Climate change: A call to action

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BY CHRISTIAN TURNER and ANDREAS PESCHKE

The results are in: Climate change is already here.

Many Kenyans tell us how weather patterns have changed over recent years. The world’s leading climate scientists say the Earth’s climate is changing due to human activity. If left unchecked, the effects of climate change will be widespread. The impact will be felt across all spheres of human activity; from health, to global food security and economic development.

The British and German Governments have chosen today, 9th September, to raise international awareness on climate change. Our message is simple. It is not too late; but we must act quickly.

The International Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Science Report, published in September 2013, concluded that warming of the climate system is unequivocal. There is a 95pc certainty that human activity is the primary cause of warming.

Further climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and heat waves. We are already seeing the impact of this, especially in Kenya. Kenya endured six droughts and two floods between 1992 and 2009, affecting 10 million people.

Drought is estimated to have slowed down the country’s economic growth by an average of 2.8pc per year. The annual cost of climatic shocks to Kenya alone is estimated at about Sh44.3 billion (about 2pc of the GDP). If not addressed, climate change will severely hamper Kenya’s ambition of achieving middle income status by 2030. As ever, the impact will be disproportionately felt by vulnerable groups, especially women and those living in the arid and semi-arid lands and coastal regions.

We need a worldwide, large-scale change to our energy system to limit the effects of climate change. The UK and Germany are leading from the front. We are investing in low carbon and energy efficiency technologies, with an increased focus on home-grown renewable energy, to create a sustainable supply of affordable energy for consumers and businesses alike.

We are pushing for an ambitious EU energy and climate change agreement that will lead to a 40pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. We urge international leaders to work together with renewed vigour to reduce carbon emissions and secure a legally binding global agreement in 2015, and welcome Kenya’s constructive and ambitious participation in these negotiations.

Kenya is a leader within Africa on climate change. We congratulate Kenya on its ambitious National Climate Change Action Plan (presented in March 2013), and the Climate Bill currently before Parliament. Kenya is a low emitter, with a strong history of utilising its renewable energy resources. Hydro energy is long established, and recent times have seen significant increases in solar and wind.

Europe and Africa face many of the same issues. Health, urban planning, transport and affordable housing; all present challenges to be addressed in the light of climate change. Climate change transcends national borders. It must be a core national and international policy issue; recognised as both an economic challenge and an opportunity for innovation and long term sustainable planning.

Decisive action is needed at every level, from Governments to citizens, all over the world. No activity is too small. Kenya is ideally placed to further utilise and benefit from renewable technologies like solar, hydro and wind to maintain a thriving, green, sustainable economy. We want to challenge the assumption that we, or Kenya, face a binary choice between the environment and growth and development. That is a false choice. We need both. And we can have both.

The UK and Germany are actively deploying their own climate finance to support low carbon development globally, as well encouraging others to do their bit. The UK’s £3.87 billion (about Sh554 billion) International Climate Fund is helping developing countries, including Kenya, to reduce emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. In a similar way, Germany’s International Climate Protection Initiative has supported over 400 projects since 2008, worth a total of €3.89 billion (about Sh444 billion). Both our countries are also actively engaged with the private sector to create new partnerships and encourage viable, innovative, climate friendly investment. The UK and Germany are committed to playing our part in securing a climate finance commitment of about Sh14.3 trillion per year by 2020 from a range of funding sources – and we are matching our words with cash and action.

By working together, all of us in our different ways, we can secure a future that is greener, cleaner, stronger and more sustainable. Our partnership with Kenya is a vital part of this.

(Dr Turner is the UK High Commissioner to Kenya while Mr Peschke is the German Ambassador)

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