Climate change lab points Kenya to local solutions

Kenya has launched a first of its kind climate change lab that will measure greenhouse gas emissions using various sources including livestock and manure, at a time when over reliance on foreign data has failed to paint the actual extent of the emissions.

The lab dubbed Mazingira Center, and the first of its kind in Africa, has already hit the ground running with preliminary tests revealing that actual emissions from manure could be relatively low, by a factor of four, than the default emission factors currently being used for Kenya.  Such sources of measurement, and including smallholder farms and land uses such as forests, tea and timber plantations are pointing a clear and precise picture on the extent of the greenhouse emissions and therefore informing both mitigation and adaptation measures. The data, experts further explain, could also be of use to neighbouring countries since Kenya that share geophysical and socioeconomic features in calculating their greenhouse gas inventories.

Traditionally, Kenya has had to rely on the generic default emission factors provided by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to prepare its biennial reports on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in the country for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Part of the problem is the country’s lack of modern equipment to measure actual greenhouse gas emissions from different land uses and in different scenarios, and so had to rely heavily on mostly foreign—and generally costly—consultants to perform these calculations for its greenhouse gas inventory, a key element in national communications with the UNFCCC.

Charles Mutai, the Deputy Director of Kenya Climate Change Secretariat who is also tasked with Kenya’s greenhouse gas inventory to the UNFCCC is a happy man.
“Calculation of the emission factors and greenhouse gases from livestock is a very, very good initiative down here in Kenya,” he said. “It’s a first in Africa and I am happy that it came at the right time, just when we are preparing our national reporting application to UNFCCC, which will inform the 2015 climate agreement.”

The lab is also poised to provide rich training ground for Kenyan and African young scientists and technicians. Already there are 20 students and technicians from Kenya and eight other countries working in the lab and on the projects using its facilities to produce data and analyze samples. Scientists in the lab now hopes it will also grow to become a central hub for environmental excellence in Africa with a network of smaller satellite climate change laboratories across the continent, the first of which is already up and running in Cameroon.

The revolutionary hub comes at a time when Kenya is experiencing the effects of climate change at their worst. Failed rains have been blamed for poor yields which have ultimately affected food security.  With countries in Africa touted to experience the highest jump in temperatures in the next 30 years which is attributed to climate change, the lab has readied itself to provide timely data that will inspire timely interventions.