Africa Climate Summit Concludes with Call for Global Climate Finance Action

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Nairobi, September 6, 2023 — The Africa Climate Summit 2023 concluded on a historic note with the adoption of the Nairobi Declaration. President William Ruto, alongside Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, announced pledges totaling $23 billion for green growth, mitigation, and adaptation projects across the continent.

The declaration calls on developed nations, particularly those with high carbon emissions, to honor their longstanding commitment of providing $100 billion annually in climate finance to support developing countries. Furthermore, it underscores the pressing need for reform within the multilateral financial system, with the aim of ensuring equitable access to funding for climate action.

Additionally, it proposes the implementation of a carbon tax on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport, and aviation, with the goal of incentivizing emission reduction efforts.

Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, at the Africa Climate Summit, Nairobi. September, 2023. Photo/PCS

This unanimous declaration conveys a momentous appeal to developed nations, emphasizing that no country should have to choose between pursuing its development aspirations and taking climate action.

President Ruto, who hosted the summit in his capacity as the leader representing all African heads of state in climate change matters within the African Union (AU), emphasized during the declaration, ‘Africa holds a unique position to lead in climate change solutions.’

He cited the continent’s abundant youthful population and its vast renewable energy assets, including solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower.

The summit aimed to redefine the African continent, not merely as a victim of climate change driven by the world’s major economies, but as a vital part of the solution.

Leaders from various African nations, including Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia, emphasized the importance of unity and collective action in addressing climate change and its impacts. They called for the processing of Africa’s mineral wealth within the continent, viewing it as an opportunity for sustainable development. Furthermore, they reiterated their commitments to climate-resilient development, green energy projects, and the establishment of special funds to ensure the equitable distribution of climate financing.

Leaders from various African nations, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Sudan, seen in the picture taken at the KICC, Nairobi. September, 2023. Photo/PCS

The declaration will shape Africa’s position at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, scheduled at the end of November. This marks a moment where Africa will go to COP28, with a united position to demand climate justice, fair access to finance, and a sustainable future for the continent. 

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the continent of Africa is facing severe vulnerabilities due to the impacts of climate change, which harm food security, ecosystems, and economies. The summit placed significant focus on mobilizing investments in clean energy and climate adaptation to combat this crisis.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in attendance, called on developed nations to double adaptation finance by 2025, committing to allocate at least half of all climate finance to adaptation. Guterres stated, “The largest emitters must lead the way in accelerating the green agenda,” and urged them, to take responsibility for reducing emissions.

He also stressed the importance of investing in renewable energy in Africa with lower lending terms and rates, adding, “Renewable energy could be Africa’s miracle, but we must make it happen. We must all work together for Africa to become a renewable energy superpower.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at The Africa Climate Summit, Nairobi. September, 2023. Photo/UN

The Africa Climate Summit witnessed a number of financial pledges. 

COP28 President, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, pledged $4.5 billion to support African countries in accelerating clean-energy initiatives. Al Jaber expressed optimism that this $4.5 billion commitment would catalyze “at least an additional $12.5 billion from multilateral public and private sources.”

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, representing the US administration, announced an annual contribution of $3 billion for adaptation efforts as part of the PREPARE initiative.

President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank committed to providing $25 billion in climate financing by 2025.

Meanwhile, The European Union, through its president, Her excellency Ursula Von Der Leyen, announced 12 million Euros for the development of green hydrogen in Kenya.

In her speech, Leyen said that “In Nairobi today, we don’t just stand on African soil; we stand on common ground. Europe and Africa share the same interests in the fight against climate change. We must become allies in this mission. Our two continents, despite their differences, can find unity in climate action.”

The European Union president, H.E Ursula Von Der Leyen, during her speech at The Africa Climate Summit, Nairobi. September, 2023. Photo/ACS

Leyen emphasized the importance of  Africa and Europe working together and announced several initiatives to strengthen this partnership, including calling for a global carbon tax and promoting green bond markets in Africa.

However, the summit faced its share of challenges. Some participants raised concerns about carbon markets, highlighting that they should not serve as a justification for developed nations to continue polluting while offsetting emissions in Africa.

Nancy Mujimba, the coordinator for the Eastern and Southern Africa Small-Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), emphasized the need to scrutinize imposed solutions and questioned whether dedicating land to tree farming for carbon sequestration is the right approach for Africa — a continent already grappling with food security issues.

Nancy Mujimba, the coordinator for the Eastern and Southern Africa Small-Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), at The Africa Climate Summit, Nairobi. September, 2023. Photo/Chemtai Kirui

“Instead of encouraging climate action, these initiatives could essentially act as ‘pollution permits’ for global emitters, allowing them to pay Africa to continue polluting,” Nancy said.

This concern was echoed by Mohamed Adow, the founding director of the think-tank Power Shift Africa, who also pointed out, “Countries and corporations from the Global North have committed substantial resources to establish carbon markets in Africa. However, there is a downside to this initiative, as it primarily benefits major polluters.”

Carbon markets, where polluters effectively offset emissions by investing in tree-planting or conservation initiatives, are less expensive to engage in within Africa, compared to many other parts of the world where schemes are more strictly regulated.

Africa earns significantly less in the carbon market compared to other regions, with a disparity of $100 in other regions compared to $10 in Africa. 

In his closing remarks at the end of the three-day event, which brought together heads of state and government, international organizations, NGOs, civil society groups, and a number of African youths, President Ruto stated, “The Africa we want aligns with the Climate we want.”

President Dr. William Kipchirchir Samoei arap Ruto, speaking during the Africa Climate Summit, Nairobi. September, 2023. Photo/ACS

As the curtain closed at The Africa Climate Summit, President Ruto shared a local proverb, “Kaikai Kobarin Besen Kosir Kobarin Banan,” meaning, it is better to die of a loan than to die of poverty.

As Africa prepares to take its unified stance to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), the call for climate justice, fair finance, and a sustainable future, resounds louder than ever. African leaders say, this is a collective effort towards a greener, more resilient Africa and a more sustainable world.

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