Progress: Tuya reflects on role as environment ministry head

Environment CS Soipan Tuya. [Denish Ochieng', Standard]

Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya served as a Member of Parliament for 10 years before being appointed to the Cabinet by President William Ruto.

She tells The Standard she has adjusted to her position, is ready to champion environmental conservation and is optimistic the government's plan to plant 15 billion trees in 10 years will be achieved.

The government has launched an ambitious 15 billion tree planting programme (2022-2032). What is the progress so far?

We have made tremendous progress in the 15 billion national tree-growing programme. We adopted a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, involving all government ministries, departments, and agencies. Collaborating with development partners, faith-based organisations, the private sector, and community-based organisations, we are mobilising collective efforts.

We heightened seed collection efforts through the establishment of 11 new seed centres across various eco-regions. Accelerating seedling propagation, we engaged government agencies with the highest potential for seedling propagation, including KDF, NYS, Kenya Police Service, and Kenya Prison Service.

During the recent short rainy season, we intensified tree-growing activities nationwide, culminating in the historic ‘Green Holiday’ on November 13, 2023. President William Ruto led the country in an unprecedented nationwide tree-growing exercise.

In conjunction with intensified seed collection, seedling propagation, and tree-growing activities, we have introduced the ‘Jaza Miti’ application, an online platform used to monitor and account for tree-growing activities. 

In the coming year, we plan to expedite tree-growing activities, aiming to surpass our annual target of 1.5 billion trees.

Our strategic objective is to ensure that 30 per cent of the trees grown under the 15 billion programme belong to fruit, fodder, and nut species. This aims to contribute to household incomes, food security, and nutritional well-being.

The country hosted the inaugural Africa Climate Summit in September with thousands of delegates in attendance. What achievements did the country realize through this event?

The Africa Climate Summit, attended by close to 30,000 delegates, including 18 African Heads of State, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and President of the European Union Ursula von der Leyen, was held alongside the 2023 UNFCCC Africa Climate Week.

The primary outcome of the ACS, the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call-to-Action, is a blueprint that carries the climate action aspirations of all Africans. It formed position papers and was part of the agenda at key international fora this year, including the United Nations General Assembly in September, the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Ambition Summit, and the recently concluded United Nations COP28 in Dubai, the UAE.

Alongside the declaration, which was aligned with the Global Stock Take (GST) outcome at COP28, investments worth $26 billion across all sectors were negotiated at ACS. Currently, Kenya and the African Union Commission (AUC) are finalising a joint post-ACS roadmap and position paper to be presented at the next CAHOSCC meeting scheduled for February 2023 in Addis Ababa.

The roadmap will outline pre-implementation decisions and milestones for the AU Assembly.

Kenya participated in the 28th World Climate Conference (COP 28). What are the gains for Kenya?

President William Ruto was among the first world leaders to deliver statements at COP28 on behalf of Kenya and Africa. In his statement, the President, who also presented the outcome of the Africa Climate Summit, the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change, and the Call to Action, continued to champion the Financial Reform agenda spearheaded by his colleagues from Barbados, Colombia, France, Ghana, and Britain.

The United Arab Emirates’ New Framework on Climate Finance, of which Kenya is a member, was launched at COP28. The UAE Declaration on a Global Climate Finance Framework introduced a roadmap for making climate finance available, accessible, and affordable. The Declaration builds on a series of initiatives that have set the path for climate finance reform in 2023, pulling together a regionally representative group of leaders around one vision.

The Global Stocktake decision underscored the importance of reforming the multilateral financial architecture, including multilateral development banks, institutional investors, and other financial actors.

The President championed renewable energy, the Accelerated Partnership for Renewable Energy in Africa, launched at ACS, and the COP28 Pledge on Tripling Renewable Energy and Doubling Energy Efficiency by 2030, which is aligned with the Nairobi Declaration. The pledge was endorsed by 27 African countries and included in the GST outcome.

Kenya and the COP28 Presidency co-hosted the launch of the $4 billion Africa Green Investment and Industrialisation Initiative aimed at harnessing Africa’s vast and high-quality renewable energy resources to expand clean energy access and economic growth through country-owned strategies. The launch was attended by six other African Heads of State and Government.

Did the country meet its objectives at the World Climate Meeting (COP 27)?

Kenya achieved key successes at COP27 in Egypt, including the agreement on the Loss and Damage Fund, the initiation of the Just Transition work programme where I co-chaired the first Ministerial Roundtable on Just Transition, and the implementation of the Mitigation Work Programme aimed at sustaining the Paris temperature goal.

With ongoing support from the technical teams at the Ministry and state agencies across the government, and in collaboration with our partners in the private sector and civil society organizations, we have consistently enhanced Kenya’s presence and representation not only at the COPs but also in other climate fora.

How did you navigate the transition from being MP to becoming CS?

The transition has been relatively smooth, primarily owing to my 10 years of service as a Member of Parliament and my background in law as a trained and practiced lawyer and advocate. Both roles as a legislator and advocate inherently involve serving the public. Additionally, I am fortunate to collaborate with supportive technical teams who are consistently ready and willing to contribute their best efforts to ensure the Ministry fulfils its mandate.

What are some of the achievements you have accomplished as the Environment Cabinet Secretary?

In the forestry sector, we implemented a comprehensive range of targeted reforms, including the enactment of the first-ever forest policy for Kenya and the recruitment of 2,664 forest rangers - marking the highest single cohort entry in the history of Kenya.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered in fulfilling your duties as a Cabinet Secretary?

The challenging financial situation our country is currently facing has constrained public investment in the sector. This limitation has affected some of our programs, but we are grateful for the ongoing support we receive from the government and our partners.

You are the first female Cabinet Secretary from the Maa Community. How does that make you feel?

It is a rare privilege that I take seriously. It presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the trajectory of my community, particularly among women and young girls who look up to me for inspiration.