Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment Water and Natural Resources, Professor Judi Wakhungu; UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas; Dr. Richard Lesiyampe; Fellow development partners; Distinguished guests; Waheshimiwa, Mabibi na Mbwana, Hamjambo! Habari zenu?
It is an honor to be here this morning. Today, the United States and Kenya join hands to reaffirm our joint commitment to the fight against climate change. Today, we take action that will help us avert a worldwide climate catastrophe. Today, we launch a joint three-year project to help Kenya achieve its goal of low-carbon, sustainable economic growth and development.
In his 1963 address to the United Nations, U.S. President John F. Kennedy said, “Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment.” That capacity, of course, can cut both ways. What we do can alter the environment for good… or for ill. And our actions will reverberate across time, having a profound impact on the state of the world in ten, twenty, and even one hundred years.
For some time now, the science has been clear. Humanity, through its own actions, is changing the world’s climate. Temperatures are increasing. Sea levels are rising. Storms are growing in intensity. In Kenya, the droughts have been longer and deeper, flooding has been more extreme, lake levels are receding, rivers and wetlands are drying up. Devastating regional droughts have demonstrated Kenya’s vulnerability to climate change: the number of Kenyans requiring food assistance rose from 650,000 in 2007 to almost 3.8 million in 2009/2010.
Extreme climate events have also led to displacement of communities resulting in conflict over resources. And, disease is spreading. Highland malaria is now more common as a result of the increase in temperatures. According to the National Climate Change Strategy, extreme climate events in Kenya could cost the country as much as $500 million a year. These are costs that no country can afford. They are burdens Kenya does not need as it climbs the ladder of development, as it seeks to realize the goals of Vision 2030.
Collectively, we must all be stewards of our environment. Countries, across the globe, need innovative and ambitious efforts to tackle the daunting impacts of climate change. This is why President Obama has made addressing the problem of climate change a priority domestically and internationally. Under his leadership, the U.S. government has set strong new goals for our own CO2 emissions and has redoubled efforts with partner countries such as Kenya. Just last Friday, President Obama announced a new $3 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund. By financing investments that help countries reduce carbon pollution and strengthen resilience to climate change, the GCF will leverage public and private finance to help avoid some of the most catastrophic risks of climate change.
In 2009, the United States and Kenya both signed the Copenhagen Accord committing us to “green,” low-emissions development. That Accord led directly to the initiative we are launching today on Enhancing Capacity for Low Emissions Development, or EC-LEDS. Under this project, the United States commits over $7.2 million, or Ksh650 million, to further Kenya’s goal of low-carbon, sustainable economic growth and development. Through our EC-LEDS initiative, the United States government is working in partnership with 20 countries to accelerate economic growth while slowing the rate of greenhouse gas emissions. And, Kenya is a priority partner for the United States.
The project we are launching is anchored in the Government of Kenya’s own strong commitment to the fight against climate change and its ambitious goals for low-carbon growth and climate change adaptation. I would like to extend my congratulations to His Excellency President Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretary Professor Judi Wakhungu and to the entire Ministry for their outstanding leadership on climate change and the environment. Kenya’s first climate change bill, which would set serious goals for tackling the global climate change threat, is impressive.
In fact, this new project is the brain-child of the Government of Kenya, designed by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in partnership with several other ministries. The United Nations Development Program also served as a core facilitator, with private sector, civil society and academic partners actively engaged at many levels. I would also like to congratulate Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas for the United Nations Development Program’s partnership with USAID and for contributing technical and financial support to this project.
So, what will this project actually do? It will directly assist with the implementation of Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan, and support Kenya’s efforts in the lead-up to the Conference of the Parties next year in Paris under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It will help Kenya create a Greenhouse Gas Inventory. It will help improve coordination of climate change activities; it will support establishment of a Climate Change Council and other bodies; provide training through the Kenya School of Government for climate change modelers and decision makers; improve access to clean energy by promoting solar lanterns and other technologies; develop Minimum Energy Performance Standards for equipment; and much more.
The United States is pleased to join Kenya in this new initiative that will take important steps to help protect our planet. This initiative is, of course, just one of the many partnerships the United States has with Kenya.
Kenya is a focus country for many American initiatives including Power Africa, Trade Africa, and the Doing Business in Africa Campaign. Kenya’s selection as a regional hub for each of these initiatives, and as the site of today’s new project, is a sign of the importance we place on the US-Kenya partnership.
That partnership is now 50 years strong and continuing to grow. It is a partnership founded on our shared values, including a commitment to democracy, freedom, and market-led prosperity. And, it is a partnership strengthened by our shared determination to combat climate change, build resilient “green” economies, and ensure good stewardship of our planet. The project we launch today will help take our common commitment on climate change from vision to reality. It will help build a brighter future for Kenyans and Americans, and, most importantly, for our children.
Pamoja tusonge mbele.