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Climate change: How Nairobi is building framework for good, green jobs

Cities around the world are taking action to tackle the climate crisis through a variety of measures, covering areas such as water security, waste management, building emissions, air pollution, transport and urban planning. A concerted effort on all these fronts is essential if the world is to meet the 1.5°C target set out by the Paris Agreement.

In the process, we will create millions of good green jobs that will deliver huge quality of life gains for millions of people, especially the most vulnerable among us, and secure a brighter and more prosperous future for the world’s cities.

Good green jobs not only secure stable employment for millions, but they also reduce air pollution and deliver billions in health-related economic benefits. C40 research has found that creating 50 million good green jobs would result in the creation of 30% more jobs compared with today’s “business-as-usual” economic approach. It would also slash air pollution by up to 30 per cent and deliver $280 billion of health-related economic benefits in C40 cities.

With the Kenyan government committing to delivering 100% renewable energy by 2030 and renewable energy already accounting for almost 90 per cent of the energy generated in this country, Nairobi recognises that training the next generation of skilled renewable energy workers is key to ensuring the transition away from fossil fuels is equitable and leaves no one behind.

Our city’s efforts also demonstrate how meaningful climate action can benefit a city’s natural ecology, provide significant quality of life gains for residents, boost health and tackle the climate crisis.

Through our Climate Action Plan (CAP), Nairobi has committed to a short-term goal of reducing emissions by 23 per cent by 2025, and a long-term goal of 66 per cent emissions reduction by 2050. Our ambitious target is for Nairobi to become carbon-neutral by 2050. To meet these goals, we are pulling out all the stops — and we’re already seeing change happen.

One example of the pioneering work we are doing to create good green jobs is our efforts to regenerate the Nairobi river, where we are leveraging nature-based solutions to deliver meaningful flood-mitigation measures. Our efforts have yielded a total of 3,500 green jobs and we are on track to achieve our target of planting 1 million trees by 2032. An additional 3,000 support staff will be recruited and assigned to various environmental restoration efforts, together with 1,000 environmental enforcement officers and 100 technical staff.

We also recognise that we must be more intentional about who gets access to good green jobs. Reskilling, upskilling, and training programmes are part of how we build more social equity and address systemic barriers to high-quality jobs among youth, migrants, and women. Nairobi County has continually worked to create a better ethnically balanced workforce, and in all recruitment we are committed to at least 51% of those jobs going to women.

Nairobi’s CHOICE Innovation Center provides youth employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for migrants, refugees and internally displaced individuals. Backed by the Mayors Migration Council’s Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees (GCF), the centre is set to train over 100 young people to enter the green jobs market and help to incubate ten green start-ups in its first few months of operation. These businesses will be responsible for cleaning up the Nairobi River, introducing environmentally-friendly production methods, and raising awareness on climate-friendly practices and behaviours through youth-friendly platforms on social media, radio and television.

Another youth-oriented project, the Turn Up the Green Jobs initiative, developed by Challenge Fund Youth Employment (CFYE), is helping agro-processor Meru Greens Horticulture to create 700 good green jobs for Kenyan youth. They are achieving this through reskilling to close training gaps, along with making processing work readily available to improve the availability and quality of rural jobs.

Renewable energy already represents over 80% of the country’s electricity and Nairobi is working hard to cover the remaining 20 per cent through partnerships for building and renovating infrastructure that will expand capacity to generate geothermal, solar, and wind power. Through the UKAID Climate Action Implementation Programme, and with the support of C40, Nairobi is in the process of identifying a framework for the deployment of renewable energy solutions and energy efficiency interventions at city markets in Nairobi City County, which can be scaled and implemented elsewhere. C40 research shows that renewable energy can create 70% more jobs than fossil gas power plants and representation of women in the renewable energy sector is already 10% higher than in the fossil fuel sector.

These are signs of real progress on green jobs across the continent too. However, we must remember that driving social and environmental change demands a few key elements.

Firstly, cities need committed funding and decision-making power to push initiatives forward and fulfill the promises of an inclusive, just transition. Nairobi is meeting this goal by creating a bill that would ensure our ability to attract climate finance is embedded in law. This will send a strong signal to funders and investors that Nairobi is committed to meeting its climate targets. The Nairobi Climate Change Steering Committee is also responsible for ensuring that the CAP’s priorities are captured across all city sectors.

Secondly, we need earnest and collaborative dialogue between communities, municipal leaders, and national agencies in order to build actionable frameworks for change. We also need collaboration between — and investment from — the public and private sectors. Working together now to build circular economies that hinge on equitable access to fairly compensated green jobs will leave us better equipped to tackle the climate emergency in the long run.

In Nairobi, we’re continuously working on building a more sustainable future — environmentally, economically, and socially. We call on governments, the private sector and cities across the C40 network and beyond to join us in recognising the crucial role good green jobs play in securing a climate-safe and prosperous future for our cities and residents.

Sakaja is the Governor of Nairobi County and the Vice-Chair of C40 Steering Committee.