The effects of climate change in urban areas and their impact on residents require the community’s collective action and commitment within the framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Climate-related risks are rising and demand an inclusive and participatory approach that ensures no one is left behind in local and national environmental agendas. KARA hosted a side event during the Africa Climate Week (ACW 2023), organized by the Alliance for Science and its partners, with a view to amplifying community voice in the climate change conversations and demonstrating the significant role organized community groups can play toward strengthening mitigation and adaptation measures in regard to climate change.
A panel of speakers consisting of Ms. Beverly Musili Executive Director, Kilimani Project Foundation, Mr. Azarius Karanja, ESG and Climate Change Expert, Niko Green, Dr. Catherine Mbaisi, Ag. Deputy Director for Environmental Education and Awareness, NEMA, and Mr. Maurice Kavai, Deputy Director, Climate Change and Air Quality Monitoring, Nairobi City County, agreed that it is important to find ways of strengthening community actions toward sustainable solutions to climate change.
Mr. Karanja, the Climate Lead at Niko Green, a social enterprise committed to making healthy and sustainable living a reality for all, wants a solution involving the public.
“As citizens, we can participate in monitoring our ecosystems’ health. We organized a conference for sustainability, drawing in students from other nations of the world. We want to advocate for solutions that involve the public.
“As Niko Green, apart from being an advisory firm, we try to be innovative in carrying out sustainable development. In conjunction with KARA, we have developed an app called Hatua to enable the ordinary citizen to report things happening around them concerning their environment.”
With the severe climate crisis, there are more calls for green buildings in Nairobi and other African cities to improve the quality of life.
“The biggest step is to desire more of our city and ourselves. We have accepted that the environment must be degraded, that we can destroy it and bury our heads in the sand. We can’t make that difference in our city until we want a difference. That’s the only way to a better city,” said Niko Green’s Karanja.
Dr Mbaisi, the acting Director for Environmental Education and Awareness at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), which supervises and manages all matters of the environment, insisted on regulation.
“We want to know when you are building where you are disposing of your water. The waste management regulation guides the generation of waste and transportation of said waste. We envisage an economy where we don’t have waste as such, but we are promoting a circular economy,” she said.
“We also take people to court, and indeed, we have also been taken to court as people have a fair engagement with the law. Our motto is our environment, life, and responsibility—we are all called upon to take action and guide you in what action to take.”
She added that NEMA has embarked on a mission to protect the wetlands.
“We have established the adaptation villages to work with people and train them to care for their environment.”
According to Dr Mbaisi, it takes a lot of work to have 100 percent compliance, so they have different departments that filter out the issues that need to be addressed urgently.
“We have taken people to court, and they have complied. Otherwise, we will educate, incentivize, and have an award scheme for those making an effort.
“The residents’ associations are responsible for managing the spaces they live in so we can have a clean and sustainable environment, and sustainable means that we leave the place a better place than we found it,” said Dr. Mbaisi.
Mr. Kavai, the Deputy Director, Climate Change and Air Quality Monitoring, Nairobi City County, said no one should be left behind when you want to change the climate conversation.
“We launched our Climate Action Plan 2020 to 2050. We have learned that no one should be left behind. We believe everyone has a say in this climate change conversation. We have deployed low-cost sensors that can show anyone the air quality status within their locality.”
Ms. Musili, representing the Kilimani Project Foundation, couldn’t agree more.
“As KPF, we work with children and have set up environmental clubs. We also work with youth leaders and peers in the community who mobilize and do outreach. But we are also looking to partner with the universities—we are coming to the youth instead of waiting for them to come to us.”
“If we look at the problems we are facing in the environment, including deforestation, a lot of them are human-induced. Understanding how to segregate your waste at home and having it recycled is the first step towards sustainability. Embrace the future of a zero waste and circular economy. We are the change that we want to see.” said Beverly.
At the end of the session, it was agreed that community best practices and actions towards sustainable solutions to climate change, showcased, amplified and supported across the globe. It was also agreed that governments and other stakeholders should provide a supportive and enabling environment for community-led initiatives towards climate change solutions. Finally participants agreed to promote establishment of partnerships aimed at strengthening community climate actions.
The Climate Action Zone was a side event to the Africa Climate Summit (ACS) 2023. The ACS 2023 presented an excellent opportunity to engage urban residents and enhance their understanding of climate change and how they can actively contribute to addressing it.