William Ruto’s Climate Impact 

Kenyan President William Ruto
Kenyan President William Ruto

Launch of the African Carbon Markets Initiative (Nov 8th 2022) 

Although the ACMI has only been functioning since November 2022, its impact can already be seen in Kenya. In June 2023, Aramco and Saudi Electricity company, among other firms, are said to have paid 23.50 Saudi riyals (US$6.27)  per metric tonne of carbon credits. With a continental goal of reaching 300 million credits offered annually by 2030, the supply level would unlock US$6 billion in income and support 30 million jobs. By 2050, the ACMI aims at targeting more than 1.5 billion credits annually in Africa and to create and support job creation in the region. Ruto in his address revealed that Kenya’s next significant export will be carbon credits. Companies have invested in Kenya’s VCM because it allows them to meet environmental goals by investing in projects going against climate-warming emissions that they are unable to cut from their own national operations.

As an extension of the ACMI, Kenya and the UK government introduced green investment projects to spur up climate finance and largely improve the sustainability in operation of the Kenyan economy. Projects such as the creation of a 35 MW geothermal plant in Menengai, a 40MW solar plant in Malindi and a dam on the Tana River among other projects have been incorporated into Kenya’s green agenda. A launch of the Kenya Carbon Emission Reduction Tool by 2050 was introduced to also contribute to Dr Ruto’s vision for Kenya and to enforce a control system to carbon trade and ultimately control the 80% value of some carbon credits being captured by intermediaries.

Ruto has so far emerged as a climate conscious leader with a firm focus on policies to limit climate change’s effects. It is through the African Carbon Market Initiative that Kenya would generate more than 30 million tonnes of carbon credits every year advocating for employment and job creation for youth as well as the adoption of more forest cover restoration and tackle the negative effects of climate change.

With proper assessments of the ACMI, like any other carbon market faces would most importantly be the lack of transparency that may exist due to the complexity of the field and the accountability of each leader to properly trade carbon credits. The ACMI addresses global warming’s impact on people migration and its challenges, fostering collaboration among African leaders and climate change experts, though alone does not address global warming entirely. It could be contended that the ACMI is more inclined on yielding profits than directly addressing global warming, where environmentalists argue that phasing out fossil fuel use is more important to the environment. Where the Climate Mobility Initiative aims at tackling human movement as a result of the climate crisis. The ACMI seeks to gear African resources to counteract global warming to avoid further displacement and create symbiotic grounds for economic development through agriculture and industry. Ruto has been a part of this initiative for 9 months- a period in which does not provide a comprehensive assessment of the initiative’s outcomes particularly in Kenya just yet.

Climate Plan to ‘ramp up clean energy and phase out fossil fuels for electricity by 2030’

Kenya holds the commitment to a 100% clean electricity network by 2030, and 92% of the country’s power already comes from clean sources. Moreover, in the COP27 Climate Summit in Egypt, Ruto highlighted that Kenya currently gets more than 90% of its electricity and 74% of its overall energy from renewable sources.

Woodfuel, for example, poses serious environmental threats from a domestic perspective– households in Kenya, on average, destroy about one hectare of forests for firewood. This has initiated Kenya’s opting for environmentally friendly and renewable energy sources. The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, explains the significance of the alliance of African countries to strive for clean energy methods which will “mobilise $100 million in grants for project preparation, $400 million in blended financing through grants, concessional resources, and commercial investments for project development” of which would significantly contribute to the economic development of Kenya in a cleaner approach.

From the shown political support from African leaders from the subsequent shared issues, Ruto advocates for the articulation of a Pan African principle to encourage the development of green sustainability within the Kenyan economy. Ruto explains that nearly 600 million Africans lack access to electricity, while 150 million have unreliable access, and 900 million more have no access to clean cooking energy.

Ruto aims at boosting clean energy and eliminating fossil fuels for electricity by 2030, a crucial step for climate policy. The EU- Africa partnership is a critical path in achieving results from climate policy with a focus on the support from clean energy infrastructure investment. Battling the current East African drought, reliability of renewable energy sources may be difficult, particularly in times of inconsistent weather patterns where wind and solar power can vary. Different policies must then be simultaneously implemented to fully address global warming with high impact levels to satisfy challenges caused by climate change. With Africa’s renewable energy potential being more than 50 times the world’s cumulative demand by 2030, adopting clean energy is indeed attainable given confidence from environmentalists arguing that phasing out fossil fuels is a more comprehensive environmental policy. While Ruto’s emphasis on renewable energy is notable, it is important to recognize the magnitude of the issue of climate change which demands measures like energy efficiency improvements, sustainable land use practices, appropriate carbon pricing and international collaboration to see change from a larger perspective.

