A world in union

WorldInUnionThe 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 and CMP 11, was held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015. World leaders signed a groundbreaking pledge, which saw 190 countries across the globe agree to reduce global warming to less than 2˚C compared to pre-industrial levels. Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary Professor Judi Wakhungu was among more than 40,000 delegates who adopted the climate change agreement. msafiri sent Paul Udoto to speak to her…

Q How would you describe the Paris agreement?
It was a really historic moment that relied on sound science to arrive at the decisions. For the first time, the conference brought together all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities. The outcome was ambitious, effective and comprehensive.

Q The climax of the conference was reportedly so moving that the English translator was on the brink of breaking down. Is that true?
Oh yes! This was a watershed moment in the fight against climate change given the dismal Copenhagen experience and the many previous contentious issues. The French government had put in its very best, with many Heads of State setting the tone for the rest of the conference on the first day. So, when the deal was finally struck, it was such a pleasant surprise to all of us. It was overwhelming.

Q What do you think of former US Vice- President Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth?
Al Gore personally attended the conference and his message to the world on global warming has largely been vindicated. He built on the work of many outstanding scientists for more than four decades and packaged the message in a popular platform. Al Gore will certainly inspire more global action to deal with climate change in the foreseeable future.

Q What of Pope Francis, who emerged as a top leader of environmental conservation and the battle against climate change?
His unfailing passion and strong messages were inspirational in the lead-up to the conference and beyond.

Q Why is the agreement particularly significant for Africa?
Most countries in Africa are affected by adverse climate change due to their low adaptive capacity. The agreement is significant given that most of the issues Africa was pushing were actually addressed, including the recognition of adaptation efforts by developing countries and the need to balance support for adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Q What were Kenya’s pledges to the United Nations on climate change?  
Kenya plans to undertake a range of ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions to achieve low carbon climate resilient development. We aim to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from current levels by the year 2030 through enhanced mitigation actions in various sectors, including energy, forestry, agriculture, transport and waste. On adaptation, we plan to enhance resilience to climate change by integrating climate change consideration and undertaking actions across 17 broad priority sectors.

Q Finally, what is your message to climate change sceptics who reject the science of climate change?
To all of them, scientific evidence is abundantly clear on the reality of climate change – it includes evidence from observational records and impacts across different sectors.

Did you know?
• Over two thirds of people boil more water than they actually need every day, leaving it to go cold.
• 65 per cent of energy used by computers is spent on running idle, not on actual computing.
• Each minute you take off your time in the shower will save around 10 litres of water.
• Driving at 80mph uses 25 per cent more fuel than driving at 70mph.

Over to you
It’s not just down to our leaders to keep these vital pledges. There are many ways that individuals can do their bit to reduce the human causes of global warming. Collectively, we can make a difference. Here are five lifestyle changes that can help:
1 Eat less meat – try being meat free a couple of times per week. Roughly 18 per cent of greenhouse gases are caused by livestock farming.
2 Drive more efficiently – reduce your speed, empty your boot of unnecessary items, make sure your tyres are inflated and use less air con. All these measures will make your vehicle more fuel efficient.
3 Don’t overfill the kettle – only boil what you need. You’ll save both water and electricity.
4 Turn off your lights and appliances (computers, TVs and games consoles) at night.
5 Eat more local and seasonal food. Also try growing some of your own.

Offset your flights with KQ
To help you reduce the environmental footprint of your travels and combat climate change, Kenya Airways has launched a scheme to offset carbon dioxide emissions from its flights – an initiative developed in cooperation with the International Air Transport Association. By choosing to offset your flights, you’re helping fund the Kasigau Corridor Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) project in southern Kenya, protecting more than 500,000 acres of forest, bringing money to Kenyan communities and securing the wildlife migration corridor between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks.  www.kenya-airways.com/Global/Other_Services/Carbon_Offset_Project/