Paris Climate Talks

Paris Climate Talks

Next month (Nov 30 – Dec 11), the world will convene in Paris, France, to discuss climate change issues in a forum dubbed the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11These negotiations will be aimed achieving a legally-binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. The overarching goal of the Convention is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Before the meeting, countires were expected to come up with a commitment strategy that they intended to follow to achieve this goal. This commitment is called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).

What is a climate change debate without the obligatory picture of a polar bear stranded on an iceberg?

Kenya’s commitment to climate change saw her state an intended contribution to global mitigation efforts for the first time. Yay, Kenya. We are highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism, water, and health. This is made apparent by the climate hazard we are currently experiencing…. El Nino floods. Climate hazards like floods and droughts are estimated to cause economic losses of about 3% of our GDP, so clearly, Kenya should be involved in understanding how climate is changing.

Thankfully, our total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are relatively low standing at 73 Million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (MtCO2eq/yr) in 2010. These emissions are mainly from land use and agricultural sectors (75%). But energy and transport are also a significant factor.

Kenya’s intends to reduce GHG emissions by 30% relative to the Business-As-Usual (BAU) estimate of 143 metric tons of CO2 in 2030. However, this is contingent on domestic and international support. It is estimated that over USD 40 billion is required for mitigation and adaptation actions across sectores up to 2030. So, yeah.

There’s also a fairness and ambition section in our INDC that includes historical responsibility. Which is just a PC way of saying, ‘we are not the ones that destroyed the environment, why are we expected to pay for it so steeply?’. This brings up a interesting environmental justice debate that hopefully will be discussed in the talks.

Kenya’s historical contribution is low, at 0.1% of the total global emissions, while the per-capita emissions are less than 1.26 MtCO2eq compared to the global average of 7.58 MtCO2eq(Yay!). But the emissions are expected to increase as we try to increase our economic development. Since this development requires cheap energy, Kenya might not be inclined to invest in expensive alternative energies. If it will be cheaper to burn coal than to wait for geothermal’s full potential… Mui Basin, here we come. Increasing our GDP growth is a bigger priority than reducing GHGs. After all, aren’t all these developed countries as rich as they are because of cheap energies? Knowing what they know now, do you think they would have avoided using fossil fuels during the Industrial Revolution as they waited for solar technology?

However, that said, Kenya is still among the top countries with a larger ambition compared to all others. Russia for instance, is not contributing anything towards its fair share. United States’ INDC represents about a 20% of its share while Kenya represents about 160% of its fair share. If anything, it should be the opposite.

The lack of some countries committing enough means that we will not be able to keep temperatures below the 2 degrees threshold. Even if all countries meet their INDC commitment, the world is likely to warm by a devastation 3 degrees Celsius or more, with a significant likelyhood of tipping the global clmate system into a catastrophic runaway warming. And we all know who is going to suffer most from this, that’s right, the poorer countries.

So with all this in mind, you can imagine the kind of debates expected in these Paris talks. I suspect that when pressured, richer countries will put geoengineering on the table. Since we can’t reduce our emissions by the suggested means, why not use technology to intentionally change climate?

Climate changes affects everyone but not equally.
Climate changes affects everyone but not equally.

The once taboo topic with then become a welcome one.

 

Read more.

Kenya’s INDC – http://www.environment.go.ke/?p=1211

INDC review – https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/fair-shares-civil-society-equity-review-indcs

Paris 2015 – http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en

 

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The RocKe Scientist is an award winning earth science platform based in Kenya.

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