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Items filtered by date: April 2020
Monday, 27 April 2020 00:00

World Earth Day

Give Climate Change and Covid-19 equal attention to prevent mass killings

African governments have been urged to help ensure the green climate fund reaches the grassroots to help give climate change the attention it needs.

They have also been called upon to implement the existing laws to tackle the climate crisis that has brought its head even amidst the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking on Kenya’s KTN News, in an interview to establish Africa’s readiness to handle crisis of the Covid-19 magnitude when it already has been suffering effects of other calamities, PACJA Executive Director Mithika Mwenda said there was no time to waste, but to pick on the opportunities the Covid-19 crisis has presented and run with them.

“We are learning through this crisis that we can do so much in manufacturing locally. We are also learning that it is not a must that we have oil, neither must we do with coal power,” said Dr Mithika in the interview.

“One can now see the peaks of Mt Kenya from Nairobi because the air is cleaner. Isn’t this a good thing?” Mithika posed.

He called upon nations to make use of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is distributed by national Treasuries through accredited organisations such as the National Environment Management Authority (in the case of Kenya) to tackle climate change, even as they source for more funds from donor countries.

The GCF is a global fund, as per United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreements, which is meant to help poor countries mitigate and adopt to climate change.

“Communities living near or in our natural resources are trying to conserve them, hence promoting adaptation. But they need the support of governments to double their efforts. The GCF must not disappear at the national level, but needs to reach these people,” Mithika said as he left this interview.

He said the human health and the environment’s well-being were so interlinked that it would be disastrous to focus on one and ignore the other. “The kind of attention Covid-19 is getting today should be replicated on the climate crisis as both are killers of the masses. It’s only that one attacks so fast, while the other kills gradually,” Mithika added.

The interview sought to also establish the nexus between the Covid-19 crisis and climate change, also considering that the world marked Earth Day last week.

“It is clear that Kenya and the whole of Africa, is handling more than two crises concurrently, one running a fast race, and the other a marathon,” the climate activist said.

Kenya has so far lost 14 people to the novel coronavirus, while 29 other people died in one night in Elgeyo Marakwet County after their homes were swept by mudslides following flash floods last week. Several other areas are experiencing heavy flooding that has forced people out of their homes. The DRC recently lost 48 lives after torrential rains hit Uvira and surroundings in South Kivu province in the eastern part of the country.

In the Kenyans case, a school, market and a police post were also swept in the incident that has been linked to climate change. Up to 25 people are still missing. Kisumu County, Nyandarua and several others at the coast are either experiencing flooding or have been warned to prepare, according to a letter by the Kenya Meteorological Department earlier in the week. County leaderships have asked their residents to move to higher ground.

“Climate action is key and urgent. Kenya has the legislations to support this, as stipulated in the 2016 Climate Change Act, but implementation is lacking,” said Mithika.

The activist also commended the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Services for recently instructing the Kenya Wildlife Service to give more time for public participation in the review of its 2020-2030 Nairobi National Park management plan.

Africa has been put in a tight spot with the emergence of the novel coronavirus that has not only turned every economy in the world upside down, but also halted almost every aspect of it.

A webinar hosted by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance on Africa’s status and position with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted Africa’s predicaments, having already been the worst hit by the effects of the climate crisis.

The webinar themed #AfricaAtCrossroads did not end without the mention of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26, that was to be hosted by Scotland towards the end of 2020, but which has since been pushed to 2021. It emerged that the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), who PACJA works closely with, alive to the fact that the COP25 did not achieve much for the continent, had begun talks in preparation for the next such UNFCCC meeting, only for this Covid-19 crisis to emerge.

Speaker after speaker emphasised the need for experts in Africa to examine the real effect of the pandemic in Africa and guide on the inclusion of such information in consideration of the talking points at the COP26, through the AGN.

