Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
President William Ruto has called out the West for “skirting around the issues” and “delay tactics” in helping regions such as Africa that bear the brunt of climate change.
The President further cautioned that, by 2050, climate impacts could cost African nations $50 billion (Sh6 trillion) annually.
This came as African delegates on Sunday were dismayed by reports that a deal for the rich nations, who are the biggest polluters, to compensate poor nations suffering the worst of the climate crisis can only be reached “no later than 2024”.
President Ruto yesterday told delegates at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, of the devastation of climate change on the continent.
“High water stress is estimated to affect about 250 million people in Africa and is expected to displace up to 700 million people by 2030. In the past 50 years, drought-related hazards have claimed the lives of over half a million people and led to economic losses of over $70 billion in the region. More than 1,000 flood-related disasters were reported involving more than 20,000 deaths in Africa over this period,” he said.
“The spread, scale and frequency of disasters like hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires and heat waves, melting sea ice and glaciers, droughts and desertification, floods and rising sea levels, in numerous regions of all continents, indicate that humanity is confronting unprecedented devastation on a global scale,” the Head of State said.
According to Dr Ruto, the Horn of Africa region, including Kenya, is experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Two years without rains have visited misery to millions of people. Some 2.5 million livestock have died in Kenya this year alone, causing economic losses of more than $1.5 billion (Sh181.5 billion),” he said. Kenya’s famous wildlife heritage has not been spared either, he added.
“Against this backdrop, the lengthy discussions at COPs, with its stalling, delaying tactics and procrastination that have hampered implementation and delivery, is simply cruel and unjust. We cannot afford to spend more time skirting around the real issues and break out of the open-ended, process-focused discussions we are trapped in,” President Ruto noted.
“As we speak, the pledge made 13 years ago in Copenhagen, committing $100 billion (Sh12.1 trillion) annually, remains unfulfilled. Such egregious and unexplained default is a major cause of persisting distrust. Neither is there any sound reason for the continuing pollution,” Dr Ruto said.
He added that, in contrast, countries like Kenya, a country with far fewer resources than the average developed country, have foregone polluting industrialisation and growth opportunities and intentionally invested in clean, green energy.
“It must be recalled that Kenya has tremendous hydrocarbon and coal deposits which would go a long way in fuelling the engine of development. Nevertheless, due to resolute commitment, our electricity grid is 93 per cent green.”
“This morning, we signed a framework agreement for collaboration on the development of sustainable green industries in Kenya with an investor to produce green hydrogen in Kenya,” the president revealed.
President Ruto told the world of opportunities in Kenya to produce 20 GW of wind power, 10 GW of geothermal electricity and, being at the equator, considerable amounts of solar energy.
On “loss and damage,” Mr Ruto took the world back to COP26 in Glasgow, reminding participants that the conference established the Glasgow Dialogue to formulate funding arrangements for measures to prevent, mitigate and remedy loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.
“Loss and damage is not an abstract topic of endless dialogue: it is our daily experience and the living nightmare of millions of Kenyans and hundreds of millions of Africans.”
“A phenomenon of rising water levels in lakes in the Rift Valley was experienced in Kenya in 2020 and generated a humanitarian crisis. Approximately 75,987 households were displaced in 13 counties with 379,935 people requiring urgent humanitarian assistance,” he said.
“Loss and damage must, therefore, be addressed with a level of seriousness which demonstrates fairness, urgency and consideration. Africa contributes less than three per cent of the pollution responsible for climate change, but is most severely impacted by the ensuing crisis,” Mr Ruto highlighted while urging the world to pay urgent attention to Africa’s special needs.
Dr Ruto said the continent’s vast tracts of land, diverse natural resources, tremendous untapped renewable energy potential, and a youthful, dynamic and skilled workforce constitute “Africa’s irresistible credentials”.
“Properly deployed, these assets could be crucial in driving global mitigation efforts, while creating new economic opportunities in the continent.”
“I am convinced of the need to more comprehensively showcase the opportunities that abound in Africa, such as green energy, smart agriculture, de-carbonised manufacturing, e-mobility and green building, all aimed at the attainment of zero carbon by 2050.”
He revealed that, as the coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change, he plans to convene a continental summit focusing on climate action next year.
“Accordingly, you are all invited to take part in Africa’s march to sustainable economic transformation and green growth. Kenya’s next significant export will be carbon credits.”
President Ruto added that he recently launched an ambitious project to increase the national tree cover from the current 12.13 per cent to 30 per cent in the next 10 years.
“We intend to accomplish this by first growing 15 billion trees on approximately 10.6 million hectares throughout the country at an estimated cost of $500 million.”
While urging the Global West to honour her commitments, the President observed that, in the face of impending catastrophe, whose warning signs are already unbearably disastrous, weak action is unwise and zero action is dangerous.
“I call on every delegate here today to rise to the challenge of this moment, to make difficult but necessary decisions and seize transformative opportunity from the grasp of climate disaster.”
“This means honouring spending commitments for mitigation and adaptation, and mobilising increased financial flows to Africa,” he said, further adding that, in his view and at this point in the progression of the climate change calamity, the world has few choices and little time.
“Our discourse must focus on delivery and our conversation must be centred on our commitments. By keeping our promises, and being bound by our word, we will demonstrate to people across the globe that their leaders are their honest agents and true champions,” Ruto added. Dr Ruto said COP was a golden opportunity.
“This is our golden chance to vindicate present generations who look to us to lead the way in preserving our planet and to perform our role as trustees of future generations.
The way things are going, we might never have a more opportune time, and there might never be a better chance,” he cautioned.