Building momentum to mitigate climate change

By Phyllis Wakiaga,

Thanks to the efforts of young people such as Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti and Greta Thunberg who are speaking up and urging the world to pay more attention, climate change is garnering global interest.

Global leaders, young people and even students are now talking about it. Companies on the other hand are thinking about how they can reduce their carbon footprint and their operations’ impact on the environment.

We have already started feeling the effects of climate change, for instance the soaring frequency and intensity of storms, floods and droughts. Weather patterns are changing. Here in Kenya, water bodies are either drying up completely or bursting their banks or shores.

This means we are at a critical junction – time is running out to reduce the impact of climate change.

The SDGs and the 2015 Paris Agreement all set progressive targets towards mitigating climate change. However, the progress towards achieving this is extremely slow. World Bank estimates that if left unchecked, climate change will push 132 million people into poverty and in the process, undo development gains achieved over a long period of time.

It is therefore critical for everyone to play a role in tackling climate change – including businesses – to drive the planet’s sustainability.

For manufacturers, the move to a green economy entails reducing their carbon footprint, ensuring water and energy efficiency and embracing a circular economy in their operations.

Manufacturers must embrace efficiency in their use of natural resources in production. The United Nations defines efficiency as “doing more and better with less, by obtaining more value with the available resources, by reducing the resource consumption and reducing the pollution and environmental impact of resource use to produce goods and services at every stage of the value chain”.

Manufacturers can achieve efficiency by carrying out water and energy audits, to identify and seal leakages. Locally, these audits are yet to be fully embraced by local industry. However, industries that have carried out audits have seen tremendous benefits. KAM carried out an energy audit impact study, to establish the impact of the implemented energy conservation measures. Through these measures, we have seen a reduction in carbon dioxide emission of 21.4 million kg per annum.

To encourage industries to take up such services that reduce their carbon footprint, and eventually mitigate climate change, it is paramount that government extends subsidies.

With technology advancement, the need to safeguard the environment, the changing market requirements and the need for more value-add solutions to industries, manufacturers’ focus on green production and consumption now goes beyond water and energy efficiency. It also calls for responsible waste management. This is about resources moving from cradle to cradle, where waste from one process is a resource in other processes, instead of cradle to grave, where the impact created by disposal of products has a negative effect on the environment.

Whilst growing our industries, we must foster the growth of circular economy and development whilst ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the necessary resources in a sustainable manner. As we do this, we must also check and mitigate the impact of extraction of these resources on the environment. The government should continue engaging the private sector on creating an enabling environment for businesses to embrace a circular economy.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), in line with the Government commitment to greening manufacturing under the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018-2022, recognizes the role of manufacturing in combating climate change. In responding to the requirements and obligations under the Plan, last year, KAM established the Centre for Green Growth and Climate Change, a one-stop solution that offers industry with value – add services and products that will address the reduction in carbon emissions, create a circular economy, improve on energy and resource efficiency and enhance human capacity at the firm level to drive green growth and climate change initiatives.

The efforts towards sustainable development made today, have the potential to become the future’s transformation to a minimal carbon emissions population. This is set to benefit all global citizens.

The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the Global Compact Network Kenya Board Chair. She can be reached at ceo@kam.co.k

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