Eight environment victories you may have missed this year

President William Ruto at State House Nairobi reconnected with Mutinda Mutuku on November 28, 2023, after they met during the National tree planting day in Kiu Makueni county. [PCS]

In Kenya, 2023 was marked by significant initiatives, international collaboration, and groundbreaking achievements.

These key milestones and actions have propelled Kenya's hope towards a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

  1. National Tree Planting Campaign

On November 13, the country observed a special public holiday dedicated to the National Tree Planting Campaign. Under the Presidential Programme for the Accelerated Restoration of Forests and Rangelands, the goal is to plant 15 billion trees by 2032. This ambitious initiative is a crucial step in addressing climate change, combatting floods, and countering historical drought challenges.

The campaign, aiming for 15 billion trees, is a nationwide effort involving communities, organisations, and government agencies. The environmental impact includes enhanced biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and mitigation of climate-related challenges.

Kenyans actively participated in the tree-planting initiative, fostering a sense of collective responsibility. The engagement of 100 million citizens exemplified a national commitment to environmental sustainability.

  1. Africa Climate Summit 2023

In a historic move, Kenya hosted the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS) from September 4-6 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi. The summit brought together African Heads of State, global leaders, and stakeholders. The ACS emphasised the urgent need for action to mitigate climate challenges, proposing a new financing architecture and calling for global cooperation.

The summit saw participation from African Heads of State, global leaders, development partners, civil society organizations, researchers, academia, and other stakeholders, showcasing a diverse and inclusive approach to climate discussions.

Leaders stressed the importance of decarbonizing the global economy, emphasized the need for a new financing architecture responsive to Africa’s needs, and proposed a Global Climate Finance Charter through the United Nations General Assembly and COP processes by 2025.

  1. Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies

On August 28, the Wangari Maathai Institute (WMI) for Peace and Environmental Studies was officially opened at the University of Nairobi. Spanning 50 acres, the WMI aims to forge regional and international partnerships, becoming a center of excellence for research, training, and community empowerment in sustainable resource management and climate change adaptation.

The institute immortalizes the vision of Prof. Wangari Maathai, focusing on nature-based approaches and grassroots movements. Its mandate includes holistic multidisciplinary research, training, and community outreach for sustainable environmental practices.

The opening ceremony, attended by the Cabinet Secretary, signified the government's commitment to combatting climate change and empowering communities through education and research.

  1. Financial Commitments at COP28

At COP28, the National Treasury secured Sh45 Billion (USD297 million) to finance locally-led climate actions in counties. Additionally, Kenya secured over Sh680 billion (USD4.978 billion) in investments to drive its green energy agenda, aligning with commitments made during the Africa Climate Summit.

The funds secured for locally-led climate actions highlighted the government's focus on empowering counties to address climate challenges at the grassroots level, promoting community-driven solutions.

The substantial investment secured for the green energy agenda underscored Kenya's commitment to sustainable development, industrialization, and job creation.

  1. Global Recognition and Awards

Kenya's commitment to sustainability and climate action was recognized on the global stage. At the UN Climate Change Conference COP28, a Kenyan youth, Sebastian Mwaura, received the UN Global Climate Change Award for outstanding efforts in making communities more sustainable, resilient, and equitable.

The recognition of Sebastian Mwaura showcased the active involvement and impact of Kenyan youth in driving sustainability initiatives, emphasizing the crucial role of young leaders in the global fight against climate change.

Winning awards at an international forum like COP28 highlighted Kenya's standing in the global community and fostered collaboration in addressing shared environmental challenges.

  1. Kenya as a Hub for Renewable Energy

Kenya solidified its position as a hub for renewable energy, generating over 70 percent of its energy from sources like geothermal, hydro, and wind energy. The country hosted a global green energy meeting, attracting 400 delegates from 37 countries to explore opportunities and discuss the expansion of e-mobility, including a Bus Rapid Transit system for electric buses.

A delegate signs on the Climate Solutions commitment board during the Africa Climate Summit at KICC on September 16, 2023. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Kenya's emphasis on geothermal, hydro, and wind energy positions it as a leader in the transition to renewable sources, contributing significantly to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.

The global green energy meeting served as a platform for international collaboration, allowing Kenya to showcase its achievements, share best practices, and explore new opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

  1. Hosted intergovernmental negations on plastic pollution

The third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) was hosted from November 13-19 in Nairobi, which achieved a significant milestone in the global effort to combat plastic pollution.

The conference, which hosted more than 1,900 delegates representing 161 Members and over 318 observer organizations, saw unanimous agreement on a starting point for negotiations at the fourth session (INC-4).

Delegates extensively discussed the Chair's Zero Draft, a crucial document outlining the initial framework for the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. This laid the foundation for subsequent negotiations.

A meticulous compilation of text incorporating diverse views from Member States was undertaken. The goal was to ensure inclusivity and representation of varied perspectives in the evolving instrument. A validated, co-facilitator merged text was prepared, providing a consolidated framework.

Members successfully addressed pending issues that had not been discussed in previous sessions, showcasing a commitment to overcoming challenges and progressing toward a comprehensive solution.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), expressed optimism about the negotiations, acknowledging the determination of the Chair and Members to steer the process towards a treaty that addresses plastic pollution comprehensively.

  1. Kenyan scientist elected as vice chair of the global Climate panel

Dr Cromwel Lukorito, a senior lecturer at the Department of Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Nairobi, has been elected as the Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II.

The election results were announced on June 28 with Dr Lukorito securing a substantial 101 votes, defeating Sudan's candidate Hana Hamadala, who garnered 44 votes.

These breakthroughs in environmental and climate actions in 2023 reflected a nation committed to sustainable development, experts indicated that the strides made in tree planting, international summits, academic research, financial commitments, and renewable energy position Kenya as a leader in the global fight against climate change.