William Ruto’s Climate Solutions

Kenyan President William Ruto

Launch of the African Carbon Markets Initiative 

As part of President Ruto’s strive to form solutions to the current environmental issues Kenya faces, he was a member of a group of sponsors that launched the African Carbon Markets Initiative in November 2022. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Africa currently produces only a small percentage of its carbon credit potential, showing the great opportunity to explore the area under the shared climate change agenda. The policy aims to create employment in Africa and help sustain a carbon credit market with a particular focus on Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCMs), which are crucial for African economic development and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Road Map report shows the opportunity created by the use of VCMs to speed up Africa’s energy transition to clean energy and proper commercialization of its natural assets. 

The ACMI focuses its goals: producing 300 million carbon credits annually by 2030, creating 1.5 billion credits annually by 2050, unlocking US$6 billion in revenue by 2030 and over 120 billion by 2050 and to support 30 million jobs by 2030 and over 110 million jobs by 2050 on the overall contribution to actions against climate change. The ACMI is a collaboration between African leaders, climate change experts, the Global Energy Alliance for People and Plant (GEAPP), Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Ruto aims at using climate change as one of his key development tools to help achieve his goal of improving the lives of Kenyans. Collectively, Kenya, Gabon, Malawi, Mozambique, Togo, Nigeria and Burundi agreed to develop a country-carbon activation, where at COP27, $200 million was secured in advanced market commitments from global corporates.

Kenya’s participation in the ACMI allows it to access additional funding for internal climate change projects and although Kenya produces only a fraction of its total maximum annual potential, it is already a market leader, responsible for 23% of the value of carbon credit issuances in Africa. Kenya is also set to reap significant benefits of which a 350 million dollar communal fund to help tackle climate change, with support from the Nature, People and Climate (NPC) Investment Program to encourage sustainable forestry and water protection in Mt Elgon and Cherangany- Kitale- Trans-Nzoia county.

This Africa Carbon Market Initiative is a tool Ruto uses for development and improvements to make on the Kenyan economy to essentially improve the lives of Kenyans where international investment can be received and integrated into the Kenyan economy. This is in line with his governance goals of intentionally strengthening relations with countries offering mutual economic development and success. This strategic shift moves away from the traditional foreign policy focused on prestige and politics, instead emphasising a strong commitment to fostering economic growth. Ruto’s speech at the launch of the ACMI at COP 27 holds great significance where efforts of Kenya being a green thinker and a climate change conscious country were seen internationally. This simultaneously helped Ruto publicise Kenya’s efforts to replace carbon with clean energy. Ruto further explains that the only way to actualize the vision of climate change through adopting clean green energy, appropriate carbon markets must exist to work for Kenyan and African communities for the prevention and mitigation of emissions, the protection of crucial ecosystems and the restoration of precious carbon sinks. 

Ruto’s stake in pursuing climate change policies as a development tool to improve the lives of Kenyans by collecting investment internationally and integrating it into the economy is precisely backed by the country’s support of the ACMI. Kenya has already sold 2.2 million carbon credits to Saudi Arabian companies. The proceeds generated through the auction is to help fund Ruto’s major climate projects such as increasing the supply of clean cooking stoves to the community and his tree planting initiative. This is in line with his personal goals of enhancing Kenya’s bargaining power and negotiation skills for more favourable deals which would strategically position Kenya for greater economic benefits and cooperation on the global stage.

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

As well as the ACMI, Ruto developed a climate plan to ramp up renewable energy production, phasing out fossil fuels by 2030. This project aims at the production of electricity entirely generated by solar, wind and geothermal energy by 2030. Although the policy is currently solely national, Ruto has called for other African states to join, stating that “Africa can lead the world” and eventually become the green factory of the world. The policy’s foundations lay in Ruto’s belief that Kenya has great potential for renewable energy, and that reducing the cost of such technologies would make it the most viable energy source. However, controversies have arisen from the conflict between Ruto’s aim for hydropower energy while Kenya is currently battling the severe drought in East Africa. Kenya’s former Meteorological Department head, Evans Mukolwe, emphasises that geothermal and solar power may be the answer to this presidential goal.

