The U.N. climate change talks in Durban must make progress in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and enhance funding for dealing with the effects of droughts and floods, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Wednesday. "We are victims of greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. We have a responsibility to reduce the emissions from charcoal burning and deforestation," the Kenyan Premier told lawmakers who sought to know the steps taken against a national flooding crisis.
The U.N. talks in South Africa, runs from Nov. 28 to Dec 9. African leaders are insisting their voices must be heard throughout the talks. Africans attending the conference insist the continent must be part of the solution to the climate change crisis. "Climate change is permanent," Odinga said, insisting on the need to invest more in the irrigation of semi-desert lands often affected by severe drought. "We were talking about severe drought a few months ago. The populations living in these areas worst affected, especially the pastoralists, must be advised to move away from pastoralism because it is not sustainable," Odinga said.
Chachu Ganya, a lawmaker from the drought-affected region of northeastern Kenya, challenged Odinga on his claim that the climate change had made pastoralism as a way of life unsustainable. He said there was no scientific proof to back the claim. "The pastoralists wonder from place to place. It has been proven scientifically. This is coming out of experts. The process of restocking livestock after every drought year after year is unsustainable," Odinga stated.
Floods have affected parts of northeastern Kenya, western Kenya and the eastern region. Odinga said the government is doing whatever it can do deal with the flooding as a national disaster and a response strategy is in place.
Odinga said the response plan in place has not been highly effective because it was scattered. He said the costs of dealing with the climate change effects were higher and may not have been factored into the national budget. "The El Nino washes the infrastructure. There are no budgetary allocations for the washed bridges. The Ministry of Roads, however, has some contingency funds for urgent repairs," Odinga explained.
There are fears of a looming humanitarian crisis as food supplies to the North Eastern region has been cut off due to the heavy rains and flooding.
Meanwhile, Kenya has outlined plans of dealing with the adverse effects of climate change, including a shift to green energy initiatives, by curbing the use of kerosene for home lighting and shifting to solar lanterns and reducing demand for charcoal. "We have a responsibility as a country to conserve the planet earth. We must make the earth livable. We must have a policy of kerosene-free Kenya and shift to solar lanterns, use wind sources of power and geothermal, which have in abundance."
Odinga said the cost of dealing with the climate change has been done. Initial estimates require the planting of 7.6 billion trees to boost forestry cover from the current 1.7 percent to 10 percent of the land cover (half a million square km).
In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma said, "People will come here not just to discuss theories and imagine Africa. They are going to see it in reality."
Odinga said countries in the East African region are currently discussing more sustainable ways of dealing with the people living in the drought-prone areas. "They have experienced heavy rains, 200 percent more rains than they are used. The construction of dams in these regions should have enabled us to harvest these flood waters for irrigation," Odinga said.
Kenya has pledged to support negotiations aimed at striking a global consensus on the need to extend the Kyoto Protocol during the ongoing talks on climate change in Durban.
Government officials said that Kenya will utilize diplomacy to lobby for an extension of a legally binding framework to control carbon emissions.
Ali Mohamed, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, said, "Kenya will engage in global processes that seek solution to global warming."
The permanent secretary noted that currently, the Kenyan government is doing its best to negotiate for holistic approaches that addresses climate change. "The position of the government is very clear; we need a legally binding framework to limit green house gases after the lapse of Kyoto protocol in 2012," Mohamed said.
Mohammed stressed that the government will use environmental diplomacy to rally the global community towards establishment of a treaty to limit carbon emissions.
Kenya actively participates in climate talks at the regional and global level. The East African nation contributes to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that provide scientific evidence on climate change.
The permanent secretary revealed that in addition to sending a strong delegation to the Durban Climate talks, Kenya has prepared a position paper that will be presented for discussion.