Investing in Renewable Energy in Kenya’s Rural Areas for a More Inclusive Transition to a Carbon-Neutral Economy

Energy is essential for economic development and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as climate change mitigation. Although the importance of energy in modern civilization is widely acknowledged, there is still a significant divergence between agreed-upon energy and climate objectives and the current means of achieving them.

In comparison to pre-industrial levels, the Paris Agreement anticipates a long-term aim of limiting global temperatures to far below 2 °C, preferably 1.5 °C. This ambition, however, is waning; net anthropogenic GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and climate devastation are continuing to rise, as evidenced at COP 26. All is not lost, however, as international economies continue to seek answers to the climate catastrophe; nonetheless, greater priority, investment, and tangible actions are urgently necessary.

Most countries have re-evaluated their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which indicate their plans to reduce future climate change. Kenya, for example, shared an upgraded NDC with the goal of reducing GHG emissions by 32 percent by 2030 compared to the BAU (business-as-usual scenario).

Several sectors, including energy, transportation, agriculture, and forestry, have been designated for emission reduction. Energy is in the lead, with a goal of reducing GHG emissions by 48.1 percent. This means that much work must be done in all sectors, particularly rural ones, to eliminate over-reliance on biomass and fossil fuels.

Most rural sections of the country are lagging behind urban areas in terms of development, particularly in the energy sector.

They have insufficient commercial energy intake and utilization to justify the necessary transmission and distribution investments.

In Kenya, for example, 90% of the rural population relies on firewood to meet their energy demands. As a result of the tremendous destruction of the ecosystem caused by the felling of numerous trees, desertification, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss are all contributing factors. It also leads to pollution and health issues such as COPD. As a result, developing renewable sources of energy in rural areas becomes a critical component of the country’s environmental sustainability agenda and effective execution of worldwide multilateral environmental agreements.

It’s also important for alleviating extreme poverty since it allows community members, notably smallholder farmers, to micro-process their farm produce for efficient storage and market values. Women’s workload is lightened as a result of the availability of renewable energies, and time spent bringing firewood can be spent on other development projects.

To speed up the country’s much-needed reforms toward carbon neutrality, the government must ensure that rural policies encompass energy consumption in households, transportation, and micro-processing, among other things. A fair shift to a net-zero economy in rural regions should also be supported, taking into account all factors such as community knowledge, local vulnerabilities and capacity, and adaptation financing availability.

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