Environmental diplomacy: The new weapon in climate action

Former head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Ambassador Francis Muthaura, speaks during a workshop in Naivasha on March 6 attended by more than 30 current and retired diplomats.


What you need to know:

  • This African Climate Summit is yet another chance for Kenya to lead the continent in the sphere of environmental diplomacy.
  • Kenya has been called upon to provide leadership in the global community on environmental matters.

When former and retired ambassadors met in Naivasha recently for a workshop on science for environment diplomacy in Kenya, it was not the normal workshops that the lakeside town often hosts.

The inaugural workshop organised by the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute and World Agroforestry could be the start of a turning point in Kenya’s environmental diplomacy policy.

Kenya has been called upon to provide leadership in the global community on environmental matters. In the past two years as an elected non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Kenya placed emphasis on the link between environmental degradation and security.

In February this year, the African Union mandated President William Ruto in his capacity as the current chairperson of the AU committee of the African Heads of State on climate change to convene the inaugural Africa Climate Summit that will be hosted in Nairobi from September 4-6.

The summit will discuss the key outcomes from the COP27 meeting held in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt last year, define priorities for COP28 that will be held in Dubai in November, and highlight opportunities for climate investments in Africa to steer the continent towards climate resilience.

This African Climate Summit is yet another chance for Kenya to lead the continent in the sphere of environmental diplomacy.

The objective of the workshop was to review Kenya’s experience in global environmental diplomacy and generate recommendations to inform the theory and practice of environmental diplomatic policy and action.  “There is need to enhance the level of technical and scientific discourse and action on matters pertaining to the mitigation of environmental degradation,” read a communiqué after the meeting attended by more than 30 retired and former ambassadors and current diplomats.

“There is a need to draw on this wealth of experiences to enrich Kenya’s foreign policy in keeping up with the technological advancements globally as well as negotiating for the country the sharing of those benefits,” added the communique.

The retired diplomats said it was crucial for Kenya to fully exploit the substantial number of environmental and other international scientific bodies hosted in Kenya for its own economic and social development.

They called for enhanced funding to help speed up the implementation of some of the multilateral environmental agreements signed by Kenya.

The workshop made a raft of recommendations to the Kenya Kwanza government in a bid to bridge the gap between numerous agreements made and actual implementation and follow-up.

“The Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs should consider posting science and technological attaches to the various Kenya missions abroad who will inform on the technological advances in those countries.”

They also called for proper funding of environmental initiatives to enable the country to achieve its objectives and follow through on agreements and pledges in major international forums that the country hosts such as the Global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference and related fora.

They also want world-leading sports personalities in Kenya to be environment and climate change ambassadors.

At a recent forum organised by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Strathmore University which brought together young African climate diplomats from around the continent, the country’s Director of Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment, Dr Pacifica Ogola, urged those who were part of the academy to take spaces and be ready to learn.

“For any multilateral process, one has to have passion and deep interest in whatever they do. You have to constantly read to be up to date with what is happening globally,” she said.

“Climate diplomacy informs domestic laws. If you are going to be in this space, you need to understand that which is negotiated at a global scene and link it to what is happening in your countries,” she added.

Additional reporting by Hellen Shikanda