Clean Air Catalyst: What actions are we talking to tame air pollution? 

Air pollution remains one of the biggest threats to human health, economy, and the overall ecological balance. In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, studies have shown that the air quality is consistently poor, with average annual PM2.5 levels more than double the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guideline level (WRI, 2021). 

Furthermore, the ever-increasing population and intensification of industries, deforestation, construction works, and vehicular traffic, has caused the air quality to worsen over the years (WRI), 2021). In particular, studies have reported on the increase in specific pollutants like volatile organic compounds in Nairobi. 

On February 27, 2024, a group of environmental experts and editors drawn from various media houses in Kenya gathered in Nairobi’s Stanley Hotel to discuss Air Quality monitoring and actions required to tame the ever-increasing pollution. 

The meeting was held under the Clean Air Catalyst, a global partnership working to improve air quality in cities around the world.

Organisations and institutions involved in Clean Air Catalyst are Internews Earth Journalism Network in partnership with USAID, World Resources Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, the OpenAQ and the Vital Strategies. 

Environmental experts and Editors attending the Climate Change and Air Quality Monitoring Media Workshop at Nairobi’s Stanley Hotel on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

Environmental experts and Editors attending the Climate Change and Air Quality Monitoring Media Workshop at Nairobi’s Stanley Hotel on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

Also supporting Clean Air Catalyst initiative is the Climate and Clean Air Coalition as well as the Center for Sustainable Urban Development through the Clean Air Toolbox for Cities 

During the meeting, Beth Elliot, Communications and Engagement Lead, Global Air Quality World Resources Institute (WRI) observed that there is a relation between global warming and air pollution. 

According to Elliot, key air pollutants in Nairobi is the transport sector as well as commercial entities mostly those using fuel.  

Also in this list is open burning of waste by individuals and industries alongside households where energy source is fuel burning during food preparation, heating and lighting. 

Elliot called for co-designing of solutions to address the problem air pollution. 

“This will include identification of effective actions by analyzing root causes, understanding protocols economy and emissions impact,” she said. 

Elliot called for the building of strategic coalition that brings together public, private and community partners to reduce air pollution from a priority source. 

Other solutions Elliot suggested include building up long-term, high quality monitoring system for Nairobi city. She also called for more support to local scientific capacity. 

Shelah Okoth-Head of Air Quality at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) called for simplification of language when communicating with the public on what is air pollution. 

“The language should communicate with the women in the villages, children in schools and even policy makers,” said Okoth. 

According to her, air quality policy and legal frameworks in Kenya are captured under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (the environmental right), The National Environment Policy, 2013 as well as the Environment Management and Coordination Act, 1999. 

Also in this list is the Environmental Management and Coordination (Air Quality) Regulations, 2014, the National Climate Change Framework Policy, 2016, the Climate Change Act, 2016 and the National Climate Change Response Strategy. 

Listed here also is the National Climate Change Action Plan 2023-2017, the Nationally Determined Contributions as well as the Kenya National Adaptation Plan 2015-2030. 

 

What are the milestones so far? 

According to Okoth, notable milestones include regulation of source emissions, advancement in emission testing of mobile sources as well as strategic partnerships and technical improvements such as the N-AIR. 

N-AIR is a device that contains a 4-layer nano carbon filter and nanometer silver. The filter can capture up to 99.97% of airborne pathogens. 

Environmental experts and Editors attending the Climate Change and Air Quality Monitoring Media Workshop at Nairobi’s Stanley Hotel on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

Environmental experts and Editors attending the Climate Change and Air Quality Monitoring Media Workshop at Nairobi’s Stanley Hotel on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

Other milestones, according to Okoth, are review of Air Quality regulations, National Action Plan on Short Lived Climate Pollutants, E-mobility and Non-Motorized Transport as well as Draft Green Fiscal Incentives Policy Framework. 

Also noted as a milestone are programs and projects on climate change responses, mitigations, adaptations and resilience-tree growing like the ones being championed by President William Ruto and the Financing Locally-Led Climate Action (FLLoCA). 

 

What are the challenges? 

Okoth said one of the key challenges is that Government priority agenda on Air Quality is still low. The is still a low buy in by various stake holders while media gives minimal coverage especially on-Air Quality. 

Another challenge according to Okoth is low level of awareness, challenge of packaging science into common palatable language for non-scientists. 

Also noted as a challenge is technical and technological gaps in Air Quality monitoring. 

 

What is the role of the media? 

According to Clean Air Catalyst, the media is critical in informing the public, shaping perceptions, and driving policies relating to air pollution. “Journalists can stimulate community-level dialogues and help create enabling environment for policies,” says Clean Air Catalyst. The organisation noted that the mainstream media, community media as well as social media can reinforce key messages on air pollution and potentially bring about greater accountability and behavioral change. 

“The media is Kenya operates within somewhere only stories that have the potential to sell are prioritized and those that are not highly considered appealing are limited in coverage. This puts air quality issues at a detriment,” says Clean Air Catalyst.

The organisation also noted that the complexity of air quality and air pollution itself makes it difficult for environmental journalists to cover these stories. 

 

But according to Maurice Kavai: Deputy Director, Air Quality and Climate Change Nairobi City County Government, the media is a silent hero working behind the scenes in fighting air pollution. 

He said highlighting stories and issues on air pollution goes a long way in educating the masses on dangers of air pollution. 

“The media has helped in making air pollution a global agenda hence prompting action by State and none-state actors. It is our responsibility as government to engage with the information that is provided by the media,” he said. 

He called for deeper amplification of voices of those affected by air pollution was well as telling stories that push for solutions to address the challenges. 

 

Photo Caption: 

Environmental experts and Editors attending the Climate Change and Air Quality Monitoring Media Workshop at Nairobi’s Stanley Hotel on Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *