Africa Climate Summit 2023: Leaders root for green growth, enhanced climate financing as talks begin

Move away from Global North vs Global South debate & join forces to end the climate crisis, says Kenya President Ruto

Africa is disproportionately affected by the sharp increase in extreme weather events wrought by climate change and a more comprehensive funding mechanism is needed for rapid climate action, said the organisers of the Africa Climate Summit 2023 (ACS23).

To achieve this, the Government of Kenya, which is hosting the summit, and the African Union (AU), which is organising it in collaboration with the host, called for three key climate finance interventions.

First, they want an increase in financing, second, more targeted funding and, third, cheaper financing from global institutions. To achieve these, ACS23 suggests implementing global taxes, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and utilising mechanisms like Carbon Border Adjustment. 

The inaugural three-day ACS23 from September 4-6 has kicked off at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Over 20 heads of state and 30,000 delegates, including members of the diplomatic community, non-state actors, development and multilateral partners from across the globe, are attending the high-stakes meeting.

Besides high-level global leaders present at the three-day summit like United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, his predecessor Ban Ki-Moon and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, ordinary farmers and members of indigenous communities are also in attendance.

Under the theme ‘Driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the World’, the summit will culminate in ‘The Nairobi Declaration’.

The memorandum aims to give the African Group of Negotiators a common ground and voice ahead of the COP28 in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates from November 30 to December 12. COP28 refers to the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The consensus from the speakers at the opening ceremony was that Africa is disproportionately affected by rising extreme weather events, wreaking havoc on world economies. 

Billed as a significant milestone in Africa’s efforts to combat climate change, the summit is taking place when climate-related upheavals like droughts, floods, disease outbreaks, food insecurity and immigration require urgent and coordinated action.

In the spirit of generating new ideas, members of indigenous communities and civil society, including women and youth, were represented at the ceremony. Some made passionate appeals for the meeting to be about setting targets and deadlines.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Forestry, Soipan Tuya, said the fight against climate crisis is a collective responsibility that requires a global collaborative approach.

“We need combined efforts in dealing with the climate crisis. If we don’t find solutions it will crush us all together. Despite being disadvantaged since we contribute the least to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, we have to be part of the solutions,” said Tuta.

Anne Samante, reading a memorandum on behalf of the indigenous people of Africa, called for recognition of traditional knowledge in combating the vagaries of climate change.

She said the indigenous communities hope the summit is a chance for leaders to demonstrate dedication to the protection of the planet and sustainability.

Global North Vs Global South debate

In his opening speech, Kenya President William Ruto asked leaders and climate actors across the globe to move away from the Global North versus Global South debate and join forces to end the climate crisis.

“You have entered the future, a future driven by global partnerships committed to African prosperity, inclusive growth and a livable planet for all of us. This is no ordinary summit,” said President Ruto.

He added that Africa possesses abundant resources, including renewable energy sources, crucial minerals and agricultural potential, which serve as the foundation for developing the green growth path.

The executive director of UNFCCC, Simon Stiell, called for climate stabilisation and building resilience. 

“We have to embrace green technology and energy. First, we must address financing. We also must keep pushing for the delivery of the pledged $100billion. We need a doubling of adaptation finance, substantial replenishing of the green climate fund and a global finance system that is aligned with action and green finance,“ said Stiell.

He also called for governments to scale their contributions and commitments, strengthen regional bonds and collaborations, and empower local transformation. He said this will enable Africa to go to COP28, leading climate action and ambitions. 

“We must work towards a sustainable future by responding to impacts that cannot be averted. This can be achieved through operationalisation of the pending funding arrangements at COP28. UNFCCC is willing to work with Africa in identifying opportunities for Africa and facilitate solutions,” he added, calling upon the leaders to foster collaborations as an avenue for a sustainable future.

AU commissioner in charge of agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable development, Josefa Sacko, said AU is fully committed to climate action across the continent.

“Climate change is a pandemic responsible for lives and economic distress and must be addressed now. The compounding effects of the crisis are forcing governments to divert budgets from development to respond to climate change related disasters,” said Sacko.

She called for Africa to move away from donor-recipient relationships and work towards building resilience, putting in place mitigation and adaptation mechanisms for sustainability.

“AU continues to put in place a policy framework to support implementation of climate action for sustainable value chains. Such frameworks include the African Union Climate Change and Resilient Strategy and Action Plan. The others are; the Continental Green Recovery Action Plan and the Integrated Strategy on Metrology,“ she added, calling upon global financial partners to align their support with these strategies and tools to avoid duplication.  

The speakers echoed the fact that a significant amount of funds is required to effectively respond to climate change at the expense of development.

Expected outcomes

Besides giving the Group of African Negotiators a common voice ahead of COP28 in Dubai, the Nairobi Declaration is expected to provide a pathway to a new global financial deal that includes “at scale” and fit for purpose financing instruments / products to serve specific growth goals.

The gathering is also expected to culminate in investment commitments, including showcasing possible multi-billion dollar worth of green investment deals on the continent across all thematic sectors of the summit.

Announcements on tangible progress on ongoing major continent-wide / global initiatives and new partnerships / initiatives and a roadmap for implementation of key declarations are also expected on the final day.

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