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Nairobi summit ends with African call for global carbon tax

Kenyan president William Ruto, speaking at the final ceremony of the three-day Africa Climate Summit on Wednesday (6 September), called for new global taxes and reforms to the financial system to help fund climate action on the continent.

The document called on world leaders “to rally behind the proposal for a global carbon taxation regime including a carbon tax on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport and aviation, that may also be augmented by a global financial transaction tax.”

The document also commits African governments to increase renewable power capacity from 56 GW in 2022 to 300 GW by 2030 and finalising the African Union’s 2050 biodiversity strategy.

Using language spearheaded by Ruto himself, the declaration also calls for economic growth and job creation that limits emissions by “leapfrogging” polluting industries and “fostering green modes of production” instead.

“We need robust industrialisation, but we must go green fast before industrialising and not vice-versa as the advanced countries had the luxury to do,” he told delegates.

The unanimously signed Nairobi Declaration will serve as the basis for negotiations at the United Nations climate summit (COP28) held in Dubai at the end of November into December.

Although some African governments did not attend, with Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa all not represented at the highest level, it is the first time a majority of African leaders coalesced around a central climate message ahead of a UN climate summit.

“With the Nairobi Declaration, Africa states clearly that it wants to play a role in the global climate negotiations, and the EU wants to be your ally,” EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Wednesday.

Many others felt the declaration was a hopeful sign but also signalled more work is needed.

“My take is that this is the first time African leaders have laid out — in official terms what they want from global economic reforms. That’s a very good thing,” executive director of the One Campaign, a global anti-poverty group, tweeted in response to the declaration. “Now African leaders need to work on a plan and the institutional apparatus to drive these commitments forward.”

Financial reform

According to Ruto, governments, development banks, private investors and philanthropists committed a combined $23bn [€21bn] in all to green projects over the three days.

But the document also stressed that these investments are not enough to help the continent deal with the effects of climate change.

African countries face borrowing costs that are vastly higher than anywhere else, leading to debt crises and a failing response to the effects of climate change. “No country should ever have to choose between development and climate action,” the document notes.

Therefore, the African leaders have signed a call for reform of the multilateral development banks to increase their lending space and to make Africa’s governments more representative.

The declaration also called for the “better deployment” of the IMF’s special drawing rights mechanism, which represents hundreds of billions in reserve assets which currently sit unused.

Other proposals included new debt relief measures to help avoid debt default, such as the introduction of debt-pause clauses in borrowing terms and a 10-year grace period.

Debt and systemic reforms