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By Brian Omenyi
Coordinator, Sustainable Energy Access Forum Kenya (SEAF-K)

At the first African Climate Summit in Nairobi last September, our continent’s leaders called for urgent international action on climate change.

Since then, extreme weather events have shown why we must redouble our efforts to tackle this climate emergency.

After deadly droughts and floods, this month brought news that 2.4 million Kenyan children are living in counties where climate dangers are extremely high. This should shock and trouble us all.

Widening access to clean energy is a powerful and effective response. One that helps farmers overcome drought with solar-powered irrigation, enables families to access early warning information about looming disasters, and supports healthcare for those in harm’s way. One that sets communities on the path to development, economic resilience and a low-carbon future.

Energy for all

Kenya is in many respects a leading nation in the development of clean power. But it is vital that the benefits of renewable energy reach all communities.

The challenge calls for action across borders, and across societies. Of course, wealthy nations and development banks must enact their climate funding commitments to the Global South, and ensure energy access is supported by international investment.

However, we must also make sure this increased funding reaches the organisations that actually put power in the hands of ordinary people. The businesses serving smallholder farmers. The NGOs helping women launch clean energy enterprises. The pioneers providing skills and training, or affordable loans.

Power Up is a campaign pursuing these goals – accelerating access to clean energy in Kenya and beyond – backed by Sustainable Energy Access Forum Kenya and many other organisations. It draws together civil society, the private sector, social enterprises, research and academia, innovating businesses and many other allies. Power Up works for investment and policy change by highlighting the potential of energy access, and how progress can be achieved.

We know there is interest in this message at the highest levels. At the launch of our Kenya-focused policy briefing in July 2023, the campaign was welcomed by government ministers. And on stage at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai in November, Power Up shared Kenyan perspectives on the clean energy challenge to a global audience.

Millions in energy poverty

But with millions of Kenyans still living in energy poverty, signs of interest must quickly be turned into action. And they can, if voices across society call for change.

Energy access is a bedrock of our economic development, as well as boosting the wellbeing of our people and protecting the planet we share. This is a relevant issue for every community, NGO, business, and government department. So I urge corporates and civil society leaders, campaigners and politicians, to explore how they can support Power Up – amplifying its messages, or becoming a partner in the growing Power Up coalition. For smaller organisations that may otherwise struggle to be heard by funders and policymakers, the campaign is a unique opportunity to win support and drive change.

Consider those 2.4 million children living in danger. Will their future be wrecked by climate crisis? Or will it be defined by new jobs, modern infrastructure, better healthcare and all the other benefits of access to clean energy? Now is the time to work together, and give that generation a brighter future. Join the campaign and be part of the change we desire.