Glasgow cannot be like the COPs of the past. While Africa may not yield the influence of the G7, she has the potential to inspire the world with a new vision for a green future and Kenya in many ways is a showcase for this, says Ambassador Monica Juma.
For the next two weeks, the eyes of the world will be trained on the city of Glasgow as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP26) takes place. The stakes are high. The science on climate change is clear, and humanity is at a crossroads. It is critical that the world limit global warming to 1.5 degrees or less. If not, the world will experience more extreme weather events and Africa, as most of the global south, despite being least responsible for global warming will bear the brunt of its consequences.
While some may see the critical focus of COP26 being on the big emitters in the developed world, my view is that Africa’s voice must be heard loud and clear as the role of the continent’s natural capital will be a critical component of any sustainable future for the world. It is Africa that will provide the rare earth metals such as copper, cobalt, silica, coltan, and lithium that will be essential to green technology. It is Africa that holds 60% of the world’s non-productive arable land, and it is Africa that has over 650 million sq. km of forest cover, that acts as a global carbon sink.
Africa has huge potential for renewable power generation, which can be used to leapfrog hydrocarbon fuelled development. If a post-COP26 global future will be powered by renewable energy, green industry, and sustainable agriculture, then Africa must be central to averting what is becoming humanity’s defining existential threat of the 21st century.
Africa can inspire the world
Too often Africa’s role at COP has been seen as peripheral. Glasgow cannot be like the COPs of the past. While Africa may not yield the influence of the G7, she has the potential to inspire the world with a new vision for a green future and Kenya in many ways is a showcase for this.
Today, Kenya’s economy is one of very few that generates more than 92% of its electricity from renewable sources. Kenya has Africa’s largest geothermal and wind power plants working in conjunction with decades-long investments in hydroelectricity and innovative investments in solar and mini-hydro powered small and microgrid solutions.
Kenya plans to continue investing in renewable energy until we achieve 100 per cent renewable energy, targeted for long before 2030. This is something we are already exporting to the rest of the continent with KenGen’s investment in joint geothermal ventures in Ethiopia and Djibouti and Kenya’s participation in the East Africa Power Pool which will see the whole region using renewable energy.
Looking to the future, Kenya is implementing reforms aimed at improved grid reliability and also exploring the potential for utility scale storage to allow for increased utilisation of renewable energy. We are also encouraging an accelerated move to e-mobility looking to replicate the leapfrog transition that Kenya experienced in mobile telephony and money.
Another critical area where Kenya is leading the world is in reducing household air pollution. Household air pollution, due to the use of charcoal, firewood and kerosene for cooking is the predominant form of air pollution in emerging markets. Not only does this produce carbon and other pollutants, it has severe impacts on the health of women and children who are most exposed to fumes from stoves. Furthermore, the deforestation caused by the burning of firewood and charcoal compounds climate change by depleting the worlds carbon sinks.
Kenya has committed to having 100% clean cooking by 2028 reducing air pollution, saving lives and saving our forests. We are doing this by using policy to incentivise the use of clean cooking fuels such as LPG and encourage innovative solutions. Such as that deployed by KOKO Networks which now has over 250,000 households cooking with clean bioethanol fuels a by-product of sugar. Also boosting our sugar farmers’ incomes as a bonus. These solutions offer a clear blueprint for other nations to learn from and adopt.
Beyond technical solutions, Kenya has a strong legal and policy framework that ensures all of our development policy is part of our climate strategy. Kenya’s Constitution, guarantees its citizens the right to a clean and healthy environment, underpinning this approach. Kenya’s Climate Change Act 2016 gives the legal framework to a whole of government approach to climate change, reflected in Kenya’s development policies. This comprehensive legal and policy framework that involves all of government is critical if countries around the world are going to live up to their commitments that would limit global warming.
It is my hope that Kenya’s track record on implementing laws and policies that drive its green transition will show that our leadership on the world stage is based on the fact that we walk the talk on climate. Kenya commits to continue with its efforts to mitigate against climate change, collaborate and partner with other governments, civil society and private sector in the hope that our actions at home will inspire Africa and the rest of world to a better, greener future.
At Glasgow we call on all nations, particularly the developed ones to walk the talk – move beyond rhetoric: reaffirm the commitments, give traction to pledges made and rise to the call of history to save humanity.