Pastoralist: Four key things world leaders should know as they sit for the COP27

By Lepantas Charles Leshore

The World leaders and climate experts drawn from 120+ nations are gathering for in a crucial meeting for tackling the climate crisis in Egypt at the start of November for a “Conference of the Parties”, or COP27.

The conference will aim to keep global warming well below 2℃ this century and planet earth on a path to net-zero emissions and the world must rapidly decarbonize to avoid the most dangerous climate change harms now evidenced in the horn of African countries and Kenya included. The global leaders know this very well. Quite fresh in their minds remembering or hearing about COP26 in Glasgow about this time last year. As put by conversation, it was hailed as our “last best chance” to keep global warming under 1.5℃ this century.

The horrible tales of the effects of climate change are worsening year by year and while scientists and environmentalists held thousands of meetings to unravel the effects of climate change, its effects are disastrous destabilizing the livelihoods of communities in developing countries and too SDGs and, its catastrophic situation in Kenya and Africa. 

Since 2020, emissions have reached record very high levels after the pandemic downturn. And this year alone and when writing this article, we’ve seen dozens of catastrophic disasters’  from drought in the horn of Africa , people and wildlife deaths in Kenya to wildfires in Mt Kilimanjaro,  floods in Pakistan, south Africa and Australia , and heatwaves in Europe, the United States, Mongolia and South America among others .

If the effects of climate change continue as now experienced in the horn of Africa and Kenya, we’re going to leave a hotter, deadlier world for the children of today and all future generations. It means the SDGs will be dream that will never see its achievement and what is described in Christians cycles and faith believers as the ‘end of world’.  I strongly hope that the outcomes of the meeting actually matter and not another talk and talk without commitments and actions.

The planet Earth desperately needs COP27 to action and to succeed and not rhetoric promises. I’m a pastoralist researcher and the Best tourism village (BTVI 2021) champion Kenya and I believe world leaders including my climate change champion President of the Republic of Kenya, His excellency Dr William RUTO and other minded leaders should raise these four things top-of-mind sitting in this conference.

Kenya has lost 512 wildebeest, 381 common zebras 205 elephants 49 grevy zebras 51 buffaloes and 12 giraffes (8 reticulated and 4 Maasai species) due to drought,2022

1. Our planet home is undeniably in crisis and inhabitable.

So far, the planet that we call home has warmed just over 1℃ relative to pre-industrial levels, meaning we’ve already damaged the climate system. Our greenhouse gas emissions have already caused sea and lakes level to rise, highest temperatures felt, unprecedented rise of 5 lakes in the rift valley, displacement of people, jobs, schools and loss of fauna and flora putting species art risk.   Extreme events in recent years have been reported by both local and international media – particularly rising lakes in the rift valley, death of livestock and wildlife, water related diseases, displacements of people and wildlife, submerged schools, stadiums, giraffes, health facilities and lodges beside the covid pandemic have the fingerprints of climate change all over them. As put by one media house in a YouTube, ‘Nowhere to run, Kenya’s climate refugees.”

2. Drought and disaster

In September 8th 2022, the government has declared drought that is ravaging parts of the country, a national disaster and 29 counties classified under the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) where food insecurity has been experienced in recent months due to lack of consistent rains. Counties classified as ASAL include Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Laikipia, Narok, Kajiado, Nyeri, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Embu, Migori, Homa Bay, Nakuru and Kiambu.

The earth is indeed and untenably in crisis as documented by Kenya’s local and international media houses. The crisis is well told in over 100 you tubes by local and international media houses and print ,  such as ‘Nowhere to run Kenya’s climate refugees ‘(Africa uncensored 2022),   the mystery of the swelling lakes in rift valley (KTN news) , Kenya; lake floods damage livelihoods (Aljazeera 2022) , Swollen Kenyan lakes risks , ecological and disasters (Reuters) , Rising concerns over dwindling number of fish in lake Victoria among many others that demonstrate the displacements of peoples , loss of jobs and property , schools closures , lodges submerged , fear among scientists and environmentalists,  struggling governments to feed its people and wildlife in a tough global economies and inflation and the negative impact to livelihoods, tourism, wildlife , heritage sites , wellbeing of vulnerable indigenous tribal peoples who live in the rift valley of Kenya .

