A call out for Locally Led Climate Solutions in Commemorating World Environment Day 2022
By Vincent Mogaka - Hivos
Every year since 1973, the world, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) marks World Environment Day.
The day has been a platform for raising awareness on environmental issues such as marine pollution, overpopulation, global warming, sustainable consumption, and wildlife crime. The day is a reminder of the importance of nature.
Though World Environment Day is an annual event, our focus on the environment should go beyond the day. Caring for the environment should be cherished daily since impacts continue to be severe with each passing day if no action is taken. Diseases are bound to multiply, loss of biodiversity will reach catastrophic levels and there will be drastic weather changes.
The World Environment Day 2022 global campaign used the theme #OnlyOneEarth to call for transformative changes to policies and choices to enable cleaner, greener, and sustainable living in harmony with nature. This article highlights some replicable climate activities carried out by communities over time. Members of the public and many other concerned parties are called to act towards conserving the environment.
Campaign against coal in Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Lamu Old Town is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, retaining its traditional functions. Built-in coral stone and mangrove timber, the town is characterized by the simplicity of structural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors. It is for these reasons that it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The government of Kenya, through Amu Power Company, and local investors had planned to build a coal-fired plant in this town.
Activists in Lamu teamed up with other activists in and outside Kenya, held peaceful protests, carried out community meetings, and lobbied the international community. In October 2016, they filed an appeal against Amu Power and NEMA at the National Environment Tribunal. One of the arguments was that coal was a dirty fuel being phased out by developed countries, yet Kenya had claimed the renewable energy leadership in Africa through huge investments in geothermal and wind power. Kenya’s electricity is currently mainly from geothermal and hydropower. In 2019, Kenya’s National Environment Tribunal issued a landmark ruling that halted the Amu Power Company’s plans to construct a 1050 MW coal plant in Lamu.
This victory against the $2 billion projects followed years of organizing by local and national environmental groups. The win by the activists and communities in Lamu symbolizes the power of organized groups determined to fight for their rights and protect their environment.
Forest and landscape restoration in Kiambu County
Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) is a respectable organization in the environmental conservation space. KENVO runs forest restoration programs. For instance, a project dubbed “Greening Kereita” is a tree planting initiative that aims at restoring degraded forest sites. A total of 600 hectares have been planted with a mix of indigenous trees. KENVO, through various partnerships, has made tremendous steps in restoring and facilitating the regeneration of indigenous forests within Kiambu County since 2001. KENVO works directly with eight (8) Community Forest Associations (CFAs) within the Kikuyu Escarpment to restore conserve and re-forest the important indigenous forests. KENVO has planted and grown a mix of 500,000 native tree species, restored 100 Km of major riparian areas, and distributed over 800,000 fruits and farm forestry seedlings to schools, churches, and adjacent farms. This contributes to the government’s objective of achieving at least 10% forest cover on land.
Making your voice heard by policy and decision-makers through Climate strikes
The holistic approach to climate striking realizes how interconnected all social issues are and, as a form of nonviolent civil disobedience, is proving to be amazingly effective in turning the spotlight on the climate crisis.
In 2019 ahead of The UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25), thousands of protests and events were planned all around Africa to call for urgent action against climate change. Young people complained their lives were at stake as they were bearing the brunt of climate change more.
In March 2022, hundreds of thousands of students skipped school on a Friday, marching through the streets of more than 750 cities and towns to call for decisive action on climate change and to demand justice for the people most severely affected. Students in Kenya marched to the edge of the Karura Forest in Nairobi to demand action on climate change, joining young people in 123 countries who participated in Friday’s Climate Strike – a massive undertaking in more than 2,000 cities.
Individual roles in combating climate change
Every individual has a duty to contribute toward combating climate change. The above are just a few examples. Other ways include embracing lifestyles that reduce carbon footprint like walking or cycling to work and using environment-friendly products.
Featured image – Tree planting photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com