Ruto’s role as the Chair of a committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change meeting- the highest decision making body in Africa on climate issues, has enabled a collaboration structure of which he appointed Joseph Ng’ang’a -the CEO of the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet as CEO of the Africa Climate Summit that will take place in the country’s capital from 4th to 6th September 2023. . Ruto also hopes to attend the COP28 in Dubai in November 2023 to help bring world leaders, policy makers, experts and the private sector together in the climate change battle with the help of the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) to accelerate the creation of clean energy for all. In sum, President Ruto and Dr. Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the UAE, agree that the Africa Climate Action Summit and the upcoming COP28 will indeed be important milestones. 

Taking a closer look at how this climate policy would impact Kenya, Ruto asserts that the country is firmly advancing towards a greener future with a strong commitment to clean energy. This transformative shift would not only encourage employment opportunities but also foster the growth of local economies and pave the way for sustainable industrialization. The focal point lies in promoting innovation and modern techniques, thereby offering the youth in Kenya ample opportunities to acquire valuable skills and expertise in this new found sector. This is without doubt that the creation of clean green energy comes with a substantial cost, but Kenya possesses great potential in this field. It is notable that Kenya’s geothermal energy potential alone holds the capacity to achieve a noteworthy GHG emission of up to 14 MtCO2e (metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent) by the year 2030. Furthermore, wind and solar energy sources exhibit promising prospects, with the potential to contribute approximately 1.4 MtCO2e and 1.0 MtCO2e, respectively, in emissions reduction during the same period. 

This climate plan would help Ruto achieve his climate goal of scaling up clean cooking technologies and use of clean energy. Through forestation, the creation of renewable resources such as biomass and bioenergy from organic material like wood would be a better substitute for fossil fuels previously used. Simultaneously through his tree planting initiative to be later explained, the absorption of carbon dioxide in the trees contributes to the store as biomass.

With a strong inclination to climate policy from his early career as Minister of Agriculture and an emphasis of climate change as a key component of the government agenda, Ruto expressed his need for collaboration with African leaders. With a goal of creating a green hub continent to promote infrastructural development, economic improvement and higher standards of living with low food prices, his emphasis lies in cultivating sustainable industries to plant 15 million trees within 3 years. Furthermore, his endeavour to ‘green Kenya’ and achieve a 30% forest cover by 2032 plays a pivotal role in carbon sequestration efforts and the promotion of renewable energy initiatives. By strategically restoring and expanding forested areas, Kenya can harness the natural potential of its ecosystems to reinforce its renewable energy capacity, ranging from bioenergy sources from sustainably managed forests to solar power generation enhanced by improved energy storage solutions.

National Tree Planting Initiative

On the 22nd of December, 2022, Ruto launched the National Tree Planting Initiative (NTPI), which aims to plant 15 billion trees by 2032 and restore 5.1 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes. In order to do so, the Kenyan government plans to recruit an additional 2,700 forest rangers and 600 forest officers – bolstering the protection of Kenya’s forests. The initiative was launched in response to the cycle of recurring droughts the country experienced in recent years. Ruto stated that the ultimate goal toward socio-economic transformation and the achievement of the SDGs was greening Kenya to more than 30% of tree cover by 2032, a task which the NTPI aims to realise. 

The NTPI is not the first large-scale landscape restoration project conducted in Africa– both the Green Legacy Initiative (GLI) and the Green Wall Initiative (GWI) are previous initiatives that achieved questionable degrees of success and however, served as inspirational cases for the NTPI. In 2019, Ethiopia launched the GLI, which aimed to re-green the country by planting 20 billion trees by 2022. However, the initiative’s success rate is unclear because trees were unknowingly planted in land inappropriate to sustain them, leading to below par survival rates. The 2007 African Union GWI is another example of the restoration of degraded landscapes that helps contextualise the prospects of the NTPI. The GWI aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. As of 2020, only 20 million hectares had been restored and 350,000 of the promised 10 million jobs created.

