Promoting SDGs in the Face of Climate Change Challenges in Kenya: The Role of Evidence-Based Policy

Climate change, a critical focus within the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, has emerged in the 21st century as one of the most pressing global challenges. The goal is to promote climate adaptation, mitigate its adverse effects, and foster resilience in communities worldwide. Recognized as a threat multiplier, climate change’s impacts are profound and far-reaching, affecting every aspect of people’s lives, from health and livelihoods to security and biodiversity. Its impact as a threat multiplier is so great, that it can be felt in each person’s life. Kenya faces the dual challenges of mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change while striving to achieve its development goals. As climate change intensifies, aligning efforts with the United Nations SDGs become crucial in  addressing these complex challenges. Rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, and extreme weather events pose significant threats to sustainable development.

The SDGs provide a comprehensive framework to address poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and social well-being, all of which are intensify by climate change. Kenya has made commendable strides in integrating the SDGs into its national policies. Notably, the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy (2017-2026) which was implemented to enhance agricultural productivity and resilience, development and climate change under a common agenda through integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) by jointly addressing food security and climate challenges while the Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan promotes sustainable resource use and environmental conservation. These initiatives underscore Kenya’s commitment to achieving the SDGs, which is essential for the country’s long-term prosperity. However existing national strategies and interventions such as the National Climate Change Action Plan (2013-2017) and the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (2010-2020) have not adequately mainstreamed adaptation, building resilience and mitigation.

To build on this progress, Kenya requires evidence-based policies that are adaptive and responsive to evolving environmental and socio-economic conditions. Policies serve as the framework within which actions are taken and decisions are made to influence behavior, allocate resources, and shape outcomes. Such an approach will ensure the resilience and effectiveness of its strategies in mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change, thereby advancing sustainable development.

Challenges Arising from Climate Change in Kenya

Climate change in Kenya is increasingly impacting the lives of Kenyans and the environment. This has led to more frequent and prolonged droughts, such as those experienced over the past decade, with severe droughts in 2011, 2017, and most recently in 2022 in the northeastern and eastern parts of the country. Irregular and unpredictable rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, and recent flooding events due to torrential rains are becoming more common. These climatic changes intensify existing challenges related to water security, food security, and economic growth.  Given that Kenya is one of the world’s largest producers of tea, with the sector contributing about a quarter of total export earnings and 4 per cent of GDP, these impacts are significant.

Evidence-Based Policy: Key to Resilience

Evidence-based policy-making serves as the cornerstone for informed decision-making in the pursuit of sustainable development and climate resilience. In Kenya evidence-based policy plays a crucial role in several key areas: prioritizing SDGs and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies based on their potential impact and feasibility. By understanding the underlying drivers of climate change and their impacts on various sectors such as agriculture, water resources, and health, policymakers can design targeted interventions that address specific challenges and leverage opportunities while continuous monitoring and evaluation of SDG implementation and climate change initiatives, enable policymakers to assess progress, identify gaps, and make necessary adjustments.

 Kenya has been in the forefront in advocating for climate change. It is in this respect that it launched a National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) in 2010 and a National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP 2013-2017) in 2013. The action plan has been acclaimed internationally as being very progressive and comprehensive. The action plan is clear that adaptation is the main priority for the country because of the adverse socio-economic impacts related to climate change being experienced and the ever-increasing vulnerabilities of the different sectors. Investments in renewable energy, afforestation, and sustainable land management. These solutions promote resilience and mitigate climate impacts.  Despite the pivotal role of evidence-based policy, several challenges such as limited data availability despite data collection systems and analytical capacities is essential to address gaps in evidence and enhance the quality and reliability of information available to policymakers. capacity constraints between government agencies, research institutions to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise and promote integrated approaches to sustainable development and climate action, communities, civil society organizations, and the private sector, which is critical to ensure that policy decisions are grounded in local realities and priorities in order to generate and utilize evidence effectively, Coordination and Integration as  Achieving coherence across different policy domains and levels of government proves may be challenging.

Nevertheless, Kenya has witnessed notable successes in promoting SDGs and addressing climate change through evidence-based policy. Kenya’s policy banning single-use polythene bags and plastics in protected conservation areas demonstrates evidence-based action to reduce environmental harm. Techniques like conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and drought-resistant crop varieties, enhancing resilience as essential pillars of sustainable agriculture. By embracing these practices, the government can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change while enhancing resilient food systems capable of sustaining future generations.

What can be done

Promoting SDGs in the face of climate change challenges demands a commitment to evidence-based policy-making. By leveraging evidence to prioritize actions, design effective interventions, and monitor progress, Kenya can enhance its resilience to climate change and accelerate progress towards sustainable development for all. However, addressing the challenges of evidence generation and utilization requires sustained commitment, investment, and collaboration across sectors and stakeholders. Through these efforts, Kenya can navigate the complexities of climate change and emerge as a beacon of sustainable development in the region and beyond.

Photo Credit: Kazuend

Bravin Onditi is a Research Intern at the HORN Institute

Comments are disabled.