Two Years and Counting: Bringing the Vision of Transport and Climate Change to Life in Kenya

This article is part of our #StoriesofChange where we profile the work of our partner countries in developing climate actions in transport. Read more #StoriesOfChange and follow the Hashtag on Twitter.

Interview with Martin Eshiwani, Director of Road and Rail Transport Services, State Department of Transport

For about two years, GIZ has been cooperating with Kenya’s State Department of Transport and its state agencies to implement the “Advancing Transport Climate Strategies(TraCS) project. The joint objective in Kenya is to institutionalize climate change related functions necessary for designing and monitoring a sectoral climate change strategy. Carol Mutiso spoke with Martin Eshiwani, Director of Road and Rail Transport Services, State Department of Transport and the official focal person in the TraCS project.

Currently, Mr. Eshiwani’s duties include road and rail transport policy review; representing the Ministry of Transport in the board of the National Transport and Safety Authority, the commercial motorcycle task force recently constituted to develop a framework of improving operations of motorcycles in Kenya, and he was a member of the National Climate Change Action Plan taskforce, among others. As you can imagine no typical day is like the next one. But generally, since Kenya’s government setup is based on performance contracts he has targets to meet every year. He monitors staff performance, attends meetings with partners and responds to all road and rail issues raised by transport stakeholders.

So, I became curious to know when climate change first came to his attention in the context of his day-to-day work in the State Department of Transport. According to Mr. Eshiwani, “Climate change has always been a topic of concern since the times we heard about the Kyoto protocol way back in the late 1990s. The consciousness about the topic was there but the direct involvement of the State Department of Transport only started through the TraCS project in 2016.” He proceeded to explain that the Government of Kenya had already made progress regarding climate change before TraCS, of course. For instance, the Climate Change Act 2016, which requires every State Department to establish a climate change unit, had already been in place. However, the Climate Change Act is still in the process of being operationalized and the State Department of Transport is only now beginning to become more engaged in climate policy making.

Mr. Eshiwani plays the role of a coordinator of the newly set up climate change coordination unit for the transport sector. The transport sector in Kenya is managed under different agencies. To ensure each transport mode (road, rail, air and maritime) is represented officers from relevant agencies are part of this coordination unit. The decision of Mr. Eshiwani to head the unit was reached on the basis that road transport is the largest source of transport sector emissions and therefore as the representative of road transport he should oversee the climate change related work. According to the 2010 second National Communication, the transport sector accounted for 14% (7 MtCO2-eq) of total national emissions (70 million tonnes CO2-eq), most of which originate from road transport. The emissons are expected to increase sharply until 2030 if nothing is done to counteract the trend. Under the framework of TraCS members of the climate unit have discussed and agreed current priority actions to mitigate emissions in the sector.

The process of institutionalizing climate change has come with its share of challenges. As Mr. Eshiwani noted, all officers assigned to the climate change unit from the relevant agencies have other roles and targets to meet. In other words, the issue of climate change is subsidiary. In addition, the financial challenge is a major concern to the State Department of Transport. Despite raising awareness with the National Treasury, financial allocation for the climate change unit is yet to be done. As per the legal framework in place (Climate Change Act 2016), for each State Department to have a functional climate change unit allocating funds for climate change is inevitable. Securing funds from the existing budget within the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works is yet to be made possible. The Ministry has already allocated an office for the climate change coordination unit, but requests for additional resources are competing with other core transport functions. Adequate trained personnel for the unit is yet another bottleneck, closely linked to the lack of resources. Capacity development through TraCS is ongoing and climate change functions have already been entered into the performance contract of the unit’s desk officer, Esther Gacanja. Until dedicated staff for the unit can be hired a GIZ advisor provides the required technical support, working in the Ministry for several days per week.

Mr. Eshiwani and I reminisced about the TraCS project since the first inception workshop and I asked his view on what he sees as the greatest success so far. He said the issue of transport and climate change has been highlighted well through the TraCS project and has become more prominent. Most significant has been capacity building through workshops and study tours organized by GIZ, which has enabled officers to understand what can be done to reduce emissions.

On what needs to be done to increase the pace of emission reductions in Kenya’s transport sector, Mr. Eshiwani said, “we should strive to achieve the NDC target through the set-out measures in our National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-2022, such as implementing a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Nairobi as planned or shifting passengers and freight from road to rail. We should also popularize e-mobility and for this to happen we need to have clear incentives to make electric motorcycles and electric vehicles more affordable.” Mr. Eshiwani initiated the process of developing standards for electric vehicles and motorcycles in Kenya. “I am very passionate about electric mobility”, he said. The Ministry of Transport is actively pursuing the issue to ensure these standards are in place.

It was also noted that the operationalization of standard gauge railway (SGR) between Mombasa and Nairobi has significantly reduced the number of trucks on the road. 12,000 to 16,000 tonnes are transported to Nairobi daily. This translates to an average of 300 trucks off the road through the 6-8 cargo trains currently running per day. There are plans to increase to 12 cargo trains per day. Shifting freight to rail is one of the priority mitigation actions, which are already being implemented. Based on the mitigation potential calculations done in the TraCS project, the saving potential of this shift could be significantly increased if the standard gauge railway was electrified as planned. In the meantime, the highest emission reduction potential lies in efficiency improvements of truck freight transportation (0.91 MtCO2e against the baseline in 2030).

To sum up the two years of cooperation, Mr. Eshiwani said, “the climate change coordination unit is now more informed and better placed to report its GHG emissions. As a sector, we have managed to set up sector specific targets to reduce emissions. This is as captured in the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-2022, translating to the first steps which have been taken to decarbonize the transport sector. Kenya is yet to realize the Paris goal of a full decarbonization and as a department my wish is that we realize our outlined targets as we continue to cooperate with German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU).”

Thank you Martin Eshiwani!

Disclaimer! The responses given are individual views expressed, they do not reflect the opinions of the contributor’s institution.


Carol Mutiso