Photo by Amani Nation on Unsplash

The livelihoods of millions of Kenyans are at risk due to climate change. Urgent action is needed to avoid possible job losses due to climate impacts. However, new research finds that current plans to tackle climate change in Kenya could make inequality worse. But by taking a Just Transitions approach, the Kenyan government can ensure that all Kenyans benefit from tackling climate change.  

New research from Environment for Development Kenya (EfD Kenya) and Climate Strategies found that the transition to a green economy will completely change sectors like energy, transport or agriculture. Without a Just Transitions approach, this could lead to job losses, higher energy prices, and worsening inequality for vulnerable people. Particularly for women, children, and people who work in informal sectors, like waste pickers and minibus ticketers. 

For example, the tea industry currently supports the livelihood of 3 million Kenyans — many of whom are women — but increasing temperatures will soon make much of the country unsuitable for growing tea. The lack of gender inclusion in the relevant transition programmes could worsen inequality and plunge millions of women into poverty. 

Agriculture employs over 53% of Kenya’s total workforce, and generates 80% of its food. The report, Incorporating Just Transitions in Kenya’s Low-Carbon Economy Development Path, found that changes to the agricultural sector could make existing inequalities worse, because many farmers lack the resources to make this change. However, a just transition to resilient and regenerative agriculture would tackle inequality while also decreasing vulnerability to climate change. 

Efforts to improve forest protection are needed to preserve biodiversity, but risk excluding 3 million Kenyans who rely on the forests for their livelihoods. An awareness of existing inequalities, such as those experienced by indigenous Ogiek communities, is essential to ensure that community livelihoods and culture are not dismantled. 

A Just Transition means ensuring that the move to a low-carbon economy happens fairly. Lead Researcher at EfD, Richard Mulwa, asserted that “Researchers and policymakers must cooperate to understand the impacts of climate action on women, youth, and the poor. By engaging all affected stakeholders, we could create positive change in Kenya.”

Aaron Atteridge, global research lead for the South to South Just Transitions initiative led by Climate Strategies, stated that “If climate transitions are well designed and implemented, they are an opportunity to address intersectional vulnerabilities and historical injustices, while also decreasing emissions. In other words, to promote more equal, just societies. 

Approaching the transition in an inclusive way is essential, and will require significant financial resources – for instance, to support wide stakeholder participation, to implement worker re-skilling programs, and to strengthen social protection mechanisms for the most vulnerable. This finance can be mobilised partly by integrating just transition objectives across government policies and plans, but ensuring a fair transition to net-zero will also require support from Kenya’s international development partners, and the private sector.”

Climate Strategies will highlight this topic during an official side event at COP27: Making the Financial Case for Just Transitions in Diverse Economies. Taking place at 18:30 EET on Nov 16th, the event will explore the co-benefits of investing in the just transition from a range of international perspectives, including Hon. Simo Kilepa, the Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate from Papua New Guinea and H.E. Madis Kallas, the Minister for Environment from Estonia.

This report launched today is the first in a series of research reports due to be published under Climate Strategies’ South to South Just Transitions initiative, which explores the unique challenges and opportunities of transitions in countries in the Global South. 

Notes to the editor:

About South to South Just Transitions

Led by Climate Strategies, this multi-year project brings together research institutions across nine countries in the Global South, in a novel approach to developing alternative, and context-specific just transition strategies. Partners include: Dala Institute  (Indonesia), Fedesarollo (Colombia), the University of Ghana, the University of Liberal Arts (Bangladesh), EfD Kenya, CEPA (Malawi), Hanoi University of Science and Technology (Vietnam), National University of Laos and Sociedad y Naturaleza (Argentina). Find out more.

About Climate Strategies

Climate Strategies works at the science-policy interface, advancing climate policy through meaningful interactions between decision-makers and researchers across Europe and internationally. We are an international, not-for-profit research network with an expansive network of world-leading researchers as members. Find out more at climatestrategies.org

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