By Jackson Bambo. 

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012. The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. Countries are encouraged to undertake activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns. The theme for 2017 is Forests and Energy.

Forests have provided us with wood for cooking and heating for thousands of years – but today the relationship between forests and energy is more critical than ever. Cheap, easily accessible fossil fuels are running out, and their use releases huge amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, driving climate change and acidifying oceans and posing threat to human wellbeing.

Kenya Forests Working Group’s mission to promote sustainable forest management in Kenya through research, advocacy, networking and partnerships development for improved livelihoods for all Kenyans, is at risks, as the country’s population grows and competition for land becomes more acute, producing more bioenergy could increase food and water shortages, and destroy natural habitats. Pollution and climate change, along with the harmful impacts of drilling, mining, and transportation of these fuels, pose a very serious threat to the natural treasures we work to protect. It is critical that the Kenya moves away from fossil fuels and swiftly toward renewable, non-polluting, and environmentally sustainable sources of energy.

Given the enormous growth in energy use and consumption of fossil fuels over the last century, KFWG recognizes that it is unrealistic to expect an immediate shift to renewable energy. However, a conservative strategy based on improved energy efficiency, transitions to cleaner fuels, and the investment in and the rapid adoption of renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, offers enormous promise.

The need for renewable energy, and the economic opportunities it presents, must be tempered by a realistic evaluation of its impacts. Poorly designed or sited renewable energy projects can have serious negative environmental impacts. KFWG urges policy makers, project developers and others to carefully consider the following issues when evaluating renewable energy proposals.

What social and environmental safeguards are needed to manage these risks? And can we produce more energy and still achieve our goal of zero forest loss and degradation?