Urban farmers in Kenya overgrazing livestock
In 2019, the world saw a 0.6 per cent rise in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The
Global Carbon Project estimated that at the end of 2019, industrial pollution and burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas will have released about
36.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When considering carbon emissions from land use, such as agriculture, this figure rises to about
43.1 billion tonnes. From mass farming and deforestation to electricity and heat production, an increase in anthropogenic activities -- or environmental pollution originating in human activity -- has caused global carbon output to reach a new all-time high.
top three greenhouse gases emitted are carbon dioxide (65 per cent produced by fossil fuel use and industrial activity; 11 per cent through agriculture and land use), methane (16 per cent) and nitrous oxide (6 per cent). The
top four economic activities that emit the most greenhouse gas are electricity and heat production (25 per cent), agriculture and forestry (24 per cent), industrial processes (21 per cent), and transportation (14 per cent). These activities cause a
man-made greenhouse effect.
Describing the world as currently operating in “overshoot mode,” AKU Vice Provost Dr. Alex Awiti stresses the irreversible danger that human addiction to fossil fuels, and consequently GHG emissions, has on the planet’s capacity to regulate climate. Science shows that a substantial increase in anthropogenic activities, like overconsumption, reproduction, deforestation, pollution, and land degradation has caused earth’s climate to change. Global warming is causing sea levels to rise, ice caps are melting, species are going extinct, there is an increase in natural disasters, increase in air pollution, and overall spike in global mortality rates. It is often those who are least responsible for global warming, like the poor, who bear the brunt of its impacts.
According to the
U.N Environmental Programme Emissions Gap Report, G20 members are responsible for about 78 per cent of global GHG emissions. Although signatories of the
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), China, the United States of America, the European Union, India, Russia and Japan are the biggest emitters.
Sustainable Development Goal 13, combatting the global impacts of climate change, discusses how increasing GHG emissions and a lack of access to finance to take action is causing climate change to occur at a much faster rate than predicted.
The Paris Agreement is one of the most historic, internationally adopted climate action plans within the UNFCCC, and was ratified in 2016 by 187 Parties of the Convention. Although not legally binding, the Agreement ambitiously aims to mitigate the impact of climate change by holding major emitting countries accountable. Consequently, 187 countries
“responsible for around 97 percent of the world's climate pollution announced specific national emissions reduction plans for climate action after 2020 as a part of this effort.” Ultimately, the Agreement aims to limit warming to 1.5 °C to 2 °C above preindustrial levels.
On December 26 2016, Kenya acceded to the Agreement, pledging that it would work collectively with the international community to take concrete action to cut climate-altering pollution and reduce GHG emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
Supplementing its commitment to the Paris Agreement, Kenya adopted a nationally-recognised climate action plan called the
Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Implementation Framework 2018-2027. As a result, “Climate Smart Agriculture” (CSA) approaches and technologies were drafted within context of rapid industrial development, high poverty levels, food insecurity, water and energy scarcity and Kenya’s 2030 Vision. Integrating Kenyan farmers in the implementation process, CSA ultimately attempts to
“enhance gains in agricultural productivity, build resilience to climatic and weather shocks as well as reduce emissions intensity from agriculture and food systems by adapting to efficient practices." The government relies heavily on support from the national and county governments, and sufficient funding from the private sector to move forward with its climate action initiatives.
Kenya’s carbon footprint was estimated at 20,960 ktons CO2, compared to
13,430 ktons CO2 and 1,120 ktons CO2 in Tanzania and Rwanda, respectively.
Published by Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry,
the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCAAP) 2018-2022 identifies agriculture as the largest source of GHG emission of all sectors. Farming activities like soil cultivation and tillage, rice cultivation, savanna burning, and methane emission from livestock makes up about
40 per cent of GHG emissions in Kenya. After agriculture, Kenya’s energy sector produces the most GHG emissions, which mainly derive from activities related to burning fossil fuels for purposes of heating, manufacturing, transport, residential and power generation.
The NCAAP 2018-2022 discusses the utilisation of biogas technology, low-carbon farming systems, and afforestation within sub-sectors like agroforestry, sustainable land management, aquaculture production, and livestock management to build farmer resilience and reduce GHG emissions within the agricultural sector.
Calling for a collective reset of earth’s ecological footprint,
Dr. Awiti remind us that “advanced technologies exist, both commercially and pre-commercially to achieve a zero-carbon economy that is both advanced, globally competitive and sustainable.” If we want to leave earth habitable for our future generations, in 2020 we must responsibly and proactively enforce climate-action research, technologies and policy agendas when engaging in activities that affect our fisheries, forests, soils, and oceans.
Ashnar Dholakia is an EAI research assistant conducting research on water, sanitation, and hygiene within the context of urban informal settlements.