Most of these counties lies in the rift valley of Kenya, inhibited by the indigenous tribal communities that feel most the impacts of climate change following a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta with leaders from Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) on Wednesday that culminated in a meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator Stephen Jackson. The meeting was held to discuss mitigation for the ongoing drought in the northern Kenya. The governors drawn from the Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC), called for livelihood support, including the distribution of relief food to the most vulnerable and cash transfer programmes.

3. The negative impact of climate change to achievement of SDGs in Kenya and Africa – Despite adoption of SDGs that replaced MDGs, Kenya will still lag behind in social – economic and sustainable development.  In fact , a recent report by the SDG Centre’ in Africa 2030,  three  year reality check reveals minimal progress made and with the climate change expect total stagnation . More than half of the global poor (those who earn fewer than 1.90 dollars per day). Carry the burden of climate change.

In Kenya today, the government appeals for ksh 16 billion to feed hungry Kenyans meaning Kshs 2 billion weekly to ensure no Kenyan dies of famine and Further 200 million need to feed wildlife and livestock.  The world leaders should know that one week ahead of the COP27, it was confirmed through a report ‘The Impacts Of The Current Drought On Wildlife In Kenya’ published on 29th September, 2022 by the wildlife research and training institute (discover beyond) that the wildlife were casualties to the drought related mortalities for species such as Wildebeest (512), Common Zebra (381), elephants (205), Grevy’s zebra (49) and buffalo (51) among others. This numbers were reported within protected areas and thousands an accounted of wildlife outside the protected areas and community led conservancies. 

The most affected ecosystems include Amboseli, Tsavo and LaikipiaSamburu. The Amboseli and Laikipia-Samburu ecosystems are worst affected by the drought having recorded more than 70 elephants’ deaths. The Grevy’s zebra population, which is restricted to the Laikipia-Samburu landscapes, has so far lost 49 Grevy’s zebra even with the intervention of a feeding programme which is currently ongoing as the COP27 meeting starts.

Let the world leaders know that financing the SDGs in Kenya and Africa will get harder and harder and a challenge to the government and the world at large. Additionally, they should know that the death of wildlife is tourism and heritage deaths and lot of jobs lossed including compromised revenue hence GDP loss of the country.  This indeed is a challenge to governance in achieving the SDGs and a serious implication to development. The drought continues to ravage livelihoods and lives of communities and the country.

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4. The catastrophic effects of climate change must end

With so many challenges facing the world, including the cost of living crisis, submerged schools, flooding, displaced people, wildlife and ecosystems, sunken livelihoods, rise of the rift valley lakes , submerged tourist facilities , damage buildings and  infrastructure, Russian invasion of Ukraine it may be tempting for the COP 27 to view climate change as a problem that can wait. This would be a terrible idea. The Climate change will get only worse day by day as pupils sitting for national exams in November will have to walk 100s of kilometers to access schoosl.Its only through concerted efforts of the nations that more catastrophic effects are mitigated upon. Developing countries should be supported to restore ecosystems, establish conservancies, sanctuaries and forests associations to plant trees and increase forest covers.  Any new fossil fuel development is just making the problem worse and will cost humanity and the environment far more in future. Let the world leaders know that Climate change will get only worse. Every year of delay makes it much harder to prevent the most dangerous climate projections becoming a reality.

What next?

COP27 must lead the way with commitment’s and actions to mitigate against catastrophic impact of climate change and more support for developing countries dealing with the biggest climate change impacts. We must be on a honest credible path to reach global net-zero emissions within the next few decades. The lack of progress at past global climate talks means I’m not optimistic that COP27 will achieve what’s needed. But I hope world leaders attending the COP 27 will prove many wrong and not let their nations down. We should see collective new commitments, collective new actions and follow up of actions areas agreed at the Glasgow meeting.

The Writer is a BTV champion, Honorary warden & Founder Maa Museum & Centre for indigenous Cultures

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