UNEP and Sweden Host Conference on Climate Impact on Kenya
Nairobi, 11 November - Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga were among those who gathered today in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the impact of climate change in the country and on the African continent.
"I would like to emphasize the common challenge because this is indeed what it is, it is a challenge that we must face and take on together to protect, preserve and restore our common environment," said H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, who opened the Climate Change Conference.
Addressing the meeting, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga warned that: "Our survival depends on doing away with illusions and pretences and face the danger knocking at our door. If we start the blame game of who was responsible and who is responsible, we will all be victims tomorrow."
The meeting, which was organized by the United Nations Environment Programme in partnership with the Swedish Government, aimed to raise awareness on the implications of climate change on the economy and vulnerable groups in Kenya.
"The recent drought in Kenya affected the tea, horticulture and the tourism sectors which are the mainstays of its economy," Angela Cropper, UNEP's Deputy Executive Director, told participants.
"Climate change has the potential to affect several critical sectors of the global economy as well as entire national economies with debilitating consequences for human wellbeing," she warned.
Sweden, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Union, highlighted the urgency for tackling climate change in Kenya and beyond.
"As I stand here, the snow of Mount Kilimanjaro is melting, the fish in the Indian Ocean are dying, the sea levels are rising and islands are threatened," said Ann Dismorr, Sweden's Ambassador to Kenya.
"Climate change is one of the most important challenges we face today," she added. "If we don't meet this challenge, the impacts on the society will be devastating."
With a population of one billion people and an area covering over 30 million square kilometers, Africa needs varied and complex solutions to climate change. But the question of how to adapt and build a sustainable green economy for the future is the common challenge for developing countries like Kenya.
A recent report commissioned by the Swedish government entitled 'Closing the Gaps' identifies adaptation as an essential element to positive human development. Failure to do this, the report notes, could result in regional insecurity including conflicts over resources, migration and the degradation of economic systems.
The African continent represents less than 10 per cent of the carbon trading in the world, even though its forests absorb a huge amount of the world's carbon emissions. With the continent's acute vulnerability to climate change, adaptation emerges as a key priority in the short term.
In its Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change project, UNEP used science to inform African governments of the options available for reducing vulnerability and building resilience in ecosystems and economies, by making the transition to a Green Economy.
The meeting in Nairobi was very timely, with less than a month to go before the crucial climate conference in Copenhagen. African countries are hoping for an inclusive, fair and effective outcome in Copenhagen that prioritizes adaptation and recognizes that the continent has an urgent need for support.
"We stand in solidarity with the needs of the governments of Africa as a testimony of the continent's potential and promise," said Angela Cropper.