Why do members of parliament want to condemn Kenya and the world to an unbearably hot future by weakening the Forest Act?
Nature Kenya OBJECTS to the proposed amendment to the Forest Conservation and Management Act contained in an amendment Bill 2021 published by Moses Cheboi, Chairperson of the Procedures and Rules Committee.
According to the existing law a forest boundary can only be amended based on stakeholder consultations, environmental impact assessment report and recommendations to parliament by the Kenya Forest Service. The proposed amendment isseeking to take away the powers of the Kenya Forest Service. Instead, it allows anyone to petition for a boundary change to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
The world is burning and forests are one tool to reduce the heat. It is dangerous to weaken the laws that protect our forests. It is dangerous to entrust the remaining forests to parliamentarians alone. World nations just agreed in the 2021 Climate Change meeting (CoP 26) to protect, conserve and increase tropical forests in order to reduce climate change. Kenya promised to halt deforestation by 2030.
Removing Kenya Forest Service from decisions on forest boundaries is ill advised, ill-timed and will expose Kenya’s forests to greedy individuals whose actions could damage Kenya's water catchment areas, hydro-electricity, irrigated food and thereby human well-being and economic development.
Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society – strongly OBJECTS to the proposed amendment to repeal section 34 (2A) of the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016. It reads:
“A petition under subsection (1) shall only be forwarded to the National Assembly on the recommendation of the Service (Kenya Forest Service”.
This MUST be kept in the forest law.
We urgently urge Kenyans to SAY NO to this amendment bill!
Reasons for Nature Kenya’s Objection:
- Deletion of section 34 (2A) will reverse the gains made over the past 15 years in restoring our public forests and water catchment areas. This compromises the protection of these forests, denying Kenyans access to forest goods and services that are critical to their survival.
- Amendment will reduce the forests land size contrary to the government's forest land reclamation policy that seeks to increase tree cover.
- The amendment is detrimental to forest conservation efforts in Kenya. This includes the implementation of the National Tree Planting Campaign (NTPC), a high priority Government-driven initiative seeking to achieve and maintain over 10% tree cover by 2022. If the bill is approved, the attention of implementing agencies will be diverted towards dealing with the anticipated influx of forest excision cases.
- The proposed bill negates the State’s constitutional obligation to protect the environment as stipulated in Article 69 (1g) of eliminating processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment.
- The proposed bill sets a bad precedent. The Taskforce Report on Forest Resource Management and Logging Activities in Kenya 2018 (pages 36-41) cited human settlement and encroachment as one of the major threats to biodiversity loss in Kenya. The passage of the amendment bill amounts to setting a bad precedent which will see gazetted forest areas exposed to the risk of degazettment and further invasion.
- The proposed amendment bill does not consider all necessary social, economic and environmental safeguards. It presents a possible violation of the rights and wishes of communities through Local Forest Conservation Committees.
- The proposed amendment bill contravenes Kenya's international commitments on landscape restoration and climate change mitigation:
- Kenya is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) among other international commitments to safeguard biodiversity. During UNFCCCs COP 26 in Glasgow on 2nd November 2021, Kenya joined other countries in committing to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use which seeks to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Making a statement during a COP 26 World Leaders Summit Plenary Session, President Uhuru Kenyatta affirmed Kenya’s commitment to restore degraded water towers, accelerate forest restoration and increase tree cover to at least 10% of the country’s land area.
- As a state party to the Paris Agreement, Kenya recently adjusted its Nationally Determined Contribution target of emission reduction to 32% from 30% by 2030. The National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022 cites deforestation as the second largest contributor to Kenya’s greenhouse gases emissions after agriculture. The action plan further recognizes the country’s forest sector as having the greatest potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to other mitigation sectors.
- Kenya ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This Convention is working towards reducing the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests. The Convention also seeks to bring habitat loss close to zero, where feasible, and significantly reduce degradation and fragmentation. The National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan 2019 – 2030 was developed following the objectives of the CBD. In this action plan, Kenya has committed to bringing close to zero the rate of loss of all natural habitats including forests by 2030. This also entails significantly reducing the degradation and fragmentation of these habitats by 2030. Another specific target is to increase the country’s forest cover to at least 10% of the land area.
- Other commitments made by Kenya include:
- Commitment to contribute towards UN Decade on Ecosystem restoration (2021-2030),
- Bonn challenge; African region initiative called the Africa Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR 100), Kenya has committed to restoring 5.1 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030
- Commitment to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to achieve Land degradation neutrality by 2030.