“Most African countries have to deal with triple stressors – Covid-19 crisis, the challenge of climate and environmental changes, and other factors of fragility – all at the same time. The synergy of these stressors will amplify the impact and thus need to be addressed in synergy,” said Shimelis Fekadu, a participant in the online meeting that hosted more than 200 people from around the world.

In their welcoming speeches, PACJA’s Executive Director Mithika Mwenda, ACSEA Coordinator Augustine Njamnshi and Head of Programmes Salina Sanou had called for the adjustment of the strategy that was to be used in this year’s negotiations, especially on matters of climate change, to include the effects of the coronavirus on the continent.

Mr Njamnshi reminded the webinar’s participants of how developed nations had used a lot of money on the Covid-19 crisis alone, adding that the problem with the countries that also happen to be the highest emitters of the Green House Gas (GHG) has never been lack of funds but unwillingness to prioritise climate change as a crisis that cannot wait.

“Clearly there is no limit to public finance if you are from a G7 country. We have never seen such a scale of finance availability before, trillions. Central banks of US, EU, UK, Japan all act. This must strengthen our demands and ambition for finance and for mitigation,” said Mr Njamnshi.

He urged Heads of State, including the current African Union Chair and South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, to be more involved in the push for the Western countries to fund efforts towards climate change mitigation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The South African president was commended for appointing a special envoy to focus on climate change.

“Covid-19 responses will trigger socio-economic stimulus at the expense of environmental and climate change considerations. Now is the time for Climate change practitioners to raise our antenna that it is a catch 22 situation that requires synergy. COVID-19 responses should be holistic,” said Innocent Onah, another participant in the webinar.

 

Mr Njamnshi took cognisance of the fact that it had become difficult for nations to delay release of funds to mitigate Covid-19, as the disease was quite contagious and a fast mass killer with the ability to destabilise world economies.

With the push for debt relief for poor developing countries becoming more intense, Njamnshi reiterated that what African nations needed was complete cancellation of debts and not mere interest payment moratorium.

“Climate must be at the core of the rebuilding efforts as part of the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement in a post Covid-19 world,” said Dr Mithika, adding: “It will be interesting to see what happens next year, when COP26 is due. Next year UK will chair the G7. Italy will chair G20 and pre-COP. We will see that climate change is at the core of every rebuilding effort.”

There was consensus that it would be crucial for nations to “integrate climate considerations into Covid-19 response measures across the board”.

But there also arose the need for China to be pushed to cease funding of projects that might be risky to the biodiversity, including coal powered projects. Dr Dale Jiajun Wen, a scholar and author on matters of agriculture and sustainable development, said in the webinar: “We invite colleagues to sign on to an international statement calling on Chinese government and actors to support high quality infrastructure by not providing any Covid-19 related financial relief to projects with pre-existing environmental, social, biodiversity, climate, or financial risks.”

Others said recovery from Covid-19 would be the best channel for implementation of the climate strategies and technologies.

Below are some of the comments from participants in the webinar:

Jimmy Adegoke: Excellent comments from the featured speakers... We have robust scientific evidence linking climate extremes with adverse public health outcomes from disease outbreaks such as dengue and West Nile virus. Anyamba, a Kenyan-American at NASA, published an excellent paper on this a few years ago: Recent Weather Extremes and Impacts on Agricultural Production and Vector-Borne Disease Outbreak Patterns

Fraenx: I hope that Covid-19 will be a wake-up call towards a more sustainable economy and action against climate change and environmental destruction. What can we do as citizens in Europe to transform to a sustainable economy and push for global cooperation against climate change and for more climate justice?

Anonymous: Climate change and pandemics such as Covid-19 are embedded in each other. To bridge the gap between the two would (be) the concept of one health… What are some of the individual strategies that countries have laid down for carbon neutrality… could we as continent encourage frameworks to share and copy strategies from other countries on how best they developed resilience and adaptions?

Fade Adeniyi: Thanks, Dr Linus Mofor. You mentioned that the ECA is working on supporting private sector participation in NDC implementation. What is the scope of your activities under this initiative? And which countries are you currently supporting?

