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How Kenya Is Tackling Climate Change

June 3, 2024


Kenyan President William Ruto has an unusual background for a head of state—he’s a biologist with a PhD in plant ecology.

But his knowledge of plants has been surprisingly relevant, as a global leader working to address the challenges brought on by climate change. Ruto has vowed to plant 15 billion trees by 2032, with the goal of reaching 30% tree cover in the country.

“He understands better than anyone the power of nature to heal the planet by doing everything from cooling ground temperatures to sequestering carbon to preventing floods by absorbing excess rainwater,” Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said in introducing Ruto at a recent event held at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center. The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) hosted the Kenyan president as part of his historic state visit to the United States.

The Kenyan president spoke about Africa’s role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Here are three key takeaways from his speech:

1. Kenya leads the way in clean energy production.

More than 90% of Kenya’s electricity comes from renewable sources, such as geothermal, hydro, wind, and solar. It plans to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030. The nation is a global leader in geothermal energy, a renewable source that uses the Earth’s core to heat water into steam to turn turbines and generate electricity.

And, Ruto noted, Africa will play a critical role in ushering in the global energy transition because it is home to significant portions of the minerals—such as copper, lithium, nickel, and cobalt—needed for batteries, solar panels, and electric vehicles.

“Africa has the potential to be a crucial part of the solution … [as the home of] the world’s youngest and fastest-growing workforce and abundant natural assets,” the president said.

2. Collaboration is key.

Ruto said international partnerships will be critical to addressing climate change. Kenya recently announced a partnership with Microsoft to build a state-of-the-art green data center.

For Ruto, it’s the type of project that shows economic development and green energy projects cannot do more than co-exist—they can benefit one another.

“In Kenya, we remain committed in the belief that enduring economic prosperity is founded on environmental health and vibrant natural ecosystems,” he said.

3. Africa’s role is not guaranteed.

Ruto cautioned that Africa’s continued work to tackle climate change “should not be taken for granted,” citing rising interest rates and the cost of addressing the sovereign debt as obstacles that must be overcome.

He added that he urged President Biden to support the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, so those organizations can help Africa achieve its green transition goals.

Text originally published here.