From 2001 to 2022, Kenya’s tree cover decreased by 375kha, meaning that the country’s tree cover decreased by 11% since the year 2000. The NTPI is a policy aimed to counter the deforestation Kenya suffers from and mitigate its effects all the while increasing the amount of carbon dioxide Kenya’s forests capture.  

The NTPI helps solidify Ruto’s position as a leader that takes initiative against the negative impacts of climate change, which has caused droughts, floods, and an onslaught of diseases in Kenya. At the time the initiative was launched (one month after COP27), it also aided his public perception. Kenya was already in the international spotlight following Ruto’s attendance and speeches at COP27, and the launch of this initiative one month after the conference led to wide international appraisal, scrutiny, and admiration. 

Ruto’s beliefs and position as a climate conscious leader are seen through he NTPI. Ruto advocates for climate change mitigation policies on behalf of the people of Kenya, arguing that although Kenya is a minimal emitter of greenhouse gas and is not a significant contributor to global warming, it faces critical environmental consequences. With this initiative, Ruto has the opportunity to, as he stated, “lead the world and show that [Kenya] does not need to destroy the climate to prosper”. 

Agricultural policy → Fertiliser Subsidy Programme (FSP)

On the 20th of September, 2022, Ruto launched the Fertiliser Subsidy Programme (FSP), whose main objective is to lower the price of a 50kg bag of fertiliser from the then current market price of Ksh 6,500 to Ksh 3,500. This would be done by importing 1.5 million 50kg bags and distributing them at the lower cost of Ksh 3,500, with the government paying the difference of Ksh 3,000per 50kg bag. The policy introduced by Ruto relies on the Ksh 3.55 billion subsidy provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives that applies to 71,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser, which would support 1.4 million acres of land. Respectively, each registered FSP farmer is entitled to a maximum of 100 bags of fertiliser per season depending on the registered acreage of land they own. 

Figure 4: Approved Fertiliser Selling Prices Per 50kg Bag 

The Agricultural sector plays a significant role in the livelihood of Kenyans. About 80% of Kenya’s population lives in rural areas and is both directly and indirectly affected by the agricultural sector. The sector employs around 40% of the total population and around 70% of the rural population. 

Food security in Kenya has worsened as a result of climate change induced environmental disasters, with the number of undernourished Kenyan people increasing from 10.2 million in 2004-2006 to 14.6 million in 2016-2018. The FSB would help mitigate the negative effects on livelihoods and decrease the national level of food insecurity and shortages by making fertiliser more widely available to counties that plant in the short rain season. Moreover, Ruto argues that the cost of living challenges Kenya faces are related to production– while Kenya requires 52 million bags of maize annually, current production stands at 40 million bags. This forces the country to import 12 million bags to cover the deficit, which is expensive for most families. Reducing the domestic price of fertiliser would boost its use and contribute to an increase in food supply – increasing food security. In the long term, Ruto’s goal is to eliminate the need for fertiliser subsidies and decrease Kenyan dependency on imported fertilisers. To do so, he plans on creating a joint East African manufacturing operation.

The Fertiliser Subsidy Programme is a vital policy in Ruto’s domestic agenda as it focuses on improving the lives of Kenyans who are suffering from food insecurity as a result of climate change induced environmental disasters. The programme has also been prioritised by the current government because of its prospects of increasing productivity and printing down the cost of living in Kenya, all the while making the nation food secure.

Ruto is one of Kenya’s largest maize farmers; as such, he represents the position of farmers across the country and personally relates to the fertiliser shortage issues many are facing. During his presidential campaign, farmers and local vegetable market sellers supported Ruto as he “is the only one who understands the issues of (us) farmers”, stating that “we are hopeful that Mr Ruto will take the presidency and reinstate our position in the country”. His social position as a prominent farmer justifies his ambition to push for not only the FSP, but for the reduction in fertiliser imports, which would improve the livelihoods of farmers.

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: Chiara Cassina and Ruby Wanjikũ Gachara

Editor: Michael Duffy

Project Lead: Joshua Dario Hasenstab


The shared Account of RAIA members and Alumni