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WFEO Climate Stories: how climate change is affecting Kenya

22 February 2021

ICE is hosting the World Federation of Engineering Organizations’ (WFEO) Committee on Engineering and the Environment from 2019 to 2023. In this blog series, members of the committee provide a snapshot of climate change impacts and solutions in their part of the world. Here, Christine Adongo Ogut reports from Kenya.

WFEO Climate Stories: how climate change is affecting Kenya
Flooded house at Lake Baringo, Kenya. Image credit: Shutterstock

What is the level of acceptance in Kenya that climate change is man-made and what actions have been put in place to address it?

In recognition ofthe serious threats posed by climate change, Kenya and its government has accepted that climate change is manmade and taken bold measures to secure the country’s development amid its risks and impacts.

Sound environmental management is a key priority. Article 42 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for the right to a clean environment for every citizen. To meet the international climate change obligations, Kenya ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, the last of which is aimed at keeping the global temperature rise to below 2C and commits all parties to developing nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are nation-specific post-2020 climate actions.

Kenya’s NDC seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 against a business-as-usual scenario and to enhance resilience to climate change as it works towards the Kenya Vision 2030.

This is the country’s development blueprint and its three pillars–economic, social and political – are aimed at transforming the nation into a middle-income country by 2030.

Kenya has developed legal and institutional frameworks for environmental management and set out its climate change commitments in documents such as:

  • National Climate Change Response Strategy 2010
  • Kenya National Adaptation Plan 2015-30
  • Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy 2017-26
  • National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-22

The country has also participated in developing the East African Community’s climate change policy,masterplan (2013-31)and strategy.

The priorities for climate change action are:

  • Disaster risk management: Reduce the risks to communities and infrastructure that result from climate-related disasters such as droughts and floods
  • Food and nutrition security: Increase food and nutrition security through enhanced productivity and resilience of the agricultural systems, in as low-carbon a manner as possible
  • Water and the blue economy: Boost the resilience of the water sector by ensuring efficient use of water for agriculture, manufacturing, domestic and wildlife
  • Forestry, wildlife and tourism: Increase forest cover to 10% of total land area, improve the resilience of the wildlife and tourism sectors and rehabilitate degraded lands, including rangelands
  • Health, sanitation and human settlements: Reduce incidences of malaria and other diseases that are projected to increase because of climate change, encourage climate-resilient solid waste management and promote climate-resilient buildings and settlements, including in urban centres, coastal areas and arid and semi-arid lands
  • Manufacturing: Improve energy and resource efficiency in this sector
  • Energy and transport: Climate-proof energy and transport infrastructure, promote renewable energy development, increase the uptake of clean cooking solutions and develop sustainable transport systems

What are the key issues in Kenya that you consider to be caused by climate change?

The main issues are the frequent droughts and floods adversely affecting the economy and livelihoods of Kenyans, a decrease in frequency of cold days, nights and frost, rising temperatures across all seasons and changing rainfall patterns.

Flooding caused by climate change is a serious problem in Kenya. Image credit: Shutterstock
Flooding caused by climate change is a serious problem in Kenya. Image credit: Shutterstock

What do you think engineering could do about these issues?

Kenya’s priority climate actions are in the six mitigation sectors set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: agriculture, energy, forestry, industry, transport and waste.

Engineers using new technology and designs and their expertise can be involved in actions that are expected to lower greenhouse gas emissions and help the country to meet its NDC goal of cutting emissions by 30% by 2030.

These include development of water infrastructure; encouraging water efficiency through monitoring, reducing wastage, re-using, recycling and modelling; improving access to good quality water; and promoting recycling, green buildings and renewable energy.

Engineers could also be more involved in political and technical discussions about how the world could mitigate and adapt to climate change.

They could help with the development of climate change-related policy, design standards and monitor and review implementation.

It will also be important for engineers to find ways to reduce greenhouse gases produced during the construction, maintenance and operation of the built environment and, lastly, to promote awareness, research and advocacy of renewable energy systems and cities.

In terms of transport, engineers can help to build compact cities to restrict travel demand and vehicle movement while also integrating non-motorised urban transport solutions including pedestrian zones, walkways and segregated cycle paths.

What are the main barriers to effective climate action in both your country and the engineering profession?

The main barriers in Kenya are a lack of political will to tackle climate change at different levels in government, and also a shortage of financial resources to implement action.

In engineering, there is a lack of appropriate technologies for mitigation but also a lack of necessary skills to perform complex tasks to address the issue. Lastly, more knowledge and awareness of climate change is needed among both the general public and engineers, as well as behavioural change.

What are the key priorities for climate action within engineering?

Engineers have an important role to play in facilitating the holistic system for promoting climate change-induced infrastructural development – for example, in terms of transport management, compact city development, travel demand management and promotion of renewable energy, green space, green building and rooftop gardening.

Engineers need to be involved in addressing the impact of climate change on infrastructure design and operations because it affects public safety and public interest.

Key priorities include:

  • Climate-proofing key infrastructure during construction and maintenance, including transport and building infrastructure
  • Researching climate change issues
  • Understanding its impact on engineering practice and proposing adjustments
  • Sharing this knowledge with practising engineers

Related links

  • Christine Adongo Ogut , Committee member, WFEO