The Chinese Ambassador to Kenya has sought to clear his country's name from the controversial coal-fuelled power plant in Lamu that has seen Civil Society groups and the coastal town’s residents protest in the streets.
Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng, while addressing representatives of Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and some Kenyan Civil Society groups in the embassy in Nairobi today refuted claims that his country was involved in the construction of the plant in Lamu.
The meeting was a result of a petition delivered by PACJA at the embassy on a day they also held street protests in Nairobi, claiming that the coal project was not worth doing because it was going to leave Kenyans poorer and sicker due to the environmental and other degradations that were likely to come with such projects, including heightened green house gas emission.
A Supreme court National Environment Tribunal in Nairobi, cancelled the AMU Power license to construct the plant and asked the firm and the nation’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to do a new Environment Impact Assessment and engage the community more before a go-ahead fro the construction could be given. The Tribunal cited insufficient public participation.
AMU Power is one of the firms that were awarded a tender to construct the plant.
“Kenyan people have the final say on this project and the Chinese government respects that,” the Ambassador said.
He reiterated that his Government was not directly involved in the construction of the plant, as those contracted were businesses or companies from China looking for business opportunities.
“Chinese companies are here because Kenyan government invited them to invest here and do this project. We can only do what we are allowed to do, in consistence with the diplomatic principles at play,” said Wu.
A business director at Power China confirmed that despite having signed a contract more than three years ago, to construct the plant, work had not started on sight.
William Sharify, the businessman, said they would wait for a go-ahead from the Government.
Representing PACJA at the meeting were Charles Mwangi, Olivia Adhiambo and Khaduyu Michael, all who focus on clean energy at the CSO. “We must be cognisant of the fact that this project will come with negative effect on our land, the Lamu people’s economic mainstay, on the air and the ocean (Indian) and all the living things in it, as there will be massive pollution and of air and water, as well as the aquatic life,” said Ms Adhiambo, the Thematic Lead (Energy) at PACJA.
They called on the Government to invest more on clean and renewable energy as well as consider how the biodiversity would be affected if such a project as in the coastal Lamu County, which is a UNESCO-recognised historical area with more than 60 archipelagos and a lot of other resources that local residents have relied on.
The coal power project is expected to cost more than $1.9 billion.
The CSOs have urged the Government to cancel the project and save the country the debts that would also come with it, as well as strive to stick to the Paris Agreement that it is a signatory of.
PACJA joined other international climate champions to mark the first Agroecology Conference meant to transform agriculture and food systems in Africa.
There has been a growing interest in agro-ecology in recent years as an innovative and sustainable response to the challenges facing food and agriculture systems. Through a series of nine regional and international multi-stakeholder meetings, more than 2,100 participants from 170 countries came together in Kenya’s capital Nairobi to discuss the potential of agroecology to transform food and agriculture systems, as well as identify needs and priorities to scale up agroecology as a strategic approach to achieving Zero Hunger and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There are less organic farmers than non-organic farmers, and it is more of a challenge to find reliable and steady suppliers of truly organic produce that can meet industry demands, the meeting agreed.
Agroecology isn’t just a single action, it’s a whole system, and has to be done as a system in order to reach a sustainable food production,” said Hans R Herren, a participant at the event.
Herren said climate and food security champions would be forced to appear as one voice if they want to achieve sustainable food production. He said Africa spends up to $32 million importing food while she has only 3 million farmers.
Malik Cane, a member from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said startups from developing countries were creating innovative solutions to improve ways of doing agriculture.
In her presentation at the event held at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Sarah Olembo, a technical Expert on Sanitary and phytosanitary issues; food safety at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa mentioned that healthy soils, healthy water and healthy systems were the way to go. Sarah urged the participants to have pride in producing and supporting our own products.
Sarah saw it important to bring back the role of women in agriculture, saying women have to get down to work and learn new technology that can improve old-school agricultural practices.
Participants were encouraged to use social media as part of networking and sharing information on biodiversity.
Herren said humans had to be aware of the forces that try to stop the “journey of agro-ecology”.
It came as a shock to many once they heard that very soon famers might be charged to use rainwater on their farms.
