Kenya commits to highly ambitious mitigation targets February 22, 2019

Kenya has remained at the forefront in making policies to strengthen its ability to adapt to the adverse effects of climate, take advantage that might result from the phenomenon and to meet ambitious mitigation targets. It will be recalled that mitigation to climate change involves taking measures to reduce the volume of greenhouse gases (GHGs) getting into the atmosphere or reducing GHGs already present there.

During the most recent global negotiations held during the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – popularly known as CoP 24 held in Katowice, Poland between 2nd and 14th December 2018, Kenya reiterated its mitigation target of reducing by 30 per cent GHGs’ emission by 2030.

Mitigation is usually a complicated undertaking, particularly for developing countries. The reality is that countries with advanced economies achieved their development through the exploitation of natural resources from within and outside their borders. The industrial revolution, which gathered pace in the period after 1900, resulted in increasing GHGs emissions, particularly of carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels principally petroleum products and coal. To date, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen so much that in September 2016, the so-called CO2 tipping point of 400 parts per million was surpassed.

Consequently, unless completely new and effective technics for removing the CO2 already in the atmosphere are developed, global warming as a result of CO2and other GHGs will continue for the foreseeable future. Yet for developing countries to achieve their aspirations to become middle-income countries, there will still be a need to burn fossil fuels, hence some level of GHGs’ emission is inevitable. The way out of this situation is to pursue low-carbon development pathways by increasing the ratio of energy that is generated from clean renewable sources. This requires support from richer countries through finance, technology and capacity building.

African countries join forces to address climate change mitigation

The UNFCCC requires countries to come up with mitigation targets in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) towards the reduction of GHGs emission. As noted, Kenya’s target is a 30 per cent reduction of GHGs emissions by 2030.

The INDC notes: “Kenya seeks to undertake an ambitious mitigation contribution towards the 2015 Agreement. Kenya, therefore, seeks to abate its GHG emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 relative to the business as usual scenario of 143 MtCO2eq; and in line with its sustainable development agenda. This is also subject to international support in the form of finance, investment, technology development and transfer, and capacity building.”

To achieve this Kenya will take measures which include: increasing the ratio of clean energy (geothermal, wind and solar) particularly for electricity generation; enhance energy efficiency at household and industrial levels; make progress towards achieving 10 percent green cover by planting trees; adopt low carbon and efficient transport systems; promote the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA); and promote sustainable waste management.

The need for ongoing negotiation for mitigation and adaptation funding

According to its INDC, Kenya will require US$40 million for its adaptation and mitigation actions up to 2030. The bulk of these funds are expected to come from developed country parties that are signatories to the UNFCCC. In order to increase their voice during negotiations for support through financing mitigation and adaptation actions, African Countries usually come together to form a joint negotiation team.

The UNFCCC establishes a Financial Mechanism to provide adaptation and mitigation funding for developing country parties. At COP 17, it was agreed that a Green Climate Fund will be the operating entity of the Financing Mechanism established by the UNFCCC. Since developing country parties must submit applications for funding under this arrangement, negotiations focus on getting developed countries to contribute towards the GCF. Such contribution by individual countries is, however, voluntary hence the need for sustained negotiations.

Considering that the overall contribution of developing countries is insignificant – Kenya’s is only 0.1 per cent – the obligation to finance mitigation actions in the poorer countries lies with the developed countries. This is the so-called “polluter pays principle”. The challenge is in getting rich countries to actualise on promises during negotiations at CoP meetings.

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