By Caroline Kibii
With just three months to the Paris Climate Change Summit, nations and the civil society are intensifying their efforts to create awareness on the significance of the climate goals.
The ongoing climate conference in Bonn, Germany focuses on several aspects including the long-term goals that are a vital part of the expected Paris Agreement.
Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations under Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius outlined in the Copenhagen Accord are long-term principles that leaders have committed to before. UNFCC reiterates that greenhouse gas concentrations must be stabilized in the atmosphere with the developed countries taking the lead.
Decarbonisation is a long-term goal that several countries have expressed their support with 60 countries committing by June 2014 and about 131 countries committing by August 2015 according to Track0. Decarbonisation calls for carbon neutrality. This means a global decarbonized economy that is flexible to the climate result below 2 degree Celsius.
Kenya is not part of the supporters for the inclusion of a long-term goal in the Paris Agreement. Again, Kenya is listed to have not stated its qualitative and quantitative long-term goals in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution submitted on 23 July 2015 as per Track0 analysis.
Unless Kenya clearly outlines its long-term plan in line with the expectations of the international community, then it will not be considered as a supporter of the goal.
For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo that submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution on 18 August 2015 stated its long-term goal. DRC has a development vision ranging from 2012 to 2060 with an intention of being a developed country with a green economy by 2060.
Our neighbor, Ethiopia also stated that in the long term, it aims to attain its aspiration of becoming carbon neutral with a midterm target of reaching a middle-income status.
Emission reduction as a long-term goal encompasses a zero target for greenhouse emissions.
Reducing emissions means that a deviation from the business as usual path will be inevitable. Kenya and other developing countries that have set their greenhouse gas emissions reduction target relative to business as usual will have to redefine their targets.
Carbon dioxide, which is a major greenhouse gas, is the reason behind the global temperature rise. Thus, averting global warming demands that carbon dioxide emission must come to zero in the end.
Man-induced carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere accelerate the climate change risks.
Attaining a zero carbon dioxide emission target means altering all human activities that contribute to its concentration in the atmosphere.
It means doing away with fossil fuels and adopting a green energy source. While this may be a challenge to the developing countries, trying to keep up with their emerging economy, fulfilling a global climate target is essential.
Unless we contain the fossil fuels deep underground, we shall not attain the ambitious zero target of greenhouse gases emission. Unless stop burning coal, we shall continue feeling the effects of global warming.
We shall continue to die of heat waves. Our sea level will keep rising until the day it swallows everyone and everything on earth. Unless we make it, a condition for all carbon emitters to be accountable for their emissions, it will be impossible to counter climate change risks.
Carbon budget, which is part of the United Nations’ long-term goal, should be a basis for setting ambitious targets. However, carbon Brief warns that carbon budget will cost a lot of money to arrive at a zero target.
Just like other African countries, Kenya should also voluntarily prepare, communicate and commit to its long term low emissions curve. Putting it on paper is not enough. Proper implementation of the policies and guidelines will significantly contribute to reduced effects of climate change.
In order to ensure that present and future generations have equal rights and access to natural state of the earth, we must fight climate change in every way possible. We created the effects; we must find solutions.
With the anticipation of a legally binding document during the Paris conference, it will make no sense if parties to it fail to adhere. Each nation should be ready to play by the rules.
“It’s not enough to just have conferences. It’s not enough to just talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk,”
said President Barrack Obama while addressing the Global Leadership in Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation Engagement and Resilience conference.
Whether all nations will sign the agreement or not is not a problem, the big issue is whether all countries will commit to cutting down their emissions according to their set targets.
Caroline Kibii is an environmentalist.