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On climate change, time for inaction has long passed

12th Jul, 2017

The global climate change agenda is at crossroads, following the announcement by the United States that it would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. This has brought into scrutiny the future of the commitments made by governments in the pursuit for a safe environment. Under the 2015 Paris agreement, nearly 200 nations had pledged to limit world temperatures to a 2C (3.6F) rise on the pre-industrial era.

Beyond the global murmurs over the future of the Paris Agreement, what is it that all of us—individuals and corporates across East Africa—must do to play our part in guarding the environment? Is all lost in the climate change agenda? No.

Many of us grew up with the common admonishment that money does not grow on trees. Parents use this line especially when explaining to their children that money does not come easy. But, truth be told, money does grow on trees. Money grows on all the gifts that nature provides freely.

Let me explain. Businesses exist to earn a return. This can only happen if businesses invest. A farmer has to plant in order to reap. A bank customer has to deposit in order to withdraw. Such is the same with our environment. We have to invest in protecting our environment if we have to get the climate dividend that is slowly becoming been elusive.

Unfortunately, mankind has been using resources from the Earth at an unsustainable rate and very soon we will reach a tipping point. Population pressures, urbanization, industrialization and even our care free attitude have all continuously contributed towards environmental degradation.

If we push the ecosystem to the brink, nature will just stop providing us with the numerous raw materials and support we need to run our businesses. Nature is very generous but can be very unforgiving.

We are now witnessing nature’s ugly side. Climate change and extreme weather patterns are no longer a phenomenon but have become regular world over. This has exposed our collective failure to protect the environment. We are hell bent on getting the most out of nature while the environment gets the short end of the stick.

In Kenya, we are feeling the effects of climate change. The last two years have experienced depressed rainfall, preceding the devastating drought we witnessed in the last three months. It is critical that we address the challenges that we are facing today if we are to secure the future for the young generation.

If we want to grow our business, we have to do so sustainably. We are now, more than ever, paying attention to the big energy shift that is required for our survival. The shift from wood, to coal and which then gave way to crude oil and natural gas that now run our economies took decades. The time has come for us to shift to renewable sources.

Sound businesses continually take stock of their assets to know where they stand. In line with this, businesses and individuals must take stock of the impact, both positive and negative, on nature and the environment. We must all acknowledge the environmental debt and strive to put in as much as we are taking out.

Globally, financial institutions are leading the way in aligning their business to environmental sustainability. They are taking a hard look at their operations and how they impact the environment.

At KCB Group we seek to be a sustainable bank. We know that this is the only way to ensure business success while contributing towards economic and social development, a healthy environment and a stable society. KCB was recently nominated by the National Treasury to be accredited for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to a tune of US$50 million. Given the urgency and seriousness of climate change, the purpose of the Green Climate Fund (the GCF) is to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change. The Fund will contribute to the achievement of the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In the context of sustainable development, the Fund will promote the paradigm shift towards low emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, taking into account the needs of the developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.  Slightly over 200 institutions in the world have been accredited. In Kenya National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is the only other entity to have been accredited.

It might be hard to put a price on the gift of nature, but we can attach value to it. We are committed to meeting our business needs today in a way that does not compromise the lives of future generations.

Our sustainability framework outlines the various strategic initiatives, running from 2015 to 2020 that we need to put in place. This includes responsible lending, which means incorporating environmental due diligence before giving out loans.

We are managing energy conservation by reducing consumption through utilization of green energy and intelligent building technologies. A good example is our new 21-floor headquarters in Upperhill which is one of the ‘greenest’ building in the region; it was built with the environment in mind. The building uses natural light during the day and is fitted with solar panels to reduce consumption of electricity. It is fitted with smart technologies to regulate consumption of water and energy, and has incorporated water harvesting.

We are also at the forefront of exploring issuance of green bonds to raise capital in support of environmental and climate related projects. The funds will be invested in projects in energy, agriculture, waste management, water, infrastructure, and urban planning.

Like many other businesses, we are cutting down on the amount of paper we use in our operations, and reducing the need for travel between subsidiaries by using e-board meetings. Every little helps.

These initiatives may not sound much but cumulatively, we are playing our part in taking measures to safeguard the environment we save on costs too. For example, every tonne of paper recycled saves 17 trees, about 26,000 litres of water, about 1,438 litres of oil and enough energy to power an average house for six months.

As Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said when giving a speech in 2014, “From our point of view, the time for inaction has passed.” We can no longer postpone protecting our life-sustaining environment.


Article first appeared in the Daily Nation 

By: Joshua Oigara

The Writer is KCB Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director.

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