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JPIC-FA Joins Call for a Fossil Free World at the Rise for Climate Summit

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Last week, the JPIC-FA participated in events organized under the Rise for Climate summit that was held from 7th – 8th September at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Lang’ata campus. The summit was one of the thousands observed around the world and it brought together different NGO`s, civil society organizations, religious and learning institutions who came out in a unified voice to demand action from all stakeholders. The goal of the summit was to call and demand that leaders take an active role in fighting climate change and commit themselves to safeguard our planet towards a livable climate. 

At the summit, a call was made for commitment to end fossil fuels dependent economies and invest in clean renewable energy systems. Youths were also given a platform to speak up and be actively involved in climate dialogue. It was further reiterated that coal will never be an option for growing economies in the quest for a diverse energy mix in Kenya and that we have to demonstrate exemplary leadership by going green in the energy sector. It was also determined that over time, fossil fuels have greatly contributed to climate disasters, and this is why the proposed Lamu Coal Power Station was completely campaigned against at the summit citing fears over the adverse environmental impacts it will leave in its wake.

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Prominent environmental conservationists gave speeches that called for more stakeholder engagement towards fighting climate change. 360 Kenya National Coordinator Mr. Isaac Oindo gave the introductory remarks, the background, and the main objectives of this year’s summit. A panel discussion on matters regarding climate change was handled by PACJA and it included eminent scholars such as Mr. Benson Ireri, Mr. Omar Elmawi, Fr. Charles Odira, Sheik Ibrahim Lethome, and Mr. Fred Ouma. Panel discussants asked young people to replicate the history of past struggles of their forefathers in demanding environmental justice and that this is a fight for survival.

Youths were also encouraged to pray while taking actions and boldly speak up against environmental ills they see around. The discussants also called upon the government to respect the different binding legal obligations it has signed with global environment bodies such as the 2017 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The panel also engaged the audience in a question and answer session to answer the youths’ different concerns regarding their role in fighting climate change.

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The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Executive Director Dr. Mithika Mwendwa called on the government to suspend the construction of a proposed coal power plant in Lamu County citing dire health and environmental consequences associated with coal energy. He added that developed economies like China and United States of America (USA) are scaling down their dependence on coal power and that is why big businesses in the coal industry are pushing Kenya to get the power plant so that they can sustain their businesses. Mr. Mwendwa further said that investors don’t care if Kenyans die or not as long as they make money and called on the government to carefully consider the negative impact of the coal power plant and why so many people are opposed to it.

“Kenya is ranked ninth in the world in the production of geothermal power and we should capitalize on this and move away from fossil fuels. Just a week ago we heard that the electricity from the Turkana wind power plant will be connected to the national grid, this is the right direction to go and not coal,” he added.

Sheikh Ibrahim Lethome, a member of the Interreligious Council of Kenya said that as religious leaders they are opposed the coal power plant in Lamu not because they are environmentalists but because they have sought the advice of experts and know the facts about that type of energy and other fossil fuels. According to Lethome, in June this year they invited experts on environment and for two days they agreed with them about the impacts of coal mining plant expected in the country. “Climate change is a reality and it is the biggest threat to humanity today. It has been caused by our own greed, wastage, and extravagance like leaving the air conditioners on when we are not in the buildings and at night we compete with the stars to light up the sky,” explained Lethome.

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Other activities during the summit were the launch of a huge canvas painted to depict the dire state of the earth due to the reckless acts of human environmental destruction. During the inter-university report on environmental activities, student leaders from the University of Nairobi, Zetech University, JKUAT, Kenyatta University, and CUEA made presentations on how far they have gone in terms of environment conservation engagements in their respective schools. Participants also engaged in a series of dialogues through focus group discussions to come up with ideas on how to carry ahead the fight against climate change.

The summit was trending under the hashtag #RiseforClimate and was organized by the JPIC-FA, Mother Earth Network, 360 Kenya, AFCF, Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, Youth & Women for Peace & Sustainable Development, Africa Youth Trust, DeCoalOnize, the African Youth Alliance on Climate Change, and the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya in collaboration with the host CUEA.

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