Climate Change 2021: What to Expect

2020 was a year of extreme weather around the world and 2021 has begun with a feeling of optimism in the country and the world at large. New resolutions have been set. Bad habits left, with new dreams and priorities setting in, and we can’t but wait to see how this year will turn out. It cannot be worse than the previous year. With the schools reopening and the economy gaining momentum the demand and supply of goods and services is being witnessed and as a person of faith, I can see us having a prosperous and healthy 2021.

As an analyst, I was taught by my good teachers to base my claims on evidence drawn from good observations. I will deduce this for you to understand where I am coming from. An example is of football analysts who predict the teams that will win a match who usually use available data that has been keenly analyzed, enabling them to assert with a high degree of probability of how certain a team is likely to win. Simple logic.

This has also been my mechanism as a climate activist to be able to see the possibility of achieving the desired goals of many in the restoration of the ecosystem and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. The happenings in the last three months have given me hope. I will not mention the US elections that were a special win indeed for those who care for Mother Earth. The pro-climate change in Joe Biden’s team emerged victorious in a contest in which humanity’s resolute to the care of creation was indeed tested. With great belief we can say the years ahead will see the Paris Agreement come to life.

“Our first NDC had set a target of 30% emission reduction by 2030. On our updated NDC, Kenya commits to abate greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030 which is in line with our sustainable agenda.”

At its heart, the Paris Agreement is about caring for people and protecting them from an uncertain and increasingly unsafe future. Everyone has the right to a healthy environment, free of pollution and its harmful consequences, and this convinced Kenyans to have Article 42 as part of their Supreme Laws. Over 100 governments have already indicated they will update their national climate plans to the Paris Agreement (known as Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs), and these enhanced climate plans aim to include vital sectors, including the health sector.

During the just-concluded Climate Ambition Summit 2020 His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta during his remarks elaborated Kenya’s updated NDC to the participants drawn from various countries including the United Kingdom, France, and Chile, and hosted by the United Nations. “Our first NDC had set a target of 30% emission reduction by 2030. On our updated NDC, Kenya commits to abate greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030 which is in line with our sustainable agenda.”

Meeting the Paris goals as highlighted by the President in the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 would result in health gains which are twice the costs of the mitigation measures from improved air quality alone during this Covid-19 pandemic”

It is now well known that the same human activities that are destabilizing the Earth’s climate also contribute directly to poor health. For example, the main driver of climate change, fossil fuel combustion, also contributes about 2/3 of human exposure to outdoor air pollution, which causes over 4 million deaths a year. Including indoor air pollution bringing the total to over 7 million deaths worldwide every year; about 1 in every 8 deaths. 

The overall cost to human well being, and economies, is enormous. Air pollution alone costs an estimated US$5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally each year. In the 15 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions and with the largest global economies, the health impacts of air pollution are estimated to cost more than 4% of their GDP. Public concern over the health impacts of air pollution is an increasing driver of social movements for action on climate change and overall environmental protection. Meeting the Paris goals as highlighted by the President in the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 would result in health gains which are twice the costs of the mitigation measures from improved air quality alone during this Covid-19 pandemic.

It is for this reason that Kenya has committed to supporting 20% of the mitigation budget from its domestic resources and seeks international support for the others. To implement the required mitigation and adaptation actions in the updated NDC, the country would need approximately US$62 million allotted to both mitigation and adaptation intervention plans at US$18 million and US$42 million respectively. This news at the beginning of 2021 gives me a lot of hope as a climate activist.

We can’t change the menu for 2021 but we can do something about the cook we allow in our kitchen, making the critical decision for us.”

Even as the 2021 menu serves me with a lot of politics as the country clamors for the first amendment to the constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative I am also reminded that before the year ends and in exactly 65 days from today, to go religious leaders from multi-faith communities under the Green Faith Initiative shall be marking the much anticipated Day of Action on 11th March 2021 as they strive to build a worldwide, multi-faith climate and environment movement under the rallying call of Sacred People, Sacred Earth Day of Action. 

Click here for more information https://greenfaith.org

The world will be also meeting at the Global Conference on Health and Climate Change bringing together a range of key actors in public health and climate change policy to highlight the initiatives, policies, and cross-sectoral collaborations that are driving ambitious and healthy Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement in the lead-up to COP26. Yes COP26 is on this year as from 1st to 12th November in Glasgow, United Kingdom. Let’s not forget this host (UK) has pledged to reduce her carbon emissions to net-zero, which means releasing virtually no carbon by 2030.

As for us back here in Kenya as we approach 2022, the time has come for us to vote for climate-conscious leaders. We have trouble imagining the potential devastation of climate change. We have trouble trusting the government to lead us into the much needed collective action. We have trouble defining the links between jurisdiction and accountability. And we have trouble understanding the causality in the first place. Kenya is now in a political atmosphere and no leader has come up with policies on how to combat climate change and ensure environmental protection. We need to change how we vote to ensure we only vote for climate change driven leaders.

We can’t change the menu for 2021 but we can do something about the cook we allow in our kitchen, making the critical decision for us.

Happy New Year to you!

By Anthony Blaize, Programme Officer – Environment & Climate Change

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