Shehu Bankole-Hameed: As a strategist in financial markets and services, special attention to intermediation, my concern is the absence of resilience and lack of investment in primary industries.

Mark Damen: Thank you very much for the clarification of the current processes… what's the specific call for action for various actors, governments, institutions, as well as civil society?

Shehu Bankole-Hameed: Should efficiency be built on the back of Africa's response to Covid-19, and how do we investigate continuity in Agro based services in spite of climate change?

Justice: Very important points Samantha. Thank you

Shehu Bankole-Hameed: I really think we need to scale up our farms from subsistence to efficient systems with large privately owned enterprises (African owned and dominated). The resilience can be provided by smaller deliberately organised farms.

Justice: Small-scale producers currently produce 70% of food for the world. ETC report 2017 (https://www.etcgroup.org/content/who-will-feed-us-industrial-food-chain-vs-peasant-food-web). We need to support small-scale farmers.

Samantha: I agree justice. It is rural small-scale food producers that need to be supported, not agribusiness. Their forms of production need to be supported to protect the environment and feed people! This needs to lie at the heart of a just and equitable alternative.

Inge Vianen: Thank you so much for all the interesting presentations and reflections.

Chinenye Anekwe: The Covid-19 has revealed a lot of things, especially in the area of weakened health infrastructure. It is so unfortunate that it is coming with devastating effects. I hope that some weak approaches to strengthening access to clean and affordable energy will not empower the impact of climate change to overburden and overwhelm the whole world. In all these, Africa will be the most vulnerable.

Shehu Bankole-Hameed: Small-scale food producers may not be efficient enough nor are they able to build resilience. We need to move forward. AI is the next generation for the developed countries, how do we build resilience from largely very small-scale farmers? It would interest me to know that we in Africa can continue to do business as usual and expect change. Please listen to this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000h1ms

Henrykazula: How can we keep “Climate Action” in this time of Covid-19 pandemic? Do we have any strategies to raise more voice on climate issues as it is for Covid-19?

Chinenye Anekwe: …in the face of all these, women, especially the ones in rural communities, are always at the receiving end. Recently, we have witnessed increased intimate partner violence. Thus the need to include in depth and deliberate gender-based responses in our resilient structures to rethinking the Africa adapted development plan.

AED106097: There is a "climate debt" - can it be used to offset the financial debts instead of debt relief?

Monique Munting: About food production, resilience, etc., have a look at the documents produced by IPES-FOOD http://www.ipes-food.org/

Nicholas: Africa needs to embrace our preparedness to emergency situations such as Covid-19 and climate change.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) has called on African states to give the Covid-19 pandemic a greener look and attempt to juggle the two crises with sincerity.

Speaking yesterday to mark the Earth Day, the PACJA Executive Director Mithika Mwenda said it would prove difficult in the long run for states to spend so much on mitigation of the Covid-19 pandemic but forget climate change, which has claimed many lives in Africa.

He referred to news that at least 48 people had been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after it rained only once. In Kenya, where Dr Mithika spoke from, landlides claimed at least 12 lives overnight after flash floods. Many parts of the country have suffered flooding, and thousands displaced.

As the world marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day yesterday, Mithika said it would be key for governments to help their people, including the indigenous communities that interact with nature more closely, to conserve them by ensuring the green climate fund reaches the grassroots.

He said there were adequate legislations to ensure climate actions, but countries were lacking in implementation.

The climate just activist also spoke on a K24 TV interview, where he indicated that the Covid-19 and climate crisis were two dangerous evils running at different paces but killing masses all the same. “Coronavirus is running a short 100 metre race, while climate change is on a marathon. At the end of the day both will have killed huge numbers and messed our economies,” he said.

He regretted that the UNFCCC’s COP25 did not achieve much on climate action in Africa, and urged that the African Group of Negotiators prepares well and employs better tacks to ensure UN climate summit COP26, which has been pushed to 2021, achieves more on tangible issues.

