, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 11- With only twenty four days ahead of the much anticipated environmental meeting in Copenhagen set to come up with ways of mitigating climate change, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has warned that the effects of climatic variations are a threat to national security.
Mr Odinga said on Wednesday that environmental degradation was posing imminent danger to the country’s state security and called for a permanent solution of reducing green house gas emissions.
“Experts are warning that it is not just a flood and drought issue. The climate crisis has dangerous national security implications. There could be conflicts over resources in addition to the possibility of creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilising nations around the world,” he noted.
He also said that Kenyans could not afford to lose hope on environmental issues as the stakes were too high. He added that Africans must shake off old habits and realise the heavy impact of environmental degradation noting that the remaining 20 percent of ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro would shrink by 2020 if the effects of climate change continued unabated.
“There are moments in history when our survival depends on doing away with illusions and pretences and facing the danger knocking on our doors. The survival of life on this planet is at risk; neither failure nor surrender nor retreat is an option but to move quickly and bravely and rise to the reality that we must change,” he stated.
Mr Odinga who was speaking during a conference on climate change in Nairobi also said that time was running out and there was no need to start apportioning blame for the current climate variations.
“It is not time for us to begin the old blame game asking who was responsible and who are the victims because if we do we will all become victims tomorrow. Wherever we live and whatever our situations no one is insulated from the effect of climate change,” he held.
He added that malaria prevalence and other diseases were also on the rise because of climate change explaining that malarial parasite had moved to highland regions.
“Diseases have strengthened their intensity and malaria which has been known to be a disease of the low lands is now spreading to highlands in Kenya because of the increasing temperatures. The people in the low lands were immune to this parasite; those in the highlands are not and are dying because of the parasite,” he explained.
Mr Odinga stated that forests covered 12 percent of Kenyan land (40 years ago) and that this forest cover had declined steadily over the years.
“It (forest cover) is now down to 1.7 percent and I still maintain that gods are not to blame. Through acts of unbridled greed, irresponsibility, mismanagement of resources and severe lack of civic responsibility we lost most of our forest cover and water towers to human encroachment and illegal logging. As a result we got exposed to the ravages of global warming,” he observed.
He held that Kenya could not just wait for Copenhagen in order to start mitigating climate change adding that the country had the ability to stem the tide of climate change.
“We recognise that we have abundant sources of renewable energy that can help reduce climate change. We can and we must also restore our forests,” he said.
The Premier also said that Kenya has embarked on rapid development of renewable energy.
“Kenya has plenty of sunshine for solar energy and a perfect terrain for wind power generation as well as vast land for growing raw materials for bio-fuels. Our first large scale wind farm project has a total capacity of over 500 megawatts and we have 20 prospective geothermal fields with streams sufficient to generate 7,000 megawatts,” he revealed.
Mr Odinga also said that the challenge in Copenhagen for Africa was how to reach an agreement for transfer of financial resources to countries for climate related projects noting that various countries had already committed significant monies for the same.
“Figures have been floated. The African Union is talking about $200 billion for adaptation and mitigation. Gordon Brown has talked of $100 billion and even these financial commitments are being challenged by other countries,” he stated.
He also stated that Kenya had shifted from rain fed agriculture to irrigation fed agriculture as a result of the climatic changes. He also pointed out that the government had started its ambitious tree planting programme that required Kenyan tea farmers to plant trees on 10 percent of their land.
Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme Angela Cropper also held that the impacts of climate change had affected Kenya’s tourism and tea industries saying that environmental and climatic issues could not be ignored.
“The horticultural sector of Kenya was also affected by the drought which was enhanced by global climatic variations. These sectors (tea, tourism and horticulture) are the mainstays of Kenya’s economy,” she stated.
Swedish ambassador to Kenya Ann Dismorr noted that concrete commitments on emission reductions were crucial if the world was to meet the target approved by the leading economies of major Economies Forum last July.
“If we are to ensure that the global warming does not exceed two degrees then each country must be very dedicated to reducing carbon emissions. The European Union has already implemented legislations that will reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and is committed to reducing them by 30 percent if other developed countries make the same efforts,” she said.
She noted that action by the EU alone was not enough and added that developing countries also had to present clear plans of action.
“Climate change has an impact on every country but Kenya is especially vulnerable as climate change has already led to irregular weather patterns in the country. The scarcity of water in all of East Africa requires enhanced regional cooperation,” she explained.
She commended the Kenya government for its commitment in dealing with climate change saying that it was underscored by the government’s conclusion of its work on the climate change response strategy.