East Africa: Walking As A Community To Cop22 In Morocco

East African Community consists of 6 countries of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda politically bonded with one slogan: one people, one destiny. But how far does the federation walk together towards achieving 1.5 degree global temperature goal after COP21?

Adding to the much politicized tether, in 2009, East African Community Climate Change Policy (EACCCP) was drawn “in in response to the growing concern about the increasing threats of the negative Climate Change impacts to the development of set targets and goals in the region.”

But last year (2015) by now, Uganda was at the brink of submitting its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to UNFCC. Minister of Water and Environment Honourable Ephraim Kamuntu with his team at the Climate Change Department knew they were already behind schedule by weeks. Nevertheless, the document that envisaged “an approximately 22 percent reduction of national green-house gas emissionsin 2030 compared to business-as-usual” was later produced.

Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania had already submitted theirs. Kenya in July 2015, and Rwanda and Tanzania in September. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation was left behind —submitted and announced on 23rd November 2015 after all her members.

What should be noted is that all Parties were invited to communicate to the secretariat their INDCs well in advance of COP 21; the deadline was 1st October. This means some individual countries within the community had already been left behind had UNFCCC not relaxed the deadline.

INDC document was paramount to “initiate or intensify” domestic preparations of how parties are willing to contribute to global warming and its timely drafting and submission is what COP counted on for streamlining decisions. Late submissions, thus, wouldn’t only interfere with the programmes following Paris climate agreement, but also meant delay on the side of national climate decisions.

Meanwhile Kenya was already in its journey launching several adaptation and mitigation programmesin response to her INDC communicated over 3 months earlier.Consequently Kenya launched a number of renewable energy projects that comprised of the Kinangop wind farm, a 61-Mega Watt wind farm that would generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 150,000 homes in the country. The fruits of these swift actions put Kenya and Rwanda among few countries in Africa where renewable energy is mostly invested according to the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP).

Today the country produces over 14 percent of its energy from renewable sources on the road to 90 percent target by 2030. Compared to her neighbour to the west—Uganda, a country according her own Bureau of Statistics access to electricity is at only 14 percent; 40 percent of urban households have access to electricity, while only 5percent of rural households have access to electricity, she’s too ahead.

Even the intentions and long term development plans of these two close countries are at a distance to one another:  according to Uganda Vision 2040 master plan, Uganda needs to generate 42,000MW of electricity from hydro, petroleum and gas sources, geo-thermal and nuclear sources, using uranium to become an upper middle income country. Her renewable energy sector is still below 3 percent of energy supply.

Their biggest neighbour to the south – Tanzania is even more behind. According to the 2016 country’s energy profile published by Renewable energy Association, only 1.2 percent of energy is generated from clean sources.

In the north most partner state, south Sudan, a country dubbed to have the biggest potential for solar—roughly 6.1 kWh/m2/day—according to studies byGlobal Environmental Facility (GEF), is also ranked the downer in terms of the utlisation of the energy with “only 10 percent of potential solar energy tapped” though the South Sudan generates 27 percent of power from solar alone.

While concentrating efforts to achieving 100 percent renewable energy was key to cleaner negotiations and ensuring immunity against dirty energy lobbyists, even within the region, countries have shown laxity in renewable investments.  In the same lane with her southern neighbour Uganda, 83% of South Sudan is rural and uses, Kerosene, charcoal and fire wood.

Walking and working as a united community and advocating for our fate together during the course of Cop22 climate negotiations this year in Marrakech would not only add power to this region’s voice as regarding their unique energy situations but will also strengthen unity and promote regional cooperation fighting climate change which seems to be currently lacking—countries are more focused on achieving their own domestic targets. This could be misleading or even tragic.

Because when climate related tragedies hit, it hits us together. The heat waves; the rainfall shortages: between July 2011 and mid-2012, a severe drought affected the entire East Africa region.Said to be "the worst in 60 years" the drought caused a severe food crisis across Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya that threatened the livelihood of 9.5 million people.

Many refugees from southern Somalia fled to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, where crowded, unsanitary conditions together with severe malnutrition led to a large number of deaths. Other countries in East Africa, including Sudan, South Sudan and parts of Uganda, were also affected by a food crisis.

The crisis was regional and never selected certain countries ‘that were lazier to act’and spared ‘active ones’ as it ought to have. If this isn’t scary enough to force East Africa to ‘run’ together in pursuit of their regional collaboration beyond economic spheres, missing an opportunity to hike favourable bargains during COP22 could be detrimental current progress achieving 1.5 degree temperature threshold.

By Boaz Opio

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