Opening Remarks by Ibrahim Auma, County Minister, Green Nairobi at Climate and Clean Air Conference 2024

Good morning, everyone!

I'm delighted to see so many distinguished leaders in science, climate, government, business. and in environmental matters. Karibuni sana!

A very warm welcome to everyone, especially those visiting Nairobi for the first time. We're very pleased to have you with us.

We meet at a moment of peril and promise. On the one hand, we have recently celebrated the successful conclusion of the Africa Climate Summit. Leaders from Kenya, from across Africa, and from the rest of the world met and thought through a common African position.

I'll repeat what I said then:

First: we're delighted that they came up with a clear plan for Africa: when we go out to protect our planet and to preserve Africa's natural riches, we will now work from a clear, agreed, common plan.

Second: we're proud that it happened in Nairobi. Our city goes down in history as the place where Africa's climate fight turned.

But however promising our progress has been, I think everyone here knows that we're a very long way from winning the fight for clean air. clean water, and for a healthy planet.

All our work—the plans we have put together for clean air and a healthy planet—must actually be turned into action and institutions. Without that, the planet remains in peril, our air dirty, and our water undrinkable.

Ladies and gentlemen. we know from our own bitter experience. In the last few years, as Nairobi's economy has grown, we have seen a quite sharp rise in pollutants, and a decline in air quality. It's now showing up in our mortality, especially among children.

That means more children miss school, or have trouble playing, or have to go to hospital because they have breathed in diesel smoke. Our decisions—whether we reason carefully, and then stick to our commitments once agreed—make the difference for those children.

In our case, we knew the causes: many new cars, lax enforcement, the construction boom—all familiar.

That's why, ladies and gentlemen, my administration now constantly monitors Nairobi's pollution. That's why we have partnered with the Clean Air Fund; USAID, our long-term partners in protecting Nairobi's health; the Clean Air Catalyst Program; UNEP right here—all to enforce the air-quality monitoring that Nairobi deserves. We could see for ourselves what the costs of laxity and delay were: children whose lungs wouldn't let them play or learn. We committed to changing it. With luck, our commitment will change their lives.

I want, today, to ask you to do the same. Remember the real people who will be affected by your deliberations and decisions. Think through the problems of climate change and air quality carefully. And then, once you have made up your minds, hold fast to your decisions and lead the way for a better planet.

Whenever I'm thinking about these matters, I hold the memory of Wangari Maathai in my mind. However bleak things seemed, she was never daunted, she never stepped back, she never gave up. Her example is a gift. Let it inspire us today and in the days to come.

May your deliberations be fruitful.