Against the backdrop of worsening effects of climate change, on Monday the 4th of September, African leaders, international development financiers and climate change experts gathered in Nairobi for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS23). With the theme “Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World,” the summit focused on the opportunities and positioning Africa as a leader in green energy. The summit set the tone of Africa’s position ahead of the November COP28 in Dubai. Here are the five takeaways from the summit.
1. Africa’s Leading Role in Green Energy
In his address at the opening session, President William Ruto of the host country, Kenya iterated; “The overarching theme… is the unparalleled opportunity that climate action represents for Africa,” he said. “We must see in green growth not just a climate imperative but also a fountain of multi-billion-dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the world is primed to capitalise,” he emphasised. These remarks reflected on Africa being host to 60 percent of the world’s renewable energy potential and nearly 30 percent of the minerals crucial for electrifying industries that are currently running on fossil fuel, vast land for carbon sinks and a youthful population to catapult it green energy agenda. Appreciating the initiatives some African countries were taking the summit highlighted the changing dynamics from the Global north-global south divide to the global leaders versus global laggards in climate action.
2. Reforming the Global Climate Finance
Regardless of Africa’s renewable energy resources and its ambition to lead the green energy transition, the summit spotlighted the need to reform the global climate finance architecture. African countries currently receive 12 percent of the global climate finance. African leaders in attendance expressed their frustrations with the Western financial institutions regarding climate finance. While appreciating the role played by multilateral development banks, the summit made a declaration that “No country should ever have to choose between development aspirations and climate action.” African leaders in attendance made a call to the world to reform global climate finance by increasing concessional finance (loans at below market interest rates and with more lenient timelines for repayment). The African leaders called for establishment of a new Global Climate Finance Charter by 2025.
3. Carbon Taxation
Lack of financing to Africa by industrialised countries that largely contribute to climate change to carbon emission is a controversial issue that divided industrialised nations and African nations. The private sector representatives emphasised that industrialised countries, as the largest carbon emitters, need to treat climate finance as an environmental obligation rather than as charity to developing countries, as they iterated; “If you break it, you own it.” This environmental obligation can only be achieved by pricing carbon emissions though carbon tax.
4. Climate Funding Pledges
At the summit, investors announced climate funding that amounted to $23billion to fund projects such as solar micro grids, reforestation and carbon markets. In the pledges however, there was no clarity of how much was commitment funding, and how much was intention funding. Countries such as United Arab Emirates who are championing a leading role in renewable energy pledged $4billion dollars towards clean energy. The African Development Bank also pledged $1billion to support climate initiatives by the youth.
5. The Nairobi Declaration
The inaugural summit concluded on Wednesday the 6th with a rallying call to the world, calling industrialised countries, which are largely responsible for emissions to prioritise investing in Africa. Highlighting Africa’s strategic position to lead the transition to green energy and environmental stewardship, the Nairobi Declaration guide the conversation and set the position of African countries as they heard to the United Nations global climate summit COP2018 starting November 30 in Dubai.
As the inaugural summit, the Africa Climate Summit demonstrated to be a platform for setting the collective conversation of African countries ahead of major events such as the COP2018 and the United Nations General Assembly. It is yet to be determined if the summit will also steer the conversations towards local commitments by individual countries regarding their climate actions as other countries whose heads of state who were not in attendance at the summit are to show commitment to the initiative.