[Column] Phyllis Wakiaga: Policies must reflect commitment to climate change mitigation
Over the last few years, Kenya has embarked on a rigorous campaign designed to restore and conserve the environment. The country has recorded remarkable progress on this front.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry launched the National Climate Change Action Plan in 2018, to drive sustainable development by providing mechanisms and measures to achieve low carbon climate-resilient development. The Plan focuses on a number of areas, including manufacturing, food and nutrition security, water and the blue economy, forestry, wildlife, and tourism as well as energy and transport, among others. Under manufacturing, the focus is on energy and resource efficiency, optimizing manufacturing processes and promoting symbiosis in industrial zones.
Kenya has also developed a robust framework of programmes, laws, policies and regulations geared towards climate change mitigation. Some of the strides made in climate change mitigation and environmental conservation have been the shift to geothermal and renewable sources of energy and enhanced partnerships to promote responsible waste management.
Despite these efforts, we are still facing the effects of climate change. Case in point, rapid deforestation driven by the ever-increasing need for timber and its products across the world. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), global deforestation has taken place at an alarming rate, with 10 million hectares of forest converted to other land uses every year, between 2015-2020.
Kenya has also witnessed increased deforestation over the years. To remedy this, we are now making efforts to increase our forest cover to the UN-recommended 10%. Government has partnered with the business community and we are collaborating to restore our forests, through the 2-billion tree planting campaign.
Last year, the world convened in Glasgow, UK for COP26. While there, governments and businesses made commitments to take urgent action to mitigate climate change, whilst adapting to its effects. One of the commitments was to halt and reverse deforestation, and subsequently, mitigate climate change. This was through commitments to increase funding and the establishment of foundations to support the conservation of forests, reducing deforestation, and transition to sustainable land use.
Whereas it is expected that these goals will go a long way in climate change mitigation and adaptation, it is critical that our policies reflect commitment.
An important aspect of climate change mitigation is protecting our forests. Sustainable forest management is a key aspect on this front. Forest conservation and restoration needs to consider human needs, to reduce their chances of getting degraded again. This entails the management of forests in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.
A study by World Wildlife Organization shows that Brazil regenerated an estimated 4.2 million hectares of the Atlantic Forest, since 2000. This was through a combination of forest restoration strategies and encouraging responsible industry practices that prioritized the livelihoods of Brazilian citizens who rely on the forest. This needs to be replicated in Kenya, by placing sustainability at the heart of environmental conservation.
The Report on the Sustainable Forestry Business Sector developed by Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) identifies gaps and challenges which hinder the sustainable growth of the forestry sector. Some of these include unprecedented demand, weak market structures thus limiting an open and efficient market, forest land encroachment, political interference and corruption.
To address these gaps, the report recommends the harmonization of policies across all production sectors to achieve sustainable development in the country. As the government pursues continued improvement of the policy and legislative framework to mirror global and regional Sustainable Forest Management agendas, it is fundamental that time, effort, and resources are dedicated to the implementation of these policies and legislations.
On the other hand, policies on taxation and public finance should promote, and not constrain Sustainable Forest Management. The policy and legislative framework should also encourage investments in the forest sector, which, will in the long-term, increase tax revenues for the government.
Mitigating the climate change crisis begins with honest discourse by various players – including the government, the business community and the public at large, in order to accelerate a green revolution and transform our economy. It is paramount that we collaborate, and Government enhances its support and commitment, towards time-constrained climate change mitigation.