Better approach needed for climate change complexities
As CoP28 gets under way, the severity of the climate crisis is increasingly apparent. Kenya is grappling with the devastating El Nino phenomenon, which has resulted in deaths and destruction of crops, businesses and infrastructure. A recent World Bank report warns that the economy is at risk of setbacks if appropriate climate actions are not taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change. A report released by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on November 20 highlights a distressing acceleration in the frequency, velocity and magnitude of climate-related disasters. It warns that if current trends persist, the planet is on a trajectory to catastrophic heating. It blames the wealthiest economies for contributing 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. An Oxfam study confirms the disparity in carbon emissions among countries: The richest one per cent emit more than the poorest 66 per cent. Africa, despite hosting a sixth of the world’s population, contributes only four per cent of the emissions. The imbalance not only poses huge consequences for vulnerable communities but also undermines global efforts to combat the emergency. These statistics emphasize the limited effectiveness of mitigation measures, such as carbon offsets. Arguably, some major polluters may be exploiting the complex nature of carbon offsets to exaggerate their success because, if these measures were truly as effective as they are portrayed, there would be a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas concentrations. This is an indication that actions driven by big polluters do not work, contrary to the claims. What will work is not letting the heavy polluters drive the climate agenda but for all stakeholders to adopt a more proactive approach to address climate change. This includes implementing robust strategies to reduce emissions, promoting sustainable practices and holding accountable those who contribute disproportionately to the problem. In Kenya, the drive to preserve and expand forest cover has gained momentum, informed by the fact that trees are regarded as long-term offsets. But there are limitations: Although they absorb CO2 and act as a natural carbon sink, the escalating frequency and severity of wildfires pose a huge challenge. This calls for adoption of more comprehensive and multifaceted approach to address the complexities of climate change. Forests should be complemented by other measures that can effectively tackle the root causes of carbon emissions. This includes investing in renewable energy sources, implementing sustainable land management practices and promoting technological advancements that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through such proactive and forward-thinking measures, the world can strive to a sustainable and climate-resilient future, bearing in mind that the consequences of inaction are dire with lives, livelihoods and habitability of our planet at stake.