President Ruto climate about-turn leaves officials in doubt

UN Habitat

President William Ruto (left) with other dignitaries during the official opening of the Second Session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly at the United Nations Complex, in Nairobi yesterday.

Photo credit: PCS

Kenyan negotiators attending the 2023 Bonn UN Climate Change Conference, SB 58 in Germany as well as delegates attending the ongoing five-day UN Habitat Assembly in Nairobi say they are confused over President William Ruto’s new stand and sudden change of tone on loss and damage, adaptation and fossil fuels.

According to the Kenyan officials, who are part of the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), President Ruto has changed tune from what was agreed on in last year’s United Nation Climate Change Conference meeting (COP27) that was held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and is now speaking against the AGN agenda.

One of the negotiators confided in Nation that they were on Sunday told President Ruto neither wants to hear anything about loss and damage nor wants Kenya to engage in the talks.

Yesterday, a meeting was convened and chaired by Dr Pacifica Ogolla, Kenya’s chief climate negotiator and Mr Ali Mohamed, the country’s climate change envoy at the Office of the President.

 “What the President is doing is disrupting the norm to force people out of their comfort zones. We are not poor as Africa, why should we go around with a begging bowl,” Dr Ogolla explained to the group of negotiators.

Africa Climate Summit

“We have to wait for [Mr Mohamed] to come and offer us guidance on where we go from here but, honestly speaking, maybe a disruptor is what we really need to get things moving.”

As Mr Mohamed walked into the room, all eyes were now on him to explain everything.

“What the President said is that this is the discussion we want to take forward to the Africa Climate Summit [ACS]. We need to tap into the resources that Africa has and contribute to emission reduction,”he started off.

“We do not forget that we suffer the impacts of climate change, we cannot pretend that it doesn't exist. What the President is saying is that, yes, [loss and damage] is an important issue and that's why a facility was created last year, but in order for us to adapt, what we require and what is not happening is investment,”the presidential climate envoy told the negotiators. “We need investment to enable Kenya and Africa to be able to overcome the risks of [loss and damage]. This is the message we must all carry forward.”

Mr Mohamed added that parties were haggling about the same things but the reality of climate change was an urgent issue.

 “The big issue is finance. What the President is saying is we don't want favours. We are not carrying a begging bowl. We don't want your assistance. What we want is fairness and the setup as it is now has failed to respond to climate emergencies and so stop deciding for us.”

“Prime Minister Mia Motley [of Barbados] is also pushing for a revolution; it is not just us because how much are we spending on adaptation in our budget? Minimum.

 Money that we don't even have. We'll continue to engage objectively with the processes of the world but there is definitely need to change course.”

According to Mr Mohamed, in order to get out of a “bondage of fossil fuels”, President Ruto is was in favour of eradicating fossil fuels once and for all.

“We will join that chorus. We have told Tullow the same. We've told them let's look at how we will get compensated for not extracting our oil anymore,” Mr Ali said, adding that fixating on loss would not benefit Africa.

“What Dr Ruto is pushing for is investment through available, accessible, adequate financing that is accessible and at affordable cost. Currently, we borrow at 15 per cent on currency that is not ours. The people who come to extract our resources in Africa borrow at one or two percent.”

Back in Nairobi, after his opening remarks where President Ruto also called for the abolishment of all COPs, he sought to clear the air in a panel discussion.

 “I believe it is possible for us to run on clean energy and at the same time decarbonise. It is not a contradiction; 92 per cent of our grid is clean green energy and this is why it is my belief that COP28 should be the last COP because we have what it takes to make the right decisions and have adequate assets of green energy on our continent.”

“There are people who believe that the only way we can industrialise is by exploiting fossil fuels; we can industrialise using green energy and what we need if financing and technology,” the President explained his stance.

“It took the world six months to come up with ... the World Bank and IMF; it is possible ... if we have the right mindset to sort out the climate crisis in weeks,” he said.

“Stop the conversation of global North versus global South. This is not a global south problem, this is not a fossil fuel versus green energy problem, this is a problem we can sort out together.”

 “The day we realise this, we will get the solution but as long as we imagine that it is the problem of the global North versus global South, as long as we continue to imagine that this is going to be sorted out by aid or by assisting this and that country, there is no country that is going to assist the North. We can only work together,” the President said.