Driving their gas guzzlers to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) to discuss how best to limit carbon emissions, the heads of state and dignitaries attending the Africa Climate Summit are masters of irony.
With the exception of the host, President William Ruto, who ditched his huge motorcade and arrived in an electric vehicle, the visiting delegates were yesterday driven to the red carpet at the entrance of KICC in luxury vehicles.
They would then disembark, look around, adjust their coats and then be welcomed into the building by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.
For a change, Mr Gachagua also ditched his high-end vehicles and walked from his office along Harambee Avenue to KICC, his bodyguards in tow.
In the confines of the decorated conference rooms, immaculately crafted speeches were delivered, and powerfully so. Often, the need for relentless investment in green technologies and electric mobility was tossed around by all the speakers who, despite being at the helm of power in their countries or organisations, did not consider limiting the emissions from their cars.
President Ruto reminded the audience that climate change is not just an abstract concept, as proven by science and emerging experiences. “That is why we are not here to catalogue grievances and list problems, we are here to talk about solutions,” he said.
The African Development Bank has pledged $25 million in climate finance, said the lender’s president Akinwumi Adesina as he urged global financiers to prioritise Africa’s needs.
“In the face of this (climate change), we cannot continue to lament the effects of climate change and wait for financial support promised by major polluters. As Africans, we must understand that the transition to a low-carbon economy will come from within and the way forward is to operationalise the theme of this summit,” said South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, moments after arriving at the venue in a fuel guzzling behemoth.
Like President Kiir, leaders from Congo-Brazzaville, Senegal, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Ghana arrived at the conference in their heavy machinery.
Kenya’s First Lady Rachel Ruto, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and a host of Cabinet secretaries also drove to the summit in their big, petrol-powered cars.
The vehicles were so numerous that the Interior Ministry issued a circular indicating that only presidential motorcades would enter the venue through the entrance along City Hall Way. Other delegates were instructed to use other entrances.
Interestingly, this came minutes after opposition leader Raila Odinga turned up at the event in the area reserved for visiting heads of state and dignitaries. Mr Odinga also arrived in a fuel guzzler,.
Over the past two days, the car parks around KICC have been busy. There are so many vehicles ferrying dignitaries and diplomats to the summit that the City Hall Way had to be cordoned off. This, the police said in the run-up to the conference, was to prevent unwanted vehicles from approaching the hallowed grounds.
The result was traffic jams in most of the Nairobi Central Business District. The result was not only lost time, but more carbon emissions from vehicles, both private and public.
“I do not understand why the organisers of this summit did not choose a venue far away from the city centre and save us the headache of traffic jams and billowing smoke,” an angry taxi driver said.