Ideas & Debate

Counties must take the lead in fighting climate change


The law requires counties to mainstream climate change action in all their functions. FILE PHOTO | NMG


  • Sub-national government leaders ought to think big, forge new ties in business, NGO world.

At the recent UNFCCC 23rd Conference of the Parties, popularly referred to as COP 23, the increasingly important role of local and regional governments in dealing with climate change was brought to the fore.

The COP, which was presided over by the Republic of Fiji and held in Bonn, witnessed the first ever summit of local and regional leaders.

The summit attended by more than 330 political leaders and more than 1,000 delegates issued the ‘Bonn-Fiji Commitment’, sending a strong signal for climate action at the sub-national level.

This pledge indicates the commitment of local and regional government leaders to deliver on the Paris Agreement by increasing climate ambition, forging new coalitions, and encouraging action from civil society, businesses and peers in cities and regions.

Kenya’s devolved system of government means that counties have the potential to be Kenya’s hotspots for climate action, and they should not ignore this international call for local action.

Under the law, county governments are required to mainstream climate change action in all their functions.

They are also to develop County Integrated Development Plan and County Sectoral Plans in line with the Climate Change Act, 2016 and the National Climate Change Action Plan.

Each county is mandated to have a County Executive Committee Member designated as the coordinator of the county’s climate change affairs.

So far, counties have taken varied action for promoting the uptake of low emission technologies as well as enhancing community adaptive capacity.

Makueni County, for example, has passed the Makueni County Climate Change Fund Regulations, making the county the first in Kenya to establish a county climate change fund.

The fund provides a mechanism for the county to access funding for climate change activities from its budget as well as other sources, to meet local community needs and interests.

Other counties are following suit with plans under way for enactment of similar legislation. To adequately tackle climate change from the ground up in line with the Bonn-Fiji Commitment, counties should be clear on their goals and be strategic in the measures they devise to both combat climate change and meet their sustainable development goals.

There is also a need for the creation of platforms that allow for the sharing of county initiatives and experiences, for enhanced collaboration throughout the country.

COP 23 also brought out the potential for high impact climate friendly action not just by states and cities, but also by businesses.

Following Trump’s announcement early last year of an intention to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, many thought that the US would be down and out of the international climate arena.

However, US states, cities, and businesses have emerged as the new face of American leadership on climate change, with various collaborative initiatives instituted to drive down emissions.

At the COP, the US ‘We Are Still In’ delegation which consists of a coalition of cities, states and companies opposed to Trump’s anti-climate policies, launched Phase 1 of a report titled ‘America’s Pledge’.

Despite the State’s intention to withdraw, the report highlights how these sub-national entities, which together constitute more than half of the US economy, are taking climate action.

Businesses in the coalition are participating in cap-and-trade programmes, embracing zero-emission vehicles, building efficiency upgrades, carrying out renewable energy generation, and innovating a host of other low-carbon technologies.

In Kenya, there are efforts by businesses to undertake energy efficiency and conservation as well as invest in renewable energy technologies for the generation of electricity.

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Interesting developments include the construction of Africa’s largest solar carpark at Garden City Mall, as well as the generation of solar energy by educational institutions such as Kenyatta University and Strathmore University.

There are also businesses dedicated to clean technologies in the agribusiness and water sectors, such as those with projects incubated in the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre.

On a broader level, however, the practice of adopting corporate renewable energy commitments is not widespread, neither is it clear to what extent firms are integrating climate risk into business planning, considering climate change in their corporate social responsibility strategies, setting science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and considering the implementation of an internal price on carbon.

This gap demonstrates that there is room for further and more diverse climate-friendly action by business, with both national and county governments creating an appropriate enabling environment.

Clarice Wambua is partner at Kieti Advocates LLP.