As a nationwide tree planting got underway on Monday, President William Ruto was holed up in a meeting at State House with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Haimanot Teferra who was accompanied by its Resident Representative Selim Chakir.
Dr Ruto’s meeting with the IMF team on the same day Kenyans observed a ‘tree-planting holiday’ was however not by accident according to sources.
Insiders said the ‘tree-planting holiday’ was part of Kenya's strategy to register its commitment to a multi-billion-shilling deal with the IMF about three months ago on climate change mitigation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Having the tree planting day to coincide with the IMF mission’s visit was important in terms of registering Kenya’s commitment to a climate change financing deal agreed some months back,” a senior source said.
On July 17, the IMF Executive Board announced it had approved Kenya’s request for a facility of about $551.4 million (Sh83.89 billion) to support an ambitious effort to build resilience to climate change.
Under this deal, Kenya committed to increasing its forest cover to more than 10.6 million hectares, up from the current 7.2 million as part of an emissions reduction target.
“The government has introduced a programme to increase tree cover to 10.6 million hectares, up from the current level of 7.2 million hectares,” the IMF said in a disclosure.
“Based on an analysis of restoration potential, this new target is achievable and could position Kenya to not only meet its NDC (National Determined Contribution) commitments but also use landscape restoration to move closer to a net-zero target and potentially offer carbon credits on international markets,” it said.
A July 30, 2023 assessment letter by the World Bank, however, pointed out that several key measures are needed to ensure that forest restoration results in sustainable gains, including improving agricultural productivity, lowering demand for biomass-based energy for cooking, boosting the security of tenure, and putting in place incentives and mobilising financing for these activities including via carbon markets.
“With respect to biomass-based energy, a more concerted and accelerated effort is needed to transition households to more sustainably produced and cleaner fuel options. Kenya’s reforestation efforts also require improved agricultural practices as the conversion of forests for agricultural expansion and livestock grazing significantly contribute to forest degradation,” the letter said.
“Integration of climate considerations into the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy 2019–29 can augment the agriculture sector’s resilience and productivity while contributing to Kenya’s emissions reduction target,” it added.
It also pointed out that Kenya should ensure that emerging and expanding cities maintain a low-carbon footprint as a priority in its climate change mitigation agenda.
The Bretton Woods institution further said Kenya would benefit from developing a comprehensive national urban transport policy framework that can define the government’s role in public transport management, address a clear direction to manage urban mobility and guide the financing framework for urban mobility.
“Furthermore, a low-carbon development path should be well articulated in the updated National Integrated Transport Policy. Availability of green and reliable public transport system and safe and secured walking environment in urban areas will have a strong impact on GHG reductions,” the World Bank said in its assessment letter.
“Low-carbon transport system in urban areas should prioritise developing an integrated multi-modal public transport system and network/ improving public transport and non-motorised transport (sidewalk and bicycle lane), shifting from a car-centric to people-centric approach. Adopting battery electric vehicles (BEV) in conjunction with the development of mass rapid transit will contribute significantly to Kenya’s decarbonization agenda.”
In addition to the transport sector, it urged Kenya to make efforts to apply low-carbon approaches in supplying affordable housing in urban areas as another priority. “Importantly, more resilient, and greener cities will require high levels of human, technical, and financial resources and should ensure they institutionalize knowledge and support participatory governance,” it further said.
Kenya is ranked among countries highly vulnerable to climate-induced natural disasters amid a wide-ranging climate model forecast that showed that Kenya’s mean temperature would increase substantially without decarbonisation.
Rains or precipitation, in contrast, is forecast to fluctuate significantly.
The World Bank pointed out that climate change is already a source of significant risk for Kenya with estimates suggesting that more than 70 percent of natural disasters in the country are attributable to extreme climatic events.
“These include major droughts that occur every ten years, and moderate droughts or floods every three to four years. The repeating patterns of floods and droughts in the country have had devastating socio-economic impacts,” it said.
“For example, the 2008–11 drought, is estimated to have cost Kenya US$12.1 billion(Sh1.84trillion), including US$0.8 billion(Sh121.7billion) from the destruction of physical and durable assets and US$11.3 billion(Sh1.7trillion) from losses across all sectors of the economy (Kenya Post Disaster Needs Assessment 2008–11 Drought)” the multilateral lender said.