Supporting Kenyans in the fight against coal country

Last week the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held its annual convening in Baku, Azerbaijan. I had the amazing honor of attending with the local Kenyan grassroots coalition deCOALonize, who are working tirelessly to stop the construction of a massive coal power plant in Lamu, a precious world heritage site in coastal Kenya and cradle of Swahili culture.

In Baku I gave a talk to assemblymen and ambassadors about the outdated economics and outsized impacts of coal, and about the many new renewable energy technology advances that exist in its place. There is now more and more academic literature to point to which identifies coal as a non-cost optimal solution for Kenya, which I was able to draw on for this talk, linking this to the similar case of the Ramphal coal power plant planned for Bangladesh. It was a successful talk — in fact, on the following Monday UNESCO called for Kenya to revise the Lamu Coal EIA, which if not submitted by February 2020 could see Lamu added to the list of world heritage sites in danger. The Guardian calls it a climate victory, though its only a small step and much more work is needed.

Though it was a busy week I was truly, genuinely, moved by the passion of the young people dedicating their careers to protecting their ideas of and hopes for Kenya. The stunning backdrop of Baku – equal parts homage to a medieval past and glistening glimpse into the future – was a timely reminder of why protecting spaces of cultural heritage is so critical and so relevant. Follow deCOALonize for updates and I’ll post more as the story unfolds.