental and even political challenges is because it has continued to ignore an integral partof society thatcould offer the panacea. In essence, we are trapped in the old way of doing things, thereby ignoring ingenious and innovative solutions to old, current and emerging problems. This also includes ignoring the value of empathy(emotional intelligence) that women bring to a situation and their resilience in bearing and overcoming crises
Women, especially those in rural areas, are in touch with the environment every day. As the ‘beasts of burden’, women till the land, fetch water from various water sources, collect firewood for domestic purposes and exploit the land for both domestic and commercial purposes. Therefore, as ‘early warning systems’ to potential natural disasters, women should be considered first in efforts aimed at both environmental conservation and sustainability.
However, their personal initiatives must be strengthened and entrenched by formulating and implementing gender responsive policy interventions. In agriculture, for example, the government must support women to feed their families and generate income from farms. This would include helping them to, among others,reduce reliance on rain-fed agriculture, and avoid farming in riparian areas and encroaching on forests. It involves empowering women to act as decision makers from the lowest to the highest levels in society, particularly in environmental matters
Taxes on both farming and green energy technologies must be reviewed downwards in cases where they act as a hindrance to climate smart agricultural practices and carbon-free sources of power. Such incentives would enable them to continue being effective custodians of our biodiversity
Like in other developing countries, the youth comprise a big chunk of our population, at about 35 per cent, or at least 15 million people.Similar to women, the strength of this young and restless demographic group lies in its vulnerability. In addition to being hard hit by disasters, the youth are more susceptible to change and easily start and adopt trends. Contrary to the older generation who are more engrossed with the future, the youth live by the day and feel the heartbeat of the momentmore. Therefore, educating them about global warming and its consequence, climate change, is crucial to curb the scourge. For instance, theyneed to understand that spiralling unemployment, which currently stands at 67 per cent,is a factor of an environmentally dependent shrinking economy. Further, climate change is a threat multiplier to sectors such as health, shelter, education and hampers access to social services.This kind of evidence would definitely capture their attention and jolt them to action