Impact investors should grow from climate mitigation to adaptation

Kenya, like many other nations, is facing the pressing challenges brought about by climate change. 

Photo credit: Pool

There is a way that debates about responsibility often see the most powerful shed most of their share, leaving those with less power carrying the additional load instead. Climate change is proving a prime example.

Addressing climate change involves two types of ‘addressing’ for Kenya. The first is climate change mitigation, where Kenya reduces its own greenhouse gas emissions by curbing charcoal creation and burning, introducing cleaner transport, and moving its national grid to renewable energy sources.

In these moves, we are a leader, contributing less than 1,000th of the globe’s carbon emissions, and among the top five countries in the world for the proportion of our electricity now produced from renewables.

But then comes the other way we need to address climate change, which is where we deal with the disproportionate impact of other nations’ emissions on our country.

In this, our rising sea level is causing the increasing salination of coastal groundwater, declining rainfall and rising temperatures.

Add to that the droughts, and associated flooding, and we are suffering from other people’s 99.99 percent of emissions.

Yet, while funds have flowed into reducing our global carbon contribution, the funding for climate change adaptation remains tiny.

According to investment professionals, one of the only sources of such funding is philanthropic funds, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Yet, this year marks a flurry of new impact investment funds drawing from multiple investors.

However, most of these are still pumping money into mitigation – some saying plainly it is easier – and claiming this is adaptation because it is creating jobs, which helps us deal with our newly scorching temperatures, soaring pests, diseases, and heat stress.

It doesn’t wash. There are hundreds of ways we can invest directly in adaptation, beyond thinly disguised initiatives to move farmers into organic farming, with helpful commentators saying it won’t matter if we lose more to pests as we will be reducing carbon or value addition (more jobs and earnings).

As ever more thousands of elderly and infant Kenyans die from heat stress, as diseases surge on water scarcity that fuels poor sanitation and accelerates bacteria, virus and pest breeding, and our roads crumble, we need more from those who call themselves impact investors.

It's time to get their mission clear. Is their impact funding carbon reductions in Kenya to offset the carbon excesses of wealthy nations or they are proposing to help us with the heat and water scarcity, with everything from cooling paints on roofs to water creating towers that Ethiopia already has?

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