Africa’s Green Revolution: How Kenya is Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Elisha Kamau

The Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi has brought together African leaders to address the urgent need for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In this week-long summit, Kenya stands out as a frontrunner in championing green growth and climate finance solutions. Several recent developments underscore Kenya’s commitment to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] 13: Climate Action.

In December 2022, the world took notice of a Kenyan social entrepreneur, Charlot Magayi, who won the Earthshot Prize in the “clean our air” category. Her groundbreaking achievement was for her work in producing and distributing affordable, safer, and more sustainable clean cooking stoves to residents in slums. Magayi’s dream of expanding the use of these green stoves from 200,000 to one million customers within three years is gaining momentum.

Just last week, Kenya’s Senate passed the Climate Change [Amendment] Bill, 2023, which establishes regulations for the burgeoning global market of carbon credits. This legislation is a significant boost for social entrepreneurs like Magayi, who seek to tap into the $2 billion global carbon credit industry. It also presents an opportunity to transition millions of Kenyans still reliant on wood and charcoal fuels into cooking for credits.

The spotlight is now on Kenya as it hosts a prominent delegation of Africa’s leadership, comprising government officials, private sector representatives, multilateral development banks, and development partners for the Africa Climate Summit. The selection of Kenya as the host nation underscores its pivotal role in advancing the climate action agenda.

One of the summit’s key highlights is the ‘African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on a Green Growth and Climate Finance Agenda and Solutions for Africa and the World.’ This declaration is expected to include a framework for Carbon Credit Regulation among other commitments, setting the stage for sustainable green growth.

An African commitment to carbon credit rules will not only bolster Magayi’s Mukuru Clean Cooking stoves’ ambitious goal of reaching 10 million people across Africa but also create life-changing opportunities for women like her throughout the continent. Moreover, it will be a pivotal moment in reducing the millions of lives lost annually in Africa due to indoor air pollution resulting from traditional wood and charcoal fuels.

Household air pollution is a global crisis, as evidenced by data from the World Health Organization [WHO], which reported an estimated 3.2 million deaths in 2020, including over 237,000 child fatalities under the age of 5, attributable to it. Worldwide, approximately 2.4 billion people [around a third of the global population] still cook using open fires or inefficient stoves fueled by kerosene, coal, and wood.

In Africa, WHO surveys on the global burden of disease reveal that nearly 600,000 Africans die annually, and millions suffer from chronic illnesses due to air pollution resulting from inefficient and hazardous traditional cooking fuels and stoves.

The compelling story of Charlot Magayi resonates deeply because she has personally confronted these challenges and made it her mission to find solutions. A former charcoal trader in Nairobi’s sprawling Mukuru slum, she and her neighbors endured frequent respiratory infections. Her turning point came in 2012 when her daughter suffered severe burns from a charcoal-burning stove. Five years later, Magayi founded Mukuru Clean Stoves, which utilizes processed biomass from charcoal, wood, and sugarcane to produce cleaner and more affordable fuel. Today, she is leading a transformative movement recognized not only in Kenya but across Africa and globally.

As the Africa Climate Summit strives to deliver the Nairobi Declaration, we recognize that achieving the necessary long-term carbon emission reductions to avert a climate disaster is a monumental task. However, inspiring stories like Magayi’s illuminate the path forward, emphasizing the importance of addressing challenges at the local level.

While Kenya’s hosting of the continental climate summit may seem coincidental, recent developments highlight Kenya’s potential and leadership role in driving high-impact climate actions. These developments should not be overlooked in the ongoing discussions.

Two critical aspects that deserve attention are the inclusion of local representatives from the most vulnerable communities and the power of partnerships in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Incorporating local voices from communities severely affected by climate change provides invaluable insights into the challenges they face and the adaptive strategies they employ. This inclusion ensures that solutions are context-specific and effective.

The partnership between The Earthshot Prize and MultiChoice that catapulted Charlot Magayi’s life-changing venture onto the global stage illustrates the transformative power of collaboration. MultiChoice’s extensive reach across 50 countries, with 23.5 million households, amplifies the impact of initiatives like Magayi’s. The $1.2 million cash prize and government support through carbon credit regulations further empower such ventures to expand their reach and impact.

The Africa Climate Summit holds great promise for delivering a transformative declaration that lays the foundation for genuine emissions reduction. To fully appreciate the potential of this event, we must recognize its location and the diverse range of solutions it offers. The path to combatting climate change begins here, in Nairobi, where leaders are converging to chart a sustainable future for Africa and the world.

Elisha Kamau is the Public Relations Manager, MultiChoice Kenya

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