Global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system and threatens lives and livelihoods around the world. Worth noting is that the world is still off track from keeping global warming within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit set by the scientific community. As we have noticed, wildfires, heat waves, devastating floods, and other impacts are already threatening to make parts of our planet uninhabitable as provided in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
To deal with the current situation at hand, the Council of Governors convened policymakers and county leaders at the Seventh and Final Devolution Conference to deliberate on the effects of climate change and the interventions needed to curb this crisis. The Devolution Conference took place in Makueni County from 23 to 26 November 2021 with the sub-theme of “Sub-National mobilisation in unlocking the full potential of climate action during and after the pandemic,” to guide the national government and county in combating climate change. Additionally, the conference served as an avenue to deliberate on the impacts of climate change and how the national and county government and development partners can all come together to support communities to prepare, mitigate and respond to the effects of climate.
The conference was officially opened virtually by H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta. During his opening statement, he stated that “of all the development programmes and initiatives implemented since independence none have had a more impactful and transformative result than Devolution.” He further added that “It is Kenya’s resolve to play our part in the international community’s effort to address climate change including preventing global temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees Celcius. Further, he added that Kenya recently joined the Adaptation Action Coalition and the UN call for action on adaptation and resilience.”
Echoing what the President said, the Cabinet Secretary of Environment and Forestry Mr. Keriako Tobiko strongly pointed out that “climate change is real and you don't have to be a scientist to understand. All you have to do is open your eyes. Currently, two million Kenyans are suffering from the devastation of droughts. Climate change does not discriminate, all of us are in this together as a world. The only difference is we are more vulnerable. Instead of blaming each other, we must work together and take joint responsibility.”
Over the years, UNDP Kenya has participated in the Devolution debate in Kenya from its conception in 2010 as stipulated in the Constitution which saw the forty-seven counties being constituted in 2013. UNDP Kenya continues to foster strong partnerships with national institutions and counties across the country. These partnerships that UNDP has formed has brought other UN agencies such as UNICEF, and UN Women to the Devolution journey particularly through the joint implementation of the “Consolidating Gains & Deepening Devolution in Kenya” programme in collaboration with national and county governments and also works closely with other UN Agencies such as the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) on critical devolution issues.
Speaking at the Devolution Conference on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management, Mr. Walid Badawi, UNDP Kenya’s Resident Representative stated that “UNDP is working with counties to strengthen disaster risk reduction at the county level. To ensure this happens, 5 Ps need to be implemented – Power, Policies, Partnership, Programs and Prayer.” He further added that “what is needed is robust financing which helps and needs to be mainstreamed in DRR in local budgeting as a sustainable solution.”
The conference brought together more than 3,000 delegates comprising of the citizenry, Governors and Deputy Governors, Senators, Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Parliament and County Assemblies, Private Sector, Media, Development Partners, Civil Society Organisations, among others. As a result of the concerted actions of these actors, in only eight years Kenya has accomplished one of the world’s greatest planned transformations of a country’s governance structure that is of Devolution. With relation to climate action, it was agreed upon that both levels of government (national and county) should work together to design and implement practical policies, strategies, laws, regulations and action plans to address climate change.
During the conference, UNDP called on the private sector and international development partners to support the Government of Kenya to strengthen climate finance at the county level. Counties were also encouraged to dedicate significant portions of their budgetary allocations to strengthen climate actions in line with the progressive Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Update submitted by Kenya to UNFCCC.
The counties were encouraged to enhance allocations towards mitigation actions such as reafforestation, renewable energy, sustainable transport, agriculture and integrating nature-based solutions in the development plans. The Sustainable Tree Growing Fund developed by UNDP in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is a novel climate action idea, as counties now have support to help Kenya meet her 10% tree cover target.