Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bad policies blamed for climate crisis

 Some negative effects of climate change in Kenya. Photo/FILE

Some negative effects of climate change in Kenya. Photo/FILE  

By SAMMY CHEBOI in Nairobi and DAVE OPIYO in Copenhagen, DENMARK

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai has blamed bad policies for the worsening impact of climate change in Kenya.

Addressing the UN conference on climate change, Prof Maathai said the climate change may have exacerbated a situation that was already vulnerable due to long-term neglect of the environment.

She said failure to abandon the shamba system, grazing of livestock in forests and unsustainable agricultural techniques like slash-and-burn on farms have also contributed to the mess Kenya is in.

In many countries, she noted, the negative impact of climate change may come in form of drying up rivers, melting glaciers on mountains, erratic rains, devastating floods and melting polar ice.

“In East Africa it is possible that these impacts contributed to recent failure of rains and subsequent crop failure, famine, water and energy crisis,” she said.

Her remarks were made on a day the 64th UN General Assembly urged member states to approach Copenhagen conference with “ambition, optimism and determination”.

The Secretary General’s report tabled at the Assembly says that in the past year, extreme weather events caused over 235,000 deaths and affected some 211 million people.

In 2009, the humanitarian consolidated appeal process requested $8.6 billion to provide 30 million people with life-saving assistance, an almost 23 per cent increase from 2008 requirements of $7 billion to support 25 million people.

Prof Maathai said developing countries are negotiating for a mechanism that would include forests that are not degraded as a basis for receiving compensation for climate change damages.

“It is important to ensure that such resources are accessible in good time and equitably disbursed and inclusivity, transparency and accountability are ensured.”

At the same time, Nominated MP Musikari Kombo says the Copenhagen summit is unlikely to produce a legally binding deal on tackling climate change.

Mr Kombo, a member of the Pan African Parliamentary Network for Climate Change, said it was possible for the UN talks to conclude next week with a political agreement on the way forward.

The political agreement would set the platform that would facilitate an agreement setting up numbers, targets and financial obligation for parties.

The MP raised doubts saying negotiators had little time left to iron out the thorny issues that were hampering the clinching of the deal likely to supplant the Kyoto protocol in 2012.

The protocol, which came into force in 2005, places a heavy burden on industrialised countries.

It sets targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses, now accepted as the main cause of global warming.

Mr Kombo arrived at the Danish capital on Tuesday with fellow MPs David Koech, Wilbur Ottichilo and Erastus Mureithi, all of whom are members of the Pan African Parliamentary Network for Climate Change. They were expected to be joined by Prof Margaret Kamar, the network’s vice-president.

Tackle global warming

Reports indicate that President Kibaki is likely to attend next week’s high level meeting that is expected to thrash out the elements of a global deal on how to collectively tackle global warming.

The presidents and heads of governments are expected to endorse whatever decision their diplomats and ministers have agreed upon. Prime Minister Raila Odinga has also confirmed participation.

On Tuesday, Mr Kombo said the legislators will not waver in their quest to have African negotiators speak with one voice at the summit.

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