- Your Excellency, my dear brother Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces;
- Hon. Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ForeignAffairs
- Hon. Keriako Tobiko, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment andForestry;
- Distinguished representatives of the IGAD Committee ofAmbassadors;
- Representatives of our Mother Organisation the African Unionand our Sister REC, the East African Community;
- Representatives of the African Development Bank;
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives ofIGAD bilateral & multilateral partners;
- Dear IGAD Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen;
- All Protocols Observed;
I begin my remarks this morning by sincerely thanking His Excellency Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, a great leader of our continent and champion of our regional integration agenda for his unwavering support to IGAD and strong commitment to tackling climate change. Your Excellency’s cautionary note issued yesterday that Africa’s GDP may reduce by 30 percent in 2050 due to climate change is sobering news indeed for us all.
I would also like to thank the Government and people of Kenya for their generous donation of the 10 acres of land that this facility sits upon. Our gratitude also extends to you for supporting and hosting the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) for the last 32 years since its inception as the Drought Monitoring Centre (DMC) in 1989 and thereafter, its subsequent evolution into ICPAC in 2007.
Excellency, Honourable Cabinet Secretaries, distinguished guests’ ladies and gentlemen,
Climate change has emerged as one of the most topical and simultaneously, the most divisive issues of our time. And similar to the uneven response to the Coronavirus pandemic, discourse regarding climate change has been overshadowed by partisan perspectives, interests and preferences at the expense of undeniable facts and irrefutable evidence.
We have seen how doubt and denial of the existence of the Coronavirus has cost countless lives and taken a drastic toll on entire societies.
Similarly, rejection of the existence and impact of climate change will cost us not just our health, but our home as the human race; And I would like to emphasize that we do not have a spare planet in which we will seek refuge once we have succeeded in destroying this one.
Climate change is a problem because as a global village, we have been unable to agree on how to collectively address it. In other words, the weather is changing faster than the policies and actions we can formulate to respond to it. But perhaps the biggest obstacle we face in tackling climate change lies within ourselves; this is because it requires each one of us to make deliberate far-reaching changes in attitude, lifestyles and perhaps even aspirations.
What most regrettable in the current climate change discourse is that the focus is on either shifting blame to whoever is considered to be the most responsible for degrading our planet, or engaging in ‘Disaster Olympics’ competing for whom has been most affected. What is being ignored is that climate change is impassive, indiscriminate and universally disempowering, it will neither recognize nor respect the status, size, wealth or even military power of any given country.
At the same time, it is undeniable that the African Continent is on the front lines of climate change. The 6th scientific assessment report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in August 2021 confirms that Africa is warming much faster than the global average but is also the lowest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, projections show that the IGAD Region is set to heat up twice as fast as the rest of the world.
But this does not in any way minimize or negate the vulnerability of the other parts of the world to the effects of climate change including; desertification, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, wildfires, shrinking icecaps and flooding.
For us here in the IGAD region, our economies and livelihoods are highly sensitive to climate variability and change. This is because as a people, we are highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture, pastoralism and other forms of eco- dependency. Allow me to also point out that Hydro-meteorological hazards account for about 90% of naturally induced disasters in IGAD region. These disasters are getting more frequent and intense affecting millions of people in the region.
As we speak, intense flooding has displaced over 700,000 people in South Sudan this year alone, and affected over 6 million of us in this region last year. Remarkably, at the same time, severe drought is affecting Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia threatening the food security situation for millions of our brothers and sisters in the region.
This is on top of the challenges we have been facing with regard to desertification, the recent desert locust invasion and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our ecology and economies. It truly feels like we are facing a situation of death by a thousand cuts; but in this case, Climate Disasters are a self- inflicted wound.
If we are to take our region as a model for the rest of the world, it becomes evident that climate change and extreme weather are a global security concern because they act as a threat multiplier and contributing factor to the degradation of already fragile economies, thereby further exerting pressure on the security and stability of any given region.
Other parts of the world are also facing climate extremes, which in turn have led to forced migration and increased risk of conflict over limited natural and state resources. Furthermore, the impact of extreme climate conditions on livelihoods pushes people and States to resort to detrimental coping mechanisms to maintain their livelihoods which in turn lead to further environmental damage.
Your Excellency, Distinguished Cabinet Secretaries, Ladies and Gentlemen;
We now have the opportunity of a lifetime to turn around the greatest threat to our existence, into our greatest opportunity for endurance and survival. We still have the chance to adopt appropriate and innovative approaches for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For IGAD in particular, this begins with early warning for early action. IGAD further advocates for the enhancement of climate services to support policy formulation and decision making as well as adaptation strategies and mechanisms.
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