There is need to join hands to understand, prevent (where possible) and mitigate the effects of climate change. This was said by the chairman of Kenya’s Parliamentary Committee for Agriculture, Hon. John Mututho when he launched the Climate Change Journalist of the Year Award in Nairobi.
Noting that journalists shape our environment through continuous good reporting, he urged them to take a front seat in creating a dialogue about climate change because it is affecting people negatively.
Mr Mututho is widely known for the bill regulating the hours and sale points of alcohol. He stressed that a local newspaper, The Daily Nation had taken up the anti-alcohol crusade since 2000, painfully reporting about the people who died of alcohol so that by time he introduced the bill in parliament, awareness had already been created. Now no one remembers the role the media had played previously.
“You are prophets like Martin Luther King, you must dream for us, have a big vision for us, and climate change is the one big thing now. It affects our safety security including our food security. You must play your part and give us both the information and direction to take. You are in the best position to talk to researchers, farmers, people in governance, the weather people and everyone else so that we understand what is happening around us”, he said.
The award and workshop were organised by the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Program (PELUM). The award will recognise the journalist who publishes the most articles in the media concerning climate change within the twelve months of the year. He commended PELUM for taking up the role of tracking journalists on environment and climate change. “We must accept that our mistakes must be highlighted so that we learn to improve our practices”, he said.
Natural resources best for climate change mitigation
Environmental Policy Specialist, Philip Osano from ILRIs People Livestock and Environment theme said there is need to find new technology to help find new solutions to climate change. Such technology may include engineering.
Speaking at the same event, Osano said the question that determines our survival is: “When things change, how vulnerable do you become?” He noted that an economically endowed country such as the Netherlands has a bigger capacity to cope with unfriendly situations by building dykes while Bangladesh cannot, and therefore the people migrate to cope with the same situation – too much water.
Osano outlined the different aspects of climate change as science, economics, technology and politics. He noted that when the first world climate change conference was held,1979, the world demonstrated the possibility of coordinated international action on global environmental issues. The world had subsequently converged over the same issue in 1987 in Montreal where the protocol on restricting ozone layer depleting substances was signed, in 1988 when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by two UN agencies (World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Program) to coordinate scientific research and assess the “risk of human-induced climate change” and in 1992 when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Through debates, discussions and treaties some of which were legally binding, the world continues to recognise that climate change is of concern to the entire world and its inhabitants. As such there is need for concerted efforts to mitigate its threats. In June 2012, the Rio + 20 Conference will be held in Brazil. The theme will be the Green Economy and Poverty Reduction. There will be need to determine the pathway to achieve the long-term goal, because so far, there is a lack of convergence on the issue of the contribution by different groups of countries to the achievement of the long-term goal and pathways to it.
The building blocks for negotiation are mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance. Mitigation entails steps to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases or to increase their removal from the atmosphere by enhancing carbon sinks such as sustainable development policies and measures, clean development mechanism projects, low-carbon development plans and strategies, national sector-based mitigation actions and standards and technology deployment programmes.
Parties have made proposals regarding the metric (temperature limit, level of atmospheric concentrations of GHGs), its level of ambition, the per cent reduction required, the contribution to achieving it by developed countries as a group and the emission pathways over time towards it, including the period or year in which global emissions should peak.
The best form of adaptation however is to maintain our natural resources because they shield us from disaster. Osano observed that the tsunami in 2004 was most severe where the mangroves had been destroyed while almond farmers in California have suffered poor quality of fruit because the bees disappeared and no pollination could occur. They then had to start renting bees from a bee farmer- something they had previously not budgeted for.
Corporate social responsibility
Lauding the journalists for being willing to stand up and be counted in the climate change campaign, PLE Communication Specialist Jane Gitau urged the journalists to understand climate change and spread the knowledge and its impact as part of their social responsibility.
“We must strive to make climate change understood and help our people and government make the right choices in adaptation and mitigation”, she said, adding that media is today enjoying a vibrant environment in Kenya where there is no limit on the tools one can use to share the message.
She outlined the role of the media as to inform and educate, to be a watch dog of society and create public awareness of issues that threaten our survival and unity. Noting that ILRI is a good resource for research information on climate change, she said ILRI had chosen the area as one of its seven challenge areas recognising that the world’s climate is changing at unprecedented rates. African agriculture and pastoralism will suffer some of the greatest impacts of the twin threats of global warming and increasing climate variability.
The ‘Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigations and Innovations Media Award’ was launched in Nairobi on 25 November, 2011.
by Jane Gitau