COP26 show was in vain amid injurious policies

COP26 show was in vain amid injurious policies

Many, especially the low-income households, who had previously taken to LPG, have reverting to using charcoal and firewood.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Kenya had a powerful delegation led President Uhuru Kenyatta. In his address, he reiterated his government’s commitment to mitigating against climate change, as anchored in the Climate Change Action Plan. Among the actions he listed is the commitment to low carbon trajectory, restoration of depleted water towers and reforestation.

But things are different on the ground, with government actions being contrary to its assurance. That is evident from the recent backtracking by the Government to its earlier commitment to cut carbon emissions and protect trees.

In 2016, Kenya took a right step by encouraging the use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking by scrapping tax to boost uptake. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show this single move more than doubled LPG consumption in four years — from 151,000 tonnes in 2016 to 326,000 tonnes in 2020.

But just when things were looking up, the government sabotaged its own policy by reintroducing a 16 per cent valued added tax (VAT) on cooking gas in July this year, coinciding with a rise in global prices of butane and propane — byproducts of crude oil used in making cooking gas. The effect was an increase of cost of LPG to 24.5 per cent last month.

Many, especially the low-income households, who had previously taken to LPG, have reverting to using charcoal and firewood — cheaper for them but costly to the users’ health but also the environment.

Shift to clean cooking

A 2019 Energy ministry study noted that many Kenyans still require interventions to increase their access to improved and clean cooking solutions with 93.2 per cent of the rural populations relying on wood fuel. There is a need to deeply look into the clean cooking sector and visualise a shift to alternatives for all populations, especially the vulnerable.

Kenya has committed to shift to clean cooking through development of efficient cooking solutions, projecting a decline potential of 7.3 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030 to mitigating climate change.

The ministry notes that clean cooking solutions will support the quest to restore forest cover to 10 per cent from the current 7 per cent. Furthermore, household air pollution (HAP), caused by cooking using inefficient cooking solutions, is a key health risk. Health ministry data on cooking should motivate us to increase uptake of clean cooking solutions, cutting the country’s annual disease burden attributed to HAP from 49 per cent to 20 per cent.

While we are playing big by taking international lead in generating clean energy especially geothermal, homesteads’ use of harmful fuels for lack of access to clean energy due to prohibitive costs has a net effect that spares neither the rich nor the poor.

A true commitment to doing our part in global actions on climate change would be to take the necessary steps that will encourage most Kenyans to use clean fuels. Rhetoric and grandiose papers will not save Kenya from the adverse effects of climate change. Corresponding actions will.

Mr Ngare is the managing editor of ‘Taifa Leo’ newspaper.