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‘Don’t overlook the role of juniors in climate change mitigation efforts’ – Kenyan young environmentalist

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Karen Wanjiru Kimani, a young African ambassador for the environment, has called for policies that will encourage young people to participate in protecting the planet, including through climate change mitigation.

The Kenyan-born 10-year-old environmentalist said: “As future generations, it is important that we are not overlooked in some of the programs or activities regarding protecting the planet. Our leaders must catch us young. After all, we will be the ones to gain or suffer tomorrow as a result of the policies and actions being implemented today.”

Karen, who has received many awards for her efforts to protect the environment, including through planting trees, was speaking ahead of the African Development Bank Group’s 2023 Annual Meetings, to take place in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh from 22 to 26 May

The event has the theme Mobilizing Private Sector Financing for Climate and Green Growth in Africa.

The meetings will offer the Bank Group’s Governors and global businesspeople and investors the opportunity to share experiences of mobilizing domestic and international private sector funds, including harnessing Africa’s natural capital, to close the climate financing gap and advance the transition to green growth in Africa.

The meetings also provide African governments a forum to discuss the nature and level of support they need from development partners, such as the African Development Bank Group, to achieve their climate ambitions.

Karen expressed the hope that the meetings would yield “tangible outcomes.”

“Africa’s contribution to global climate change is very small, but the continent suffers the most,” she said. “Our countries need much more money to fight climate change and protect the planet. So, I want to hear about more action when they meet; we have heard enough of talking.”

Karen has won several awards locally and internationally for her tree-planting efforts—she has planted more than 10,000 tree seedlings to date—and other environmentally friendly actions. These include the MTM Environmental Excellence Award, Bristol, United Kingdom; and winner of Kenya’s 2022 Green Kid Awards for children that have impacted nature through climate change and environmental protection actions.  She was also recognized by the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation jointly during COP27 in Egypt.

“Protecting the natural environment is a nice thing. It has beautiful trees and flowers that give us life,” says Karen, who started planting trees at age four.

She plans to open a factory that will produce biodegradable bottles.

According to estimates, Africa has lost between 5 percent and 15 percent of per capita GDP growth from 1986 through 2015 due to climate change-related impacts.

The African Development Bank projects that, without strong climate change policies, Africa could lose as much as 12 percent of GDP by 2100, depending on different scenarios. This is compared with losses of less than one percent each for the United States and the European Union, and no more than five percent for China.

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