July 6th was a historic day in Kenya as citizens from different walks of life converged at the intercontinental hotel in Nairobi to discuss and have their views heard on the matter of climate change. This was an opportunity for the citizens drawn from all the 47 counties to share their ideas on how climate change has affected them individually and collectively.
Kenya was among 80 countries that participated in what was dubbed the largest ever citizen consultation on climate and energy with over 90 debates being held worldwide. Kenya was chosen as one of the debate locations owing to the strides and efforts the coutry has made in combatting climate change effects. This is all in preparation for COP21, the United Nations Conference that will take part in Paris from November this year which will bring together Governments, NGO’s, intergovernmental organizations and civil society to forge the way forward in combating climate change. The organizers aimed at encouraging citizens to have an opinion on decisions expected to be made during COP21 and create awareness of it with the event expected to attract about 50,000 participants from across the world.
The event was graced by his Excellency Ambassador Rémi Maréchaux’s of France and in his opening statement, he highlighted the importance of citizens input in addressing climate change and that climate change effects threatened the very existence of mankind. He also pointed that poorer nations were bearing the brunt of climate change due to their dependence on natural resources and the lack of adequate resources for mitigation. As he finished off, he quoted The Eighth and current secretary general of the united nations My Banki Moon when he famously declared, ”There is no plan B because there is no Planet B”.
The road to COP21 began at the Rio Earth summit in 1992 where the Rio convention was agreed upon with the aim of stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is the major cause of global warming. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) now has over 195 parties and came into existence in 1995.
There have been consequent conventions including COP3 where the Kyoto protocol was adopted, COP11, COP15 and now COP21 which seeks to achieve a legally binding agreement for the first time in over 20years of the UN negotiations with an aim of combating climate change effectively. The legal binding factor is what makes this edition of the COP very unique and has drawn as much attention as it has.
COP21 is viewed as the largest ever climate change conference and some of the expected discussions are around ways to focus on mitigation and getting ways of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. This agreement will need to be sustainable so as to enable long term change. Other than keeping global warming below 2 degrees, the conference will be aiming to raise 100billion dollars per year to combat climate change and it should be contributed by developed countries. Each country is also expected to publish its national contribution before the COP21 summit in November
These are all factors that the citizens that gathered at the intercontinental hotel discussed and finally voted on and results calculated. This exercise was also carried out in all the other worldwide views conferences worldwide and you can see how Kenya voted against other countries here.
From the event, it is clear that the citizens are aware of climate change and are affected in one way or another and they are eagerly waiting to see how the COP 21 will turn out given that they have already made their voices heard.
The citizen consultation was facilitated by National Environmental Trust Fund and funded by several organizations including ReNewGen, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG), The French Embassy, Green African Foundation , World Wide Fund (WWF), The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change among others.