National Tree Planting Initiative 

Since the National Tree Planting Initiative was launched, the Interior Ministry has reported a total of 6,719,754 trees have been planted across eight regions in Kenya. However, there are doubts about the success of the NTPI. Ruto stated that every citizen must plant 100 trees “in [their] farm or in any other place”. Such a statement disregards the environments in which specific seedlings need to be planted and the conditions they must be maintained in to grow. Increasing doubt about the NTPI’s success is also fueled by remarks made by Ruto during his visit to Israel in May 2023, where he stated that Kenya’s tree planting success “has been mixed” because people have not been praying for the trees to grow adequately. 

The National Tree Planting Initiative was devised by Ruto as a climate change policy to bring communities together. Ruto made repeated reference in his speeches to the fact that every Kenyan citizen was directly involved in this policy, that they are facing the challenge of climate change “as a country”. With regards to Ruto as a leader, the NTPI has opened the door for the Kenyan leader to solidify Kenya’s diplomatic alliance with Israel. In May 2023, Ruto went on a state visit to Israel, where the main topic of talks was the restoration of the ecosystem. Ruto then proceeded to plant an olive tree in Jerusalem, symbolising the deep-rooted bond between both nations founded on a “joint concern for nature and the environment”.

On a wider scale, Kenya’s tree planting initiative addresses a fraction of climate change in the sense that it is not an immediate solution for climate change, but rather a long-term solution of which the impact will be seen in decades. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that 950 million hectares of new forests could aid in limiting the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050. Systematically, trees break down carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, release oxygen (O2) into the atmosphere, and store carbon as wood, with each ton of carbon stored as wood meaning that 3.67 tons of CO2 have been removed from the atmosphere. However, tree planting initiatives are not entirely positive for the environment and climate change mitigation; as forests mature, the carbon stored in wood from dead trees combines with O2 by decomposing to reform CO2 that is then released back into the atmosphere, creating a full circle effect. Moreover, CO2 storage rates slow down to the point where trees can release more CO2 than they are removing, a phenomenon which is heightened when fires occur. 

Agricultural policy: Fertiliser Subsidy Programme (FSP)

For the most part, the Fertiliser subsidy programme has been largely successful. The National Treasury successfully released Sh3.6 billion (around USD 25.5 million) for the implementation of the policy, Ruto’s government has begun negotiations with Morocco for the reduction in prices of imported fertiliser, and, as of June 2023, Ruto stated that 5 million farmers registered for subsidised fertiliser. 

As a result of the subsidies, Kenyan farmers have been able to plant 200,000 additional acres of food this year and used an additional 2 million kilograms  of seed. The policy has also led to a change in budget allocations for the State Department of Crop Development and Agricultural Research, with the department receiving an additional Sh25.1 billion. 

However, farmers have reported that they have been forced to reduce the amount of bags they order as a result of unexpected increases in the prices of subsidised fertilisers. Farmers in Trans Nzoia stated that fertilisers increased by at least Sh500 a bag, meaning that a 50kg bag now costs around Sh4,050. Moreover, there have been issues with the transaction fees of subsidised fertilisers, with farmers stating that obtaining these fertilisers was overall more expensive than obtaining the same fertilisers from private retailers. Other farmers from the Naisambu area reported that the only available variety at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots where the subsidised fertilisers are being sold were Yara Power and Kaino, while the government had promised all varieties would be available. As such, these issues have put farmers at crossroads with the government and Ruto.

The Fertiliser Subsidy Programme itself doesn’t address global warming, given that polluting chemical fertilisers fuel the climate crisis. Fertilisers provide plants with nitrogen, but the plants only take up around half of the nitrogen provided by fertilisers. As such, much of the fertiliser runs off into waterways or gets broken down by microbes in the soil, therefore releasing greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. However, the FSP is a policy that seeks to combat the food shortages and subsequent food insecurity and unaffordable inputs in Kenya caused by climate change– as such, it can be labelled as a climate mitigation policy.

IExRAIA Summer Research Program:

This article is an excerpt from a report on William Ruto produced as part of a research program RAIA on climate leaders. For a full picture of Ruto’s climate leadership read the full report. This project was fully financed by IE University’s IE School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs.

Authors: Maria Romero & Felipa Eichel

Editor: Michael Duffy

Project Lead: Joshua Dario Hasenstab


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