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  • Writer's pictureIrungu Houghton

Go beyond carbon markets at the upcoming climate summit

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

Hosted by the Kenya Government and the African Union Commission, thousands of state and non-state delegates will participate in the inaugural Africa Climate Summit and several parallel public events this coming week.

An important moment, the Summit Declaration must announce ambitious, sustainable, and long-lasting climate commitments and avoid the dangerous distraction of focusing only on carbon markets write Irũngũ Houghton and David Ngira

Within the first year of his presidency, President William Ruto has powerfully assumed global leadership in the fight against climate chaos. His voice has brought urgency and clarity to the global challenge we collectively face and the imperative to find common global solutions. The September 4 to 8 Pan-African summit seeks to establish a united African position ahead of the November COP28 global negotiations.

The world has learned much since that first Conference of the Parties in Berlin in 1995. With 30 years of climate change denialism and intense negotiations, it is concerning that the focus on carbon markets has assumed such centrality in this Pan-African Summit.

Simply, carbon market systems were created for governments and companies to address their greenhouse gas emissions by funding programmmes or initiatives that reduce or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Very attractive with governments and high polluter multi-national corporations in the Global North, this market-driven approach reinforces the historical and structural inequalities between the Global North and the Global South. Carbon markets enable wealthy industrialised nations and corporations to maintain carbon-intensive and climate warming practices while transferring their emission reduction duties to projects in Africa.

Unsurprisingly, corporate interests appear to have captured the summit’s direction with McKinsey and Anjarwalla and Khanna (ALN Kenya) playing pivotal roles. African leaders still have an opportunity to redeem the summit by redirecting the Nairobi Declaration. As host, Kenya must lead continentally and domestically.

Kenya ranks 152 of the 181 countries most vulnerable to climate change impact. Erratic rainfall is devastating livelihoods, altering eco-systems and pushing over 25 per cent of the population towards hunger.

Resource-based competition over water and pasture increases local level conflict between humans, humans and wildlife and destabilises national security. Green leadership initiatives over the last five years must translate into tangible climate change mitigation efforts today. The aspiration to plant 15 billion trees needs a detailed national plan that includes seedling sourcing and planting locations.

Lifting the ban on logging and the current destruction of public and community forests risks the reforestation gains painstakingly developed over the last five years of the ban. The government must comply with the current court order suspending resumption of logging.

Amending the Climate Change Act to establish a carbon trading framework must come with persistent global advocacy for sustainable and equitable climate financing including the Loss and Damage Fund.

Cabinet and county governments must now convene the Climate Change Council, allocate adequate resources for mitigation and introduce 47 climate friendly county development plans for forest conservation and renewable energy.

These actions would further deepen Kenya’s moral credibility to speak robustly on climate change mitigation, reduce the ever-present threats to local communities, their livelihoods, wildlife and negate nearly 20 years of progressive efforts in forest restoration and conservation.

Ironically, recent occurrences remind us how fragile we are in the face of climate catastrophes. The search for reliable energy sources, climate smart economies and favourable weather conditions cannot be more urgent after last week’s black-out and the threat of el nino rains.

This week’s Africa Climate Summit presents an opportunity for Kenya to reflect on its international and domestic climate commitments. It also offers the government and Kenyans a platform to demonstrate our unequivocal leadership as a regional powerhouse and global catalyst for conservation and climate action.

Going beyond carbon markets to more ambitious, sustainable, and long-lasting forms of climate action would make all the difference.

This article, co-authored with Amnesty International Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Eastern Africa Researcher David Ngira was also published in the Saturday Standard 2 September 2023


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