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Kenya says plans in place to tap global climate change funds

NAIROBI, July 28 — Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Wednesday the government has prepared an initiative aimed at tapping the 30 billion U.S. dollars pledged to African countries to help fight the effects of climate change in Africa.

"Kenya has taken the lead and prepared the Paris-Nairobi Initiative, which will come up with an institution to work out ' green energy' initiatives. These initiatives include geothermal energy, wind, solar and biofuels. We are in deed doing something to tap into these funds," Odinga told Parliament during a session to discuss drought mitigation efforts in the East African nation, hit by the region's worst famine.

Odinga said the failure to receive funds to finance climate change mitigation efforts have been blamed on failure to provide "bankable projects" to attract funding.

"Global warming has affected Africa. We have said rich nations must take responsibility," Odinga said, citing the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference, where the deal to fund climate change mitigation efforts was reached.

Odinga regretted that the funds had not been given to African countries even though the deadline for its distribution was approaching in 2012.

"Even as we respond to this immediate crisis, we need to focus also on dealing with underlying causes. Today's drought may be the worst in decades," he said.

"But with the effects of climate change being increasingly felt throughout world, it will surely not be the last. This means practical measures: drought-resistant seeds, irrigation, rural infrastructure, livestock programs and conservation of the environment."

The east African nation is faced with a hunger crisis and it it' s anticipated that 3.5 million people will need food assistance, up from 2.4 million people.

This year has been classified as the driest year on record in the Eastern Horn of Africa, and the health, livelihoods and food security of millions of Kenyans continues to be put at serious risk.

According to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), an estimated 700,000 people in the Northern part of the country (Turkana, Pokot, Marsabit, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa Counties) could be classified as highly food insecure.

The Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSG) mid-season assessment, conducted in May 2011, estimated that the number of individuals requiring urgent assistance as a result of the drought is currently 3.2 million, up from 2.4 million in March.

The humanitarian need in the affected areas in Kenya can only be classified as dire at best, as families grapple with the lack of basic needs such as food, water and health services.

With water sources dwindling, rural families are increasingly consuming untreated water, collected directly from local sources such streams and rivers, putting them at serious risk from waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) spokesman Nick Nuttal said African countries must be part of future negotiations in Durban, South Africa and Rio de Janeiro, to work out a more favorable climate treaty.

"This is global warming. But the science is not there," Nuttal said, referring to the worst drought ever in the past 60 years, which has affected the Horn of Africa region. "We do know for sure the climate is warming," he added.

The UNEP spokesman warned that a 1 degree centigrade temperature rise in Africa will affect 65 percent of the maize growing plantations in Africa.

He warned the risk of a 4 degree centigrade temperature rise was in the horizon and the effects could be disastrous to the entire planet.

"We clearly need African governments to be part of the negotiations in South Africa and Rio," Nuttal emphasized.

Odinga said investments that would positively impact on the environment. He said the emerging economies polluting today are also being held responsible. "You are clearly responsible whether you polluted yesterday or today," Odinga said. (PNA/Xinhua)

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