International Convention Center Occupation. © Shayne Robinson
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Kenya has been severely hit by unseasonable heavy rains and an unprecedented infestation of locusts, that is devastating agricultural production. Heavy floods that are hitting the country have resulted in many losses including loss of lives, displacement of people and affected livelihoods. Scientific reports have indicated that the global climate crisis may be contributing to the unpredictable and extreme weather events in East Africa. President Kenyatta very much agrees that climate change is a real concern for Kenya and for Africa. To safeguard the lives of Kenyans and livelihoods from climate crisis effects, in 2018, President Kenyatta announced that Kenya would be moving to 100% green energy by 2020. Mid-way in 2020, we are still waiting for the government to implement the president’s promise.  

Instead, Kenya is still ambitious in investing in the Lamu coal power plant and Kitui coal mining. Reports have indicated how coal contributes to the global climate crisis. Kenya cannot be planning to invest in coal power plants and coal mining when globally coal technology is falling like a house of cards. Today, Kenyans need to be safeguarded from the already devastating impacts of the climate crisis- the frequent floods and droughts and to build resilience for their livelihoods. The government has a chance to protect Kenyans. The president’s commitment was well-intended and if kept, will help power multiple households and enterprises and empower communities.

Kenya has a chance to make the next move towards achieving 100% green energy this year and that is not harboring ambitions for coal investments. By investing in the abundant renewable energy potential, Kenya is able to improve its agricultural production and overcome the looming crisis. Solar energy will improve agricultural irrigation potential. Decentralised energy supply systems powered by huge solar and wind potential will facilitate farmers to increase shelf life for their produce through improved refrigeration capacity. Today, many farmers incur losses as a result of inadequate access to cold storage facilities.

Kenya needs to lead by example and leap over the degenerative coal stage in its development plans. Investing in the Lamu coal power plant and Kitui coal mining will pollute water resources that the people of Lamu and Kitui depend on for their livelihoods and survival. Coal plants and mines will contaminate our land and air.

It is important to recognize the challenge that Kenya is faced with; the challenge of sustainably expanding and improving energy supply and reliability for the majority of Kenyans who have no access to electricity in the rural areas. Kenya has exceptional renewable energy resources, particularly for solar, geothermal and wind. Investing in these abundant resources will not only provide opportunities for decentralised energy systems for the majority of Kenyans in the rural areas but, also contribute to building resilience against climate change impacts. It will also provide opportunities for Kenyans to improve their production, livelihoods and create employment opportunities.

Kenya is among the top 10 countries with the largest geothermal power capacity worldwide. According to the Ministry of Energy, renewable energy accounts for over 70% of Kenya’s installed capacity compared to the world average of 24%. The development of a coal power plant in Lamu and coal mining in Kitui will undermine Kenya’s strategic position as a leader in renewable energy. In addition, it will contradict Kenya’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and the President’s promise to transition to 100% green energy by 2020.

The Kenyan government needs to prioritise establishment of renewable energy policies that incentivise investments in decentralised renewable energy potential. For instance, community-owned renewable energy local micro-grids to support local community development initiatives. Kenya’s president made a promise to the people of Kenya to support these initiatives and ensure 100% green energy for Kenya by 2020. It is time to keep this promise by dropping ambitions for investing in the Lamu coal power plant and Kitui coal mining.

Amos Wemanya

Greenpeace Africa Campaigner