Athletics Kenya on 13th August 2021 became the first national athletics federation to join World Athletics as a signatory of the United Nations Climate Change (UNFCCC) UN Sport for Climate Action (S4CA) Framework. The objective of the initiative is for sports organisations to help implement the Paris Agreement and to accelerate the transformative change needed to reach greenhouse gas neutrality in the second half of the twenty first century.

World Athletics

On 1November 2021, the federation committed to the UNFCCC’s principles and values related to collaboration, education and advocacy for climate action.

Athletics Kenya President Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei has noted that we are already seeing the devastating impact of climate change in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. We all have an important role to play and the time to start doing our part is now.

Kenya has a rich tradition in advocating for the environment. The late Prof. Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement that contributed to the planting of more than 30 million trees, became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. In 2017, Kenya banned single-use plastics and was an early signatory to the Clean Seas initiative.

It has been witnessed in the recent past how climate change is affecting the sport of athletics and the athletes. At the US Olympic Trials in Oregon, a heatwave of record high temperatures forced the postponement of several morning events sessions. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Sapporo, the heat forced a change to the start of the women’s marathon. In Tokyo, itself, trackside temperatures reached 41 (Celsius) between sessions. And that is all alongside the deadly wildfires, floods and storms that are taking place in different parts of the world.

Science has also shown that we can still prevent the worst of the climate crisis but leaders in sport, must act now. We must use the influence that athletics and athletes have to advocate for a more sustainable future.

Athletics Kenya’s commitment to UNFCCC was welcomed by Ms. Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, Sports for Climate Action lead at UN Climate Change Office. World Athletics signed on to the Framework on Earth Day earlier in 2021. It joined more than 200 other international federations, leagues, clubs and event organizers in a pledge to take collective action to limit global warming to 1.5 C degrees rise, the levels agreed in Paris during the COP 21 Climate Change Conference in 2015.

By agreeing to the Framework, this has underlined Athletics Kenya’s broader approach as outlined in the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy, a ten-year road map unveiled in April 2020 whose goals include transitioning to carbon neutrality across all of its operations and events by 2030.

United Nations recognizes that global carbon reductions required to meet the targets agreed to in Paris of net zero emission economy by 2050 cannot be met by governments alone. Meeting the scale of the immense challenge requires action from all sectors, including sport. With a global reach that includes a fan base in the billions and a unique power to inspire, sport is well positioned to help drive global climate action. More than 1.4 billion people around the planet run regularly, this is  particularly true for the sport of athletics.

Responding to the IPCC[AA1]  report, UN Climate Change office stated that:

“Unless there are rapid, sustained and large-scale reductions of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, methane and others, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C compared to pre-industrial levels, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement, will be beyond reach. This assessment of the latest science is a severe warning regarding the well-being of human society and all life on earth. It is testimony to the fact that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades have been absolutely insufficient.”