Rachel Ruto appeals for more funding to tackle triple planetary crisis

President William Ruto's wife Rachel Ruto planted a tree at Kaptagat forest on the borders of Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet Counties during the One Million Tree initiative for Eldoret-Iten water fund on June 9, 2023. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

First Lady Rachel Ruto has called for financial support towards nature-based solutions to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, environmental pollution and biodiversity loss.

Nature-based solutions are actions that protect, sustainably manage or restore an ecosystem to address societal challenges—such as disaster risk, climate change, food security, water security, or human health.

The First Lady also pleaded for collaboration between science, policy, and business to harness the power of research, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

This she said, will drive transformative change and pursue environmental objectives.

“Nature-based solutions, including tree planting, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem restoration, and green technologies, hold tremendous potential for addressing the interconnected environmental challenges we face, offering a pathway to mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, and achieve sustainable development,” she said.

Mrs Ruto spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing Science and Business Policy Forum at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), UN Headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi.

She spoke after launching a 500 million trees planting initiative by 2032 at Karura Forest.

Mrs Ruto urged the stakeholders present including the private sector, philanthropists to pool resources together to finance nature-based solutions, implement Kenya’s ambitious tree-growing strategy, foster sustainable development, and scale climate change mitigation measures.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said nature-based solutions receive only Sh29.3 billion globally per year.

This is less than a third of what is needed per year by 2030 to meet climate, biodiversity, and land degradation goals.

Ms Andersen said that urgent policy change is needed to realign nature-negative finance flows as the best way to halt and reverse nature loss.

“They are not just underfunded. They are being undone by US$7 trillion in nature-negative finance that flows annually from harmful subsides and investments,” she said.

“Considering these numbers, it’s clear that realigning nature-negative finance flows is the best way to halt and reverse nature loss. To do that we need to change the incentives – policy. We need to provide the data on long-term economic losses – science. We need to shift business practices and the very understanding of bankability – business,” she added.

The UNEP Executive Director noted that when looking at investment opportunities, particularly in Africa, protected area management and avoiding deforestation are particularly cost-effective.

She said globally, protection-related nature-based solutions represent roughly 80 per cent of additional land area needed by 2030 but require only 20 per cent of additional finance.

“These protected areas need to be managed and maintained. Many countries have a restrained fiscal space, which is why Kenya championed a review of financial instruments at the Africa Climate Summit,” she said.

Andersen noted that there are many ways to increase investment including Debt for Climate and Nature Swaps.

These swaps, she said can provide a solution to the interconnected challenges of debt, climate and nature loss – especially in developing countries affected by sovereign debt crises and the hangover of Covid-19.

“They can open up fiscal space, leverage additional finance and develop regional approaches for shared ecosystems. Existing examples include Ecuador’s debt for nature swap, which saves USD1.1 billion in repayments and provides US$450 million for conservation, and Gabon’s USD500 million marine conservation deal,” she said.

Andersen revealed that UNEP is exploring Debt for Climate and Nature Swaps in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

UNEA-6 President Leila Benali said science, policy, and business are key to preserving the planet.

“This cohesive approach should be marked by synergy and mutual support, whether to build investment cases for large-scale credible mitigation solutions, or to fund adaptation and ecosystem restoration, or also increasingly to assess the full impacts of geoengineering, air capture, or other unilateral scientific efforts,” she said.

Ms Benali, who is also the Minister of Energy Transition, and Sustainable Development of Morocco said scientific research and innovation play an essential role, offering impact insights and providing the technological advancements necessary for transformative change.

“Policymakers, armed with scientific evidence and business experience, can craft sounder regulatory frameworks and more informed incentive programmes,” she said.

She said we cannot afford to deprioritise this century's triple planetary crisis against pressing socio-economic development challenges.

“This is where the role of science, technology, and business, are critical and to define new ways for advocacy and pledge on these pressing issue,” she added.

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