President William Ruto: Walking the talk on climate

Last year in Berlin, Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge broke the World Marathon Record, clocking 02:01:09, beating his previous time by 30 seconds. Kipchoge’s immense success, handing him legendary status not only in Kenya but also globally, is a useful lesson for all of us involved in the climate challenge.

It’s a winning strategy rooted in the science of running; rooted in 120 miles of hard work every week.

2023 may yet be another year where we break less positive records, as temperatures keep on rising and emissions soar, but we are determined this is a year, that together with partners and other governments, we will run faster to tackle the climate crisis.

This means respect for the latest science, and a joint effort of all governments and citizens to act on the implications. This year in March, the world’s top climate experts and governments signed off the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change, and the message was blunt.

Humans have permanently changed the planet. Warming is already killing people, destroying nature, and making the world poorer. African countries are among those bearing the brunt of the damage while they have contributed least to its creation. The International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that Africa accounts for less than 3% of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide. At the same time, an outrageous number of 600 Million Africans still do not have access to electricity.

The global community needs to work together to find solutions to the climate challenge that we all face with varying degrees of impacts that have seen countries in Africa bear a disproportional burden even though we are least responsible for causing the problem.

During his recent visit to Kenya, H.E. Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and I held talks on ways to address the climate crisis.

Through the German-Kenya Climate and Energy Partnership, our two countries have committed to deepen collaboration in climate-resilient development and renewable energy, including production of green hydrogen and sustainable agriculture.

We are currently far short of limiting warming to 1.5C or even 2C – the goal of the Paris Agreement. The climate crisis will not solve itself. We need to peak global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by latest before 2025 and reduce them by at least 43% by 2030.

2023 must be the year for that transformation and COP28 the moment to accelerate the energy transition, supercharge the growth of renewables and commit to phase-out of all fossil fuels, starting with coal.

Kenya is well on track to delivering this, with 92% of its power already from clean sources and a commitment to a 100% clean electricity network by 2030. In Germany renewables produced 46% of electricity in 2022 and the government is committed to hiking that to 80% by 2030. Critically, these commitments will not only ensure clean power and a safer environment, but will also create jobs, attract investment, and make our economies more secure, protected from volatile oil and gas prices.

But it’s important that we run this race as a team – not by ourselves. The IEA says the ratio of clean to dirty energy investments must shift from 1.5:1 today to 9:1 by 2030.

With strong partnership between Africa, Europe and the global community at large, the abundant resources of Kenya and our continent can make significant contribution to decarbonisation and the road to net zero. We can unlock climate finance and investment that can harness our potential for green economic growth.

But to do this we need to fix the current international financial system which is inadequate in dealing fairly with multifaceted global crises, including recovery from the Covid 19 pandemic, the climate emergency and the debt crisis in the Global South. The Paris summit in June on a new global financial pact provides an opportunity for Europe to galvanise support towards reforms of the international financial system. This system must recognise our potential and ensure a win-win outcome, providing access to affordable, adequate and sustainable financing that is delivered in a timely manner.

Just as we slow emissions, so we need to prepare our people, housing, agriculture, and food systems, for rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Meeting the 2021 COP26 commitment to double global adaptation finance by 2025 remains fundamental to protecting people and nature.

The IPCC Synthesis report is clear: climate change and insufficient adaptation and mitigation efforts are eating up development gains and economic stability.

And yet, adaptation to climate change has clear limits. The consequences already threaten the lives of millions of people. But as the IPCC clearly states, if we reduce GHG emissions by 43% this decade and stabilise global warming at 1.5C, this gives us the best chance to keep climate impacts at a scale humans can still handle.

We need all governments to step up and agree to phase out unabated fossil fuels, we need financial reforms which make our financial institutions and systems, fit for purpose, and we need to take climate action seriously. In the words of Eliud Kipchoge, we need to “walk your talk.”

An opinion piece by President William Ruto 

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