The COP26 was scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November. “Climate change is foreseeable and we can do something to avert much. If we did the right thing in good time, there would be enough space for us to focus on emergencies like Covid-19,” said Mithika.

The situation, Mithika said, was scary for developing countries as a lot of donor countries were busy grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic in their own countries.

“Right now everyone is inward looking and we can only beg. Why can’t everyone do their part on climate action? We must think green, on a wider scale that would also include employing agriculture in a magnitude that can ensure food security for any African and poor nation,” he said, adding that conservation of every living thing’s habitat would offer peace of mind to all.

The preservation of one of the greatest treasures of what is known to many as the ‘Green City in the Sun’, Nairobi, is at stake. As outlined in what seems to have been a hurriedly published newspaper public notice, the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) has its eyes set on putting up a five-star hotel in the heart of the Nairobi National Park as outlined in the Park’s draft Management Plan 2020-2030. The notice called for comments from the public, requesting for views on the proposed plan to be submitted to KWS by 19 April 2020, a Sunday, nevertheless. As expected, this move, in addition to the short notice to the public, drew a lot of public outcry from conservationists and other players keen on environmental protection. Consequently, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has since directed that KWS extends the deadline for submissions to the end of June 2020 in order to give ample time for public participation. 

While the extended deadline gives wiggle room for action against the proposal, the fact that the Park’s management is considering a development of this scale within the Park is an indication that the custodians of our natural resources do not appreciate the value of the Nairobi National Park in an urban set up. The Park is an eco-asset for Kenya’s capital, not forgetting that this is the only national park in the world situated in a city. The Park is an eco-asset that provides high value for little cost. 

Firstly, the forest vegetation in the Park provides a cooling effect and attracts rain within the city and its environs. The construction of a five-star hotel means that a sizeable portion of the Park’s vegetation shall be destroyed, not to mention the accompanying destructive nature of the excavation and movement of heavy construction machinery beyond the designated area. 

Secondly, the presence of natural vegetation and forest cover in a busy city like Nairobi which is vulnerable to air pollution means that the air is constantly purified, hence reducing air pollution levels significantly. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) gives various perspectives on why policymakers and private sector players should constantly work together to build climate-resilient cities. Building urban climate-resilience improves the quality of life for urban dwellers and also mitigates urban areas against the negative impacts of climate change. 

Thirdly, the Nairobi National Park is a great tourist attraction earning Kenya significant revenue. According to a 2019 working paper, Developing Nature-Based Tourism in Africa’s State Protected Areas, tourism drives 8.5 percent of Africa’s GDP and 80 percent of sales for trips to Africa are by tourists coming to see wildlife. In Kenya, the tourism sector contributed 8.8 percent of GDP in 2018 and the country has been ranked the third largest tourism economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The Park also provides green spaces for residents from within and outside the city, a peaceful getaway tucked away in the heart of the bustling city. While arguments for the construction of the five-star hotel within the Nairobi National Park may be on the premise that this is set to increase revenue, the reality is that increased activity within the park will lead to the destruction of the natural ecosystems within which the wildlife thrive. Consequently, there will be no wildlife to attract tourists, both domestic and international. The Park has already faced considerable destruction and disruption of the wildlife’s natural ecosystem with the construction of the standard gauge railway and the ongoing construction of a 4-kilometre diversion connecting Nairobi Inland Container Depot to the Southern bypass near Wilson Airport. 

Over the years, KWS has been under pressure to devise ways of increasing tourist revenue through the country’s national parks. However, this is move is not it – compromising the climate resilience of Kenya’s capital and national heritage should not be left unchallenged. The destruction of the Park’s ecosystem that will ensue if this mega development goes through to completion will be far greater than the perceived benefits of having a fancy hotel within the Park. The custodians of our natural heritage, KWS and the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, should look beyond the short-term gains and view the interconnected impacts of this development.

 

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