Kenya roots for green buildings to cut carbon emissions

Workers install solar panels on a high-rise building along Moi Avenue in Nairobi on November 10, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The government has embarked on the journey towards zero carbon emissions in the construction industry by 2030.

This was revealed during a one-day National Forum on Buildings and Climate Change in Nairobi themed “Towards A Zero-Emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings in The Construction Sector.” 

Currently, the sector consumes about 61 per cent of energy and locally contributes tributes about 30 to 40 per cent of carbon emissions.

Lands, Public Works, Housing and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome said the built environment plays a significant role in the global efforts to combat climate change.

She said Kenyans must understand how climate change affects buildings and related infrastructure. 

“Buildings are not just structures that provide shelter; they are also major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The construction, operation and demolition of buildings account for a substantial portion of global carbon dioxide emissions. From the energy used to power our homes and offices to the materials used in construction, every aspect of a building’s lifecycle has an environmental footprint,” said Wahome.

She was speaking on Wednesday when she opened the forum organised by the State Department of Public Works and included representatives from the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, the French Embassy in Keya, the National Construction Authority(NCA) and built environment experts.

The CS announced that the Ministry will be presenting the Building Code, which factors in green buildings the National Assembly on Thursday after doing the same to the Senate.

“We hope the Senate will give us the go-ahead to start its implementation,” she said.

The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly evident around the world and include rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, sea-level rise, loss of biodiversity and even land loss are just some of the impacts we are already experiencing.

Wahome noted that Kenya has gone through drought to El-Nino, floods, and the buildings as part of this interconnected ecosystem are affected by these changes.

“Buildings and the construction sector is challenging to de-carbonise given the complexity of its value chain and interdependency of its stakeholders. The sector needs to improve actions and allow for a shared vision, coordination, cooperation and mutual trust,” she said.

"There is further need to implement sound policies and actions to avoid lock-in effects, decrease greenhouse gas emissions from existing and new buildings and adapt existing and new buildings to current and future climate change.  This is possible with the great minds in this forum, today," she added.

The CS called upon participants at the forum to develop a general sector roadmap towards achieving a decarbonised and sustainable future in the building and construction sector.

She urged them to adopt global calls and efforts to promote and achieve climate-resilient, green and sustainable buildings in Kenya.

In March 2024, the CS led the Kenyan delegation to the Buildings Climate Global Forum, which was held in Paris, France.

This was the first Global Forum of Ministers responsible for the Building Construction sectors to address the decarbonisation agenda of the sector as well as accelerate the Green transition towards near-zero-emission and resilient buildings.

The event, she said catalysed international collaboration and aggregated momentum across global supply chains with various governments expected to align their buildings and construction sector trajectories with the Paris Agreement.

The COP28 made commitments that the building and construction sector must decarbonise by 2050 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Governments (including Kenya) endorsed a joint statement to establish common principles and a cooperation framework necessary to unlock and align global efforts towards achieving the Paris Agreement,” CS said.

The joint statement, Wahome said summarises agreement on the importance of accelerating the transition towards a sector aligned with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, as well as the Glasgow Climate Pact, the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan and the UAE Consensus.

“I urge you all here today to explore these opportunities to accelerate our National Climate Action goals,” she said.

During Cop 28 in UAE, Dubai last year, Kenya joined the Buildings Breakthrough initiative, the Cement and Concrete Breakthrough initiative and the Forest & Climate Leaders’ Partnership’s Greening Construction with Sustainable Wood initiative.

Joining these initiatives seeks to mainstream and accelerate sustainable infrastructure solutions with a greater focus on mitigation, adaptation, resilience to climate change and cut emissions for the buildings sector.

“We look forward to your support towards the implementation of these initiatives in our national programmes and projects which is estimated to cost Sh2 billion in the next five years. Am here Seeking your support to achieve these initiative goals,” she said.

During COP28, President William Ruto launched the implementation of the UN initiative on Building Climate Resilience for the Urban Poor for Africa Initiative.

It aims to enhance the adaptive capacity of Kenya’s urban poor communities against climate change impacts.

The implementation of this programme, the CS said is part of a global transformation effort to address the specific vulnerabilities faced by impoverished urban populations in the face of climate change here in Kenya.

She revealed that her Ministry is drafting the National Policy on Sustainable Buildings and Public Works Development that will provide a framework for the implementation and management of a sustainable built environment and other related infrastructure activities.

Wahome said the Ministry will soon invite the experts and other stakeholders to give input on the policy.

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