Kenya’s President William Ruto has earned a spot on Time Magazine’s prestigious list of the world’s 100 most influential leaders actively shaping global climate action. This recognition coincides with President Ruto’s leadership during a national holiday dedicated to planting 100 million trees in a single day.
Time’s “Time 100 Climate” ranking, released on Thursday, is a landmark effort by the magazine to acknowledge individuals significantly contributing to addressing climate change on a global scale. The list includes not only President Ruto but also Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, along with Burkinabé-German architect Francis Kéré and Ethiopian climate entrepreneur Kidus Asfaw.
The selection criteria for “Time 100 Climate” focused on individuals who have made substantial progress in the fight against climate change, with a specific emphasis on creating business value. Time Magazine highlighted that the honorees were chosen for their recent efforts, leading to measurable and scalable achievements, rather than mere commitments and announcements.
President Ruto’s commitment to combating the impact of climate change in Kenya and Africa has been vocal. The tree-planting holiday on November 13, where Kenya aimed to plant 100 million trees, is part of his broader ambition for the country to plant 15 billion trees within a decade. In September, he hosted the first-ever Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, concluding with a joint declaration urging major polluters to allocate more resources to support less affluent nations.
Despite these efforts, some environmentalists have criticized President Ruto for his stance on illegal logging in public forests. An environmental court recently halted a directive he issued in June to lift a 2018 ban on logging. Additionally, his call for the eviction of people from the Mau Forest faced criticism from human rights lawyers, who argued that it resulted in the illegal eviction of the Ogiek indigenous community.
The recognition of President Ruto as a leader in climate action coincides with the World Bank’s warning that Kenya’s economic output could decline by 7.25% by 2050 if the country does not effectively address climate change.
Architect Francis Kéré, known for innovative sustainable design projects, and Kidus Asfaw, running a startup repurposing plastic waste into low-carbon construction materials, were also acknowledged by Time for their impactful contributions. Mayor Aki-Sawyerr received recognition for her efforts in addressing environmental degradation and climate resilience in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Time’s “Time 100 Climate” list serves as a testament to the growing global acknowledgment of leaders actively contributing to the fight against climate change and highlights the critical role individuals play in steering the world towards a sustainable future.