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A man walks through a rooftop solar carport on October 26, 2015 in Nairobi.

A man walks through a rooftop solar carport on October 26, 2015 in Nairobi. (Photo: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images)

Kenyan President Says 'Wind and Solar Energy Can Power the Development of Africa'

"Rather than trudging in the fossil fuel footsteps of those who went before, we can leapfrog this dirty energy and embrace the benefits of clean power," argues William Ruto.

Kenny Stancil

Recently elected Kenyan President William Ruto made the case Tuesday that while Africa is more vulnerable to the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis than other regions despite having done the least to cause it, "the continent has the opportunity to lead the world and show that we do not need to destroy the climate to prosper."

"The global transition to clean energy is now more urgent than ever."

"We have immense potential for renewable energy, and this abundance of wind and solar energy can power the development of Africa," Ruto wrote in a Guardian opinion piece. "Rather than trudging in the fossil fuel footsteps of those who went before, we can leapfrog this dirty energy and embrace the benefits of clean power."

"Kenya is home to the world's largest wind farm and our electricity supply is already 92% renewable, with 74% of our overall energy use powered by clean energy," wrote Ruto, who reaffirmed his government's commitment to shift the country to "100% clean energy by 2030" and urged "all African states to join us in this journey."

Ruto continued:

Plummeting costs make clean energy the most economical choice. A report by the International Energy Agency [IEA] published last month showed that there are already more jobs globally in clean energy than fossil fuels, and its forecasts are for this gap to grow as more countries decarbonize. A transition to clean energy is a no-brainer. It will create jobs, protect local economies, and accelerate the sustainable industrialization of Africa.

As Africans, we will call for a rapid and just transition—delivering on the commitment by heads of state to double Africa's installed energy capacity through renewables by 2030. Together, we can deliver energy access to almost half of Africa's people, who remain underserved by the dirty energy systems of yesterday, by transitioning rapidly to the clean energy systems of the future.

The Kenyan president's essay channeled arguments long made by climate justice advocates in Africa and beyond.

In June, for instance, African activists urged officials to reject the IEA's call for nations across the continent to swiftly extract and export their fossil gas reserves before the world ramps up its move to clean energy sources.

Rather than follow the IEA's recommendation—which came a year after the Paris-based agency said that expanding coal, gas, and oil production globally is incompatible with slashing greenhouse gas pollution at the pace needed to maintain a livable climate—African policymakers should focus on "implementing sustainable renewable energy solutions" as quickly as possible, they said.

Looking ahead to the United Nations COP27 climate conference that begins next month in Egypt, Ruto noted that representatives from the continent will demand that wealthy nations provide "the finance and technology needed by Africa to adapt to climate impacts, support those in need, and manage the energy transition."

"Among the outcomes from this global gathering must be a financing framework that enables Africa's planned and orderly transition from fossil fuels; supports our workers, communities, and national economies; and advances our development," wrote Ruto. "Finance and technology must be provided to our developing countries while enabling all African countries to accelerate our transition to clean energy."

"A transition to clean energy is a no-brainer. It will create jobs, protect local economies, and accelerate the sustainable industrialization of Africa."

"The global transition to clean energy," he added, "is now more urgent than ever."

Ruto's argument came one day after U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned, as he has many times before, that the world is in "a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow."

"While climate chaos gallops ahead, climate action has stalled," the U.N. chief said at a pre-COP meeting in Kinshasa, Congo. "The actions of the wealthiest developed and emerging economies simply don't add up. Taken together, current pledges and policies are shutting the door on our chance to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, let alone meet the [Paris agreement's] 1.5°C goal."

As a recent report compiled by multiple environmental groups made clear, the fossil fuel industry's plans to sink more than a trillion dollars into fossil fuel extraction in Africa over the next three decades would exacerbate the planet-heating emissions propelling deadly extreme weather across the globe and create "stranded assets that leave behind unfunded cleanup, shortfalls of government revenue, and overnight job losses."

Guterres on Monday urged "meaningful progress" at COP27 on two key issues. First, rich nations must step up to assist low-income nations already suffering losses and damages beyond their ability to adapt, he said, calling it a "moral imperative that cannot be ignored" because a "failure to act... will lead to more loss of trust and more climate damage."

Second, "the world needs clarity from developed countries on where they are this year on the delivery of their $100 billion-a-year promise to support climate action in developing countries," said Guterres. "We need to see evidence of how they will double adaptation finance to at least $40 billion dollars in 2025, as agreed in Glasgow."

"On every climate front," added the U.N. chief, "the only solution is decisive action in solidarity."

As Ruto reminded readers: "The climate emergency is here and now. Across Kenya, communities today are suffering the consequences. Millions of Kenyans and millions more from the Horn of Africa are on the brink of famine due to devastating drought."

"It is not too late to respond," stressed the Kenyan president, "but to tackle this threat we must act urgently to keep the increase in global heating to below 1.5°C, help those most in need, and end our addiction to fossil fuels."

"Wind turbines and solar panels are quick to construct and can generate and deliver power far more quickly and easily than a new oil rig, and with much less harm to our fragile climate," he added. "There is a better way to power the world's economy. It is one that is fairer, cheaper, and less destructive to ourselves and our communities, to our families' future, and to the natural environment on which we all depend."


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