More than 30,000 delegates — including environmental experts, policymakers, civil society organisations, government delegations and United Nations representatives — are meeting in Katowice, Poland, for two weeks to discuss the future of Earth in regard to climate change.
And the message is very clear. In line with the Paris Agreement, an accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse-gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance, the world is raring to go green starting in 2020.
Kenya has been part of the negotiations calling for a green economy and scaling down of greenhouse gas emissions for the past 24 years, and this could be one of the reasons why President Uhuru Kenyatta, through his Jubilee Party manifesto, promised to protect the environment partly using green energy.
The greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, are important for keeping the earth warm upon reaction with rays from the sun.
But over-emission of the gases has made the planet warmer than required, leading to over-evaporation of water from its surface, which leads to droughts and erratic rains without a particular pattern. In short, it has changed the climatic conditions.
That is why the world is calling on countries to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and energy from coal, which, when burned, releases a lot of carbon into the atmosphere.
Instead, they are encouraged to turn to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal, while at the same time planting trees that will absorb some of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
So far, Kenya is doing well and is on the right path in terms of investment in green energy with 84 percent of all electricity installations being green energy.
However, constructing the proposed Sh200 billion coal plant in Lamu is widely seen as likely to negate these gains.
Though proponents of the project say that the coal plant — which would be the first in Kenya and the largest in the region — will use the latest climate-friendly technology, the bottom line is, once coal is burned, it emits carbon, and the gas ends up in the atmosphere.
Many countries, including the developed ones, have used coal and still do to generate electricity.
But most of them did not have alternatives when they started using coal yet they needed electricity to warm their houses, especially during winter, when temperatures drop to negative figures.
With new technology, however, most of them are shifting to renewable energy.
Kenya can, therefore, leapfrog this stage because there are many good options and the international community is keen on helping the country to solve its energy needs for industrial and domestic use.
If you ask Mr Peter Othengo, the focal point for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Kenya at the National Treasury, he will tell you that in the past five years, the World Bank, through the Climate Investment Fund, has given Kenya Sh5 billion to develop geothermal energy.
As a result, Kenya leads in Africa in terms of geothermal electricity generation with an output of 534 megawatts.
By 2022, KenGen expects to generate at least 1,119MW of electricity from geothermal sources and up to 5,000MW by 2030, half of the country’s geothermal potential.
In contrast, should the coal power project be implemented, it will inject only 1,050MW into the national grid. This with dire consequences of coal pollution, while most of the raw materials will be imported.
Coal should therefore never be an option — especially at this time when the international community is willing to support the country to adapt to climate change through financial aid and technology transfer.
In 2014, for example, Kenya was one of the seven countries that were funded for the readiness actions to develop climate-related policies.
As a result, the National Climate Finance Policy was enacted by Parliament on February 22 this year, becoming the first such document ever.
Through the UNFCCC financing mechanism, Kenya received Sh1.1 billion and Sh7.5 billion more from the European Investment Bank to finance off-grid electricity, especially in the rural areas.
Indeed, more financiers are keen to help Kenya to develop electricity using green energy infrastructure.
With all the geothermal sources, mixed with hydro, wind and solar, there can be no reason why anyone should think of coal as an option for energy.
Mr Esipisu is a journalist and the coordinator for the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change (PAMACC). [email protected]