February 19, 2013

Walking the Talk …. From Doha to Poland


Doha came and went in 2012. So was Durban (2011) and Cancún (2010). The rhythm is and was predictably familiar: opening presentations - three minutes each for delegates to bang their particular drums, platitudes and climate change legalese, lack of consensus especially on environmental funding and ultimately lack of direction on the way forward. Contrary to the first COP’s which yielded tangible resolutions, declarations and deadlines (such as Kyoto Protocol), the contemporary COPs are much of a circus where talk takes the center stage but the walk is a mere chimera. Probably, the only unique feature of the Doha’s COP 18 was going paper free, which is a far cry from the expectations of COP 18 which largely revolved around second commitment to Kyoto Protocol as well as more financial commitment by the developed and industrialized countries. Closer home, the Kenyan delegation drawn from government and the civil society was well in attendance. But the question that was never answered is: what did they bring home and how do we move forward?

Meanwhile, as the delegates were busy talking, Kenya and the larger Horn of Africa continued to shoulder the rampant effects of climatic change. Erratic weather patterns, crop failure, water borne diseases and water-related conflicts have become a common phenomenon in the recent past. High rate of melting of glaciers in Mount Kenya is alarming, which in turn have led to loss biodiversity as well as rise in the water level in Indian Ocean. Very soon Mombasa Island might be buried in the historical book, not to mention the dwindling fish stocks in the ocean and dying coral reefs which are fish breeding grounds. Climate change is also highly attributed to rising global temperatures leading to increased water scarcity in a county whose 80% of total land is Arid and Semi Arid and plays host to over 10 million people. The effects of climate change are inarguably rampant in all social and economic sectors, and the time to walk the talk is now!

As we strategize on the COP 19 in Poland, we (the Africans), governments and the civil society need to have a strong stand in regard to our position in matters climate change. We need to go back to the basics, that is, informing our communities on the need for climate change mitigation, ways to do it and benefits of doing it. Our recent research in our climate change mitigation campaign dubbed Juatenda (know and act) - , we have established that most of the communities across the country are not fully aware of climate change, operations of UNFCCC and COP and how/why they are there in the first place as well as the provisions and policies under National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) which was launched in early 2010.

As a way forward, we need to increase the local community engagement in climate change, demystify the COP processes and adoptions such as Kyoto Mechanisms e.g. emissions trading, clean development mechanism and joint implementation. In addition, intense negotiations and amplifying our voices are fundamental in ensuring that the African’s position is clear and unfaltering in COP 19. 

Lastly, knowing the leverage that the media has in agenda setting in Africa, it is paramount to build the capacity of our journalists to report on climate changes so that they can ably cover the local context of climate change as well as the proceedings of COP’s from an informed and exposed perspective. These are fundamental actions that we need to take as we prepare for Poland.

With that in place, we can comfortably walk the COP talk all the way to and beyond Poland!!!

By: Kenny Wahome

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