In the country food safety and standards are regulated by a variety of laws, including the Public Health Act, Cap 242 and the Food Drug Chemical Substances Act, Cap 254.
As a way forward, it was noted that everyone needed to work towards demystifying the narrative that agroecology cannot serve the nation.
“We need to diversify opportunities in agro-ecology, and be the drivers of agro-ecology,” participants were told.
Experts and participants were urged to develop change that could be used to convince the rest of the world, especially Africa, to embrace agro-ecology.
Participants of the three-day event also agreed to be hosting a series of such conferences, but before that, people should spread the word on agroecology.
The experts said feedback from the ground would lay the agenda of the upcoming conferences.
The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Executive Director Mithika Mwenda has been selected for the prestigious Sierra Club’s Earth Care Award 2019 for his unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation.
Sierra Club, an environmental organisation based in the United States, presents the Earth Care Award annually to honour individuals or organisations that make unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation.
Mr Mithika will be presented with the award for his climate justice activism through PACJA during a ceremony at the Marriott Oakland City Center in Oakland, California on 14 September 2019.
“You were nominated for this award by the Sierra Club’s International Environmental Justice Team in recognition of your work with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA),” Ellen Davis, the Sierra Club Honors and Awards Committee chair, told Mithika in a congratulatory message.
Mithika told Journalists in Bonn, Germany, where he is attending a climate change conference that he was overjoyed by the nomination. “This is not a singular honour but the recognition of the work by thousands of PACJA members and partners in Africa and elsewhere who have sacrificed all what they have to ensure we reach this level,” he said, adding: “With profound humility, I accept this Award that will no doubt energise my resolve to continue fighting to accord voice to those at the frontline of climate crisis.”
The prestigious award comes only months after Mithika was named one of the world’s top 100 most influential people on climate policy by Apolitical, a global network for government.
He beat professionals, world leaders, and other climate policy champions from recognised institutions to make it to the top 100 list.
Yesterday, several notable figures on matters climate and environment sent Mithika congratulatory messages.
Ambassador Seyni Nafo, the Spokesperson of the African Group of Negotiators to the UNFCCC, yesterday said: “This is so much well deserved and testimony for your commitment and sacrifice for the cause and for Africa.”
He added: “This does inspire all of us to increase our ambition and resolve for the cause as well as our people, so keep up the good work and flame and continue the fight very high as you have always done it!”
Augustine Njamnshi, the Coordinator of the African Coalition for Sustainable Energy and Access (ACSEA) and who is also PACJA’s co-founder and Director of Political and Technical Affairs, was happy for Mithika. “This only confirms that others have been seeing what we have been doing as an organisation, especially what Mithika, as an individual, has been doing for the last couple of years since we created this organisation,” he said, adding: “But let’s say that as an organisation, and even at individual level, we don’t do this work to be recognised but for the sake of the people who are at the forefront of the climate crisis, so that they have space for participation in environmental issues on the continent.
James Murombedzi, Chief, UNECA Climate Change Unit and Coordinator of the Addis Ababa-based African Climate Policy Centre was equally happy for Mithika. He said: “Mr Mwenda has led PACJA into a movement that has become central to this interface between problem and solution, working at all levels from the community right up to the multilateral global levels to stimulate practical and policy innovations to address the myriad of environmental challenges that threaten the very existence of our planet in the way we know it. The Sierra award represents a very timely recognition of this effort”.
For Prof Seth Osafo, African Group of Negotiators Legal Advisor, it was a moment to reflect on a short past. “I have known Mithika for quite a few years now, and collaborating with him on climate change matters through PACJA, but also through meetings organized by the Economic Commission for Africa.
Tasneem Essop, the Interim Executive Director of the Climate Action Network International, said: “In the period that I have worked with Mithika and known him, he has been extremely dedicated, firstly by putting African voices into these international processes and also strengthening PACJA. So when anybody thinks about African civil society, you think about PACJA and you know Mithika has led… it is an award he deserves, and finally recognition given to the long, hard and dedicated work that Mithika and PACJA have put into ensuring that Africa’s voice is heard in these processes.”
About Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organisation in the United States, whose main aim is to amplify the power of its 3.5 million plus members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.
Name: Mithika Mwenda
Organisation: Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
Position: Executive Director
Award: Earth Care Award 2019
Awarded by: Sierra Club
To be received on: 14 September 2019
To be received at: Marriott Oakland City Center in Oakland, California
An array of experts, political leaders, NGOs and indigenous peoples and communities have agreed to a rights approach as a crucial step in confronting the global climate crisis.
Dubbed the ‘gold standard’, the methodology emphasizes rights for Indigenous peoples and local communities.
It aims to strengthen respect, recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities as stewards and bearers of solutions to landscape restoration, conservation, and sustainable use; end persecution of land and environment defenders; build partnerships to enhance engagement and support for rights-based approaches to sustainable landscapes across scales and sectors; and, scale up efforts to legally recognize and secure collective land and resource rights across landscapes.
At the Global Landscapes Forum, held alongside the UNFCCC’s Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB50), the ‘gold standard’ approach was formally presented to kick-start consultations with Indigenous peoples’ organizations and NGOs from 83 countries around the globe who gathered at the summit.
The Forum, which every year carries a different theme through its series of events, news, workshops, community outreach and online courses, is focusing 2019 on rights—giving land rights the visibility they need to leapfrog to the top of global discussions, and frame rights as a solution to the climate change crisis.
The new standard, developed by the Indigenous People’s Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), working with the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), will support the vital work Indigenous peoples and communities are already doing to adapt to global warming, threats to the world’s biodiversity and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Presentations and expert analysis during the two day summit showcased evidence from around the globe that when the authority of local communities over their forests and lands, as well as their rights, are legally recognized, deforestation rates are often reduced.
“By implementing a gold standard, we can both uphold and protect human rights and develop conservation, restoration and sustainable development initiatives that embrace the key role Indigenous peoples and local communities are already playing to protect our planet,” said Joan Carling, co-convener of IPMG.
IPMG recognizes that Indigenous and local communities are bearers of rights and solutions to common challenges.
“This will enable the partnership that we need to pave the way for a more sustainable, equitable and just future,” added Carling.
It is expected the consultations on this ‘gold standard’ will continue until year-end.
“It’s clear that when rights of local communities and indigenous peoples are recognized, there are significant benefits for the fight against climate change and environmental degradation,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which jointly coordinates GLF with UN Environment and the World Bank.
“Whoever controls the rights over these landscapes has a very important part to play in fighting climate change,” he said.
According to the United Nations, Indigenous peoples make up less than six percent of the world’s population but account for 15 percent of the poorest people. They live in some 90 countries, representing 5,000 different cultures and speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.
Alain Frechette, of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), saidthe rights approach has been proven to be an essential condition for sustainable development projects to succeed.
“Rights – the ability of people to make basic decisions about their needs, the use of their lands, their ambitions and their hopes or aspirations – invariably determined social-ecological outcomes, including economic security, wellbeing and livelihoods.”
The basic principles of a gold standard already exist, such as free, prior and informed consent, according to Frechette. What has been lacking is the application of principles which would be boosted by high-level statements that could “spur a race to the top”.
The Forum heard that the lands of the world’s 350 million Indigenous peoples and local communities already act as powerful shields against climate change, holding 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity and sequestering nearly 300 billion metric tons of carbon. Over 80 percent of biological diversity is found on local peoples’ lands.
“Our identity is being threatened, and we need to avoid it being completely eradicated,” said Diel Mochire Mwenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to his testimony during the summit, Mwenge, who leads the Initiative Programme for the Development of the Pygme, witnessed more than a million people evicted from their traditional land to make way for a national park and given no benefits from the ecotourism industries brought in to replace them.
In the climate and development arenas, the most current alarm being sounded is for rights –securing the land rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples, local communities and the marginalized members therein. How can these custodians ofa quarter of the world’s terrestrial surface be expected to care for their traditional lands if the lands don’t, in fact, belong to them? Or, worse, if they’re criminalized and endangered for doing so?
This year’s Global Landscapes Forum, which attracted over 600 delegates from across the globe was therefore convened to define a new ‘gold standard’ for rights, with the hope of securing the rights of these important but marginalised groups in the management of forests.
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