UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


The importance of adopting local champions to achieve the COP27 agenda

10 November 2022

Despite evidence showing the significant role that local and community action has in attaining net-zero goals, most governments have still not effectively unified efforts with them to bring this knowledge and potential to the forefront in tackling the climate emergency

A group of people gather and look at a map

By Eve Njau

All eyes are currently set on Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt ahead of the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27). “Our vision is that COP27 should reflect our commitment to move from pledging to action as an implementation COP, where commitments become immediate and effective,” COP27 President Designate and Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said ahead of the conference. “This allows moving rapidly towards full, timely, inclusive and at scale action on the ground (…).”

Is this a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change? Should we be optimistic?

Most climate adaptation and mitigation action are led by governmental and foreign development agencies. Despite evidence showing the significant role that locals and communities’ action have in attaining the net-zero goals, most governments have still not effectively unified efforts with them in bringing and putting to the forefront locals’ potential in turning around the climate menace.

It’s on this basis that the work done by PROCOL AFRICA (formerly PROCOL Kenya) and communities becomes evident. Its work over the past three years in the Kenya TEEB Agri-Food project around the Mau Forest Complex in Nandi, Narok, Kericho and Bomet counties made clear the immense role that citizen science, through community driven action, has had on accelerating climate mitigation and adaption action.

Evidence documented in the Kenya TEEB agri-Food project highlighted the critical role of community action in maintaining the pristine condition in one of the forest’s highest carbon sequestration capture territories, that is Tinderet East. (Tinderet East had the highest potential of about 400 CO2 T/ha, against a global average of 11 CO2 T/HA/yr in above-ground and below ground biomass.)

Moreover, getting an understanding of the forest’s ecological health and associated risks to its ecological integrity and survival was made possible through a community mapping process. The data was captured on a ground-breaking, multilingual, digital application - co-produced and co-designed with the community. The database of 186 tree species provides accurate geolocation as well as a pictorial record of the species of a tree or plant, including its traditional name, size and health provision. By providing accurate earth observations, the mapping can be used to design and create innovative, global value chains linking local Maasai and Mau forest communities with markets and nature lovers worldwide.

Additionally, further evidence collected through prosperity workshops brought to light the importance of giving a voice to communities. Their profound understanding of their ecosystem’s benefits shaped their desire for a particular desired outcome, which is simultaneously increasing their livelihoods and the surrounding natural capita’s resilience.

Through a series of scenario planning meetings, the best desired outcome selected showed that over 100,000 households have the potential of getting impacted through sequestration of up to 18t/ha of carbon annually; restoration of about 20,000 ha of the degraded 190,00 ha forest; re-establishing no less than 500 km of surface rivers of the depleted 3000 km river length; and generating an additional 1,800–2,500 USD per ha annually in the form of improved farm produced, non-timber products and carbon credits. The communities were able to present these outcomes in high-level government meetings, thus getting an important opportunity to have their views integrated in the formulation and implementation of policies.

Without a doubt, the imperative role that locals play in tackling climate change, achieving the net-zero goals cannot be ignored. More than ever, now is the time when governments need to engage communities at the decision table if significant progress is to be realized.

Eve Njau is a Research Associate at British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. A natural capita specialist with a focus in ecosystem services valuation, she’s passionate about seeing communities earn sustainable livelihoods through nature based solutions and biodiversity conservation.

Eve works with IGP's Professor Jacqueline McGlade who is part of the UCL Delegation and represents IGP at COP27.

This post was originally published on Seriously Different