At last, Kenya signs bill into climate change law

Dr Ottichilo (left) in an interview with a PAMACC Journalist

By David Njagi

Article source PAMACC News – After years of wheeler dealing, Kenya finally has a climate change law.

The 2014 Climate Change Authority Bill has finally been signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 06, 2016 after going through the third reading in Parliament.

“We discussed the Bill’s progress with the President during this year’s World Economic Forum in New York,” said Wilbur Ottichilo, the Parliamentary Network on Renewable Energy and Climate Change (PNRECC) chairman. “He promised to assent to it as soon as it passes through the committee stage.”

This is the second time the Bill has gone through Presidential scrutiny after former President Mwai Kibaki declined to sign it into law citing lack of public participation in the drafting process during the late stages.

“The Bill has gone through a rigorous process of amendment,” assures Ottichilo, who is also Emuhaya Member of Parliament. “We expect a new law any time before the New Year.”

This is the first time a climate change law has been established by an African country. Research indicates that some African governments have Bills in Parliament, while others are still debating whether to have legislation in place or not.

Joseph Pamba, a farmer from Mbeere South in Eastern Kenya has high expectations from the legislation.

The 65-year-old has already sown maize, peas and millet at his farm since the short rains were due in October, going by Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) weather forecast for the last quarter of 2014.

“Very little has rained up to this point,” mourns the father of six. “The government is not doing enough to support weather vulnerable farmers like us.”

The retired primary school teacher understands the need for such legislation. For he has seen a lot of change in his village for the six decades he has lived here.

He can count a couple of tree, animal and bird species which have disappeared from the Mbeere ecosystem. Even a nearby river was flowing with fish. Now there are none, he says.

“This is because of climate change and global warming,” reckons Pamba. “I know this because I used to be a teacher before I became a farmer.”

According to him, a climate legislation may create structures to reach rural Kenya, like his village. Even processes like issuance of title deeds and better markets for farmers may be influenced by the new legislation.

“With the Climate Change Act I am sure the government will be able to address land problems,” figures Pamba. “If someone knows which land is theirs, they will be able to take care of it, unlike when it is communally owned.”

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (MEWNR) agrees with Pamba’s expectations. To reach farmers like him, the legislation is expected to pave way for the establishment of a Secretariat under the Ministry, officials say.

The Secretariat will then be made into a Department, then into an Authority, explains Alice Kaundia, the environment secretary at MEWNR. This will enable the introduction of incentives such as tax rebates, subsidies and e-procurement for climate innovations, she says.

“Kenyans can soon expect a climate change fund and a climate change resource center to be based at KMD,” says Kaundia. “Through the legislation, the government will contribute to the East Africa integration process and the Africa adaptation program.”

But there are challenges to even. Experts say the greatest test for Kenya will be to translate scientific data into information that can be used for the welfare of climate hit communities.

According to Richard Munang’, the climate change program coordinator at the Regional Office for Africa (ROA), UNEP, experience shows there are barriers in building the capacity of the public to take action when there are new breakthroughs.

“The main rationale is to package knowledge in a way that benefits communities,” says Munang’. “The barriers are there but steps should be taken to address them and pave way into utilizing what works.”

Meanwhile, Erastus Gatebe, the chief research scientist at the Kenya Industrial Research institute (KIRDI), says the new climate law should enable farmers transform from subsistence farming to manufacturing.