Kenya inks deals to protect forests, use power of sports

Climate summit

World Bank president David Malpass (second left), Kenya’s Treasury cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani, UN special envoy for climate action and finance Mark Carney, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva during a panel discussion at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow yesterday. 

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta uses Glasgow talks to highlight the country’s green credentials in the energy sector.
  • Renewable energy currently accounts for 73 per cent of Kenya’s installed power generation capacity.

In Glasgow, Scotland

Kenya has endorsed two ambitious treaties aimed at reducing harmful greenhouse emissions and protecting its forests as the world finally starts acting on the global consensus to reduce damaging emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 at the latest.

Late Tuesday, Kenya signed the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use, joining the leaders of at least 114 other countries gathered here in the landmark step aimed at halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

And in the same afternoon that world marathon champion Eliud Kicphoge implored the global community to hasten its pace to save the world, Nairobi adopted the Sports for Climate Action Framework (S4CA), which aims to gather sports organisations, teams, athletes, and fans in a concerted effort to set the pace for climate action.

The two treaties will advance President Uhuru Kenyatta’s stated ambition of fighting climate change by conserving, renewing and protecting the country’s resources. The President has used the Glasgow talks to underscore his achievements in this regard, and on Tuesday evening noted that Kenya is determined to transition to clean energy fully by the year 2030.

Renewable energy currently accounts for 73 per cent of Kenya’s installed power generation capacity while 90 per cent of electricity is from green sources, among them geothermal, wind, solar and hydro-electric installations, he said. Kenya has one of the world’s biggest wind farms at Loiyangalani in Marsabit County and is also developing its geothermal capacity in the bowels of Rift Valley.

But this, conservationists say, is not enough. Kenya has for years suffered the consequences of climate change yet political and community interference have stood in the way of its conservation efforts.

Protect forests

In the Mau and Mt Elgon water towers, for instance, efforts to protect forests from encroachment have often been met with vengeance, and as the lands below get drier and drier, subsistence farmers are increasingly cutting huge swathes of forest land to grow crops.

Among the big global players that joined Kenya in endorsing the declaration on forest and land use were Canada, Russia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The pledge is backed by $12 billion in public and $7.2 billion in private funding, and Kenyan conservationists stand a good chance to benefit from this rich global fund.

The seven countries, bar Kenya, support 85 per cent of the world’s forests, or an area of over 13 million square miles that absorbs around one-third of global carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels each year.

Ms Patricia Kombo, a Kenyan environmental campaigner, welcomed the decision to finance the protection of forests, but was worried that leaders might miss the bigger picture by refusing to addressing more pressing community concerns while chasing the billions of shillings in funding.

“How will the government implement this declaration when leaders are at the corner of destruction?” Ms Kombo posed. “Secondly, climate change literacy is low among grassroots people, who are also the custodians of nature, and thus a lot of sensitisation is required to reduce deforestation.”

Addressing the gathering, the COP26 President Alok Sharma said: “Forests are one of our best defences against catastrophic climate change, and essential to keeping 1.5C alive. This historic commitment will help end the devastating effects of deforestation and support the developing countries and indigenous communities who are the guardians of so much of the world’s forests.”

Race to Zero

He added that the The Glasgow Breakthroughs “will help move us towards a global tipping point, where the clean, green technologies we need to reach net zero and keep 1.5C alive are more affordable, accessible and attractive for all than the polluting practices we are leaving behind”.

Ms Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, said: “Four years since we launched the Sports for Climate Action Framework, more than 280 sports organisations have committed to the overarching objectives of aligning sport with the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Echoing Mr Kipchoge’s sentiments earlier in the day, she added: “The sector eagerly took up the challenge, but also told us that they want to do more and to do it faster. These organisations are now being challenged to reduce emissions 50 per cent by 2030 at the latest and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.”

Athletics Kenya was among the signatories to the framework, joining other global players like the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, BBC Sport, the Premier League, Formula E and Munster Rugby in the race to cool down the planet by levering on green technologies.

The Sports for Climate Action Framework has two overarching objectives — achieving a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change, and using sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.

Athletics Kenya now joins other signatories in Race to Zero, a coalition of leading net zero initiatives representing 733 cities, 31 regions, 3,067 businesses, 173 of the biggest investors, and 622 higher education institutions.