President Ruto wants COP28 to be last world’s biggest climate meet

William Ruto

President William Ruto during the official opening of the Second Session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, UN Complex, Nairobi. Present were Martha Delgado (President of the UN-Habitat Assembly), Zainab Hawa Bangura (Director-General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi), Maimunah Mohd Sharif (Executive Director UN-Habitat), Heads of State and Government, among other guests.

Photo credit: PCS

President William Ruto wants the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28 ) that will be held in Dubai later this year to be the last Conference of Parties (COP) meeting  the world holds.

President Ruto believes that the meetings have not yielded much and must work to resolve and deliver on all issues once and for all to avert the climate crisis.

He is also of the view that the amount of emissions generated by thousands of delegates and their entourage who annually throng the venue by jet, plane and other fossil fuel powered means of transport for the world's biggest climate change conference hosted by the United Nations,contribute immensely to emissions of huge proportions thus polluting the environment.

"I hope we all have the determination to make COP28 the last COP we hold. I am told there are plans for COP29; they should be cancelled. We need COP28 to create and seek a win-win outcome to avert the climate crisis once and for all," the President said in his opening remarks at the opening ceremony of the second United Nations Habitat Assembly, dubbed #UNHA2, which began on Monday at the UN headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, and is being attended by nearly 5,000 delegates from more than 128 countries.

This comes after last year at COP27, President Ruto, who was then speaking on behalf of the continent, called out the West for what he described as "evasion and delaying tactics" in dealing with regions like Africa, which bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, noting that by 2050, climate impacts could cost African nations $50 billion annually.

The five-day event in Nairobi is bringing together leaders and various stakeholders from around the world to discuss how to create more liveable, sustainable and resilient cities. 

"Our ambition to be the home of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN Habitat, was inspired by a deep commitment to pursue economic development together with sustainable urbanisation in harmony with the preservation of our natural heritage," the President said while announcing that Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja had moved all delegates to the venue of the conference in eco-friendly buses.

The President further noted that Kenya's experience in balancing the imperatives of industrialisation, sustainable urbanisation and environmental stewardship as fundamental components of socio-economic transformation has had its challenges and setbacks.

“Even now, challenges exist with a variety, and on a scale that is unprecedented. The world is emerging from a devastating pandemic, whilst grappling with a relentless economic crisis driven by geopolitical tension, as well as the triple planetary crisis of pollution, loss of biodiversity and climate change. As a consequence, millions of people throughout the world have been adversely affected, including through threats to life and to livelihoods,” President Ruto explained.

The Head of State told delegates that the country’s progress in affirming the fundamental right to decent housing is critical to the achievement of sustainable urbanisation in terms of SDG number 11.

“Recognising this imperative and realising that more than half of Kenya’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, we have integrated universal housing as a critical pillar of the national bottom-up economic transformation agenda. Into the housing programme, we have further mainstreamed sustainable urban practices of green building, green spaces, adoption of low-carbon energy use, including low-carbon transport solutions, as well as urban agriculture and effective waste management.”

The President went ahead to explain how the country is restoring degraded landscapes and ecosystems through a robust programme that includes increasing Kenya’s tree cover from 12.13 per cent, to 30 per cent, by planting 15 billion trees over the next 10 years.

According to Dr Ruto, a key barrier to our aspirations for sustainable urbanisation happens to be the very impediment to effective sustainable climate action in the Global South and Africa — sufficient and affordable financing.

“As a result, we are unable to effectively pursue all the opportunities in sustainable urbanisation and leverage them to promote the broader agenda of economic transformation, climate action and sustainable development.”

He further pointed out that in addition to normal migration to urban areas, millions of people displaced by the recent social, economic and political upheavals, joined the poor, vulnerable underserved and marginal segments of our urban populations.

This is why Dr Ruto believes that the explosion in global populations as well as urbanisation has immense implications for global production and consumption, with humanity poised firmly between trends and practices likely to overwhelm the planet’s capacity to support life on one end, and clean, green, efficient and abundant sustainability on the other end.

“Fundamentally, this gathering is one more opportunity for the global community to confer and reflect about the progress made in imagining new possibilities for the sustainable provision of opportunities and amenities to promote the flourishing of nearly 10 billion human beings,

whilst enhancing the earth’s capacity to support all life,” the head of state told delegates.

“Our discussions must therefore pay due attention to the fact that the prevalent unjustness of the international financial architecture, and the discriminatory practices inherent in development financing, are iniquitous insofar as they directly and indirectly exacerbate the vulnerability of the majority of humanity. It is time, therefore, to correct this systemic injustice to enable us effectively mobilise multilateralism to achieve global net-zero emissions, avert a climate catastrophe and achieve sustainable development goals,” President Ruto said.

“Colossal demand for basic goods is always accompanied by tremendous pressure on energy resources

and the environment. The connection between prosperity and ecological sustainability is always strong and direct.

How we perform in this test depends on the type and quality of decisions, choices, strategies and policies that we make and pursue, which in turn reflects the depth of our deliberations and attention to the agenda in forums like this,” Dr Ruto told delegates while reminding them of their well cut out assignment in the next five days.  

“Evidently, the assignment is clear, and your work is well defined; I urge you to exploit this important opportunity to generate a robust framework for addressing the existential crises of our times. I would like to announce to you that Kenya is privileged to have the honour of co-hosting the inaugural Africa Climate Summit, to be held from 4th to 6th of September 2023, here in Nairobi and the summit will be Africa’s opportunity to refine its position in preparation for COP 28, where we expect to articulate our agenda in a strong, clear, united and effective voice.”