Kenya loses bid to host climate change hub

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Kenya has opposed the decision by the Santiago Network advisory board, which saw government climate negotiators settle on Geneva, instead of Nairobi, as the headquarters of the Loss and Damage hub.

The country describes the decision as 'very wrong and unfortunate'.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), in January this year, Nairobi was identified as the optimal location for the Santiago network secretariat head office, based on the outcome analysis and considering all criteria relevant to location assessment.

The official report by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction ( UNDRR) highlighted that "Using the assessment approach, locations that did not meet one or more minimum requirements were eliminated, leaving the following five locations for further consideration: Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bonn (Germany), Brussels (Belgium), Geneva (Switzerland) and Nairobi (Kenya).

Since COP28 last year in Dubai, this has been a thorny issue that was about to disallow the operationalisation of the Network. Therefore, it was deferred to the advisory board to resolve based on the report, which identified Nairobi as the most suitable location for the head office.

The role of the Santiago Network secretariat is to manage the Network's day-to-day operations, which includes building and managing the Network of member organisations, bodies, and experts (OBNEs). It also ensures the coordination and collaboration of the Santiago network's work with relevant UNFCCC-constituted bodies.

Kenya now says it will contest the decision as it goes against the assessment of the entity's host institutions, namely UNOPS and UNDRR.

"This is a big loss for Kenya; it is about climate vulnerability in loss and damage, and the institution that is supposed to carry out the assessment should be sensitive to where it is located and who its clients are," Ali Mohammed, the special envoy on Climate Change at the Office of the President of the Republic of Kenya, said.

"The headquarters requires close proximity to client States, which are the most impacted by the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. The most vulnerable client is Africa, so from that point of view alone, it is important that this institution is hosted in the global south," Ali said.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) agrees with Kenya and is concerned that the advisory board ignored recommendations from UNOPS-UNDRR and selected Geneva, the third-ranked candidate in the analysis.

Dr Mithika Mwenda, the executive director of PACJA, said that they are aggrieved that the hosting right for a platform that embodies the struggles of the communities at the frontline of the climate crisis has been unjustly snatched from a third-world country.

"We are conscious of the power imbalance in the loss and damage fund's board as currently constituted with developed countries potentially using their monetary and material advantage to render developing country representative's mere decorations on the board," he said.

Loss and Damage were one of Africa's most significant pain points for at least 30 years during climate talks until COP 27 finally delivered a fund in 2022. But the fund remains empty mainly because financing pledges remain unfulfilled.

"We are disappointed by paltry pledges of $700 million to the Loss and Damage fund, which are fatally insufficient to meet the recovery responses to a single episode of climate disaster such as that caused by Cyclone Freddy in Malawi, estimated at $900 million," the executive director said.

PACJA terms the decision by the advisory body as 'null and void'.

"We condemn the apparent subversion of the advisory board's procedures and call upon appointing authorities, especially those from Africa and other developing countries, to investigate the possibility of collusion, carrot-dangling, and manipulation by industrialised countries. ," PACJA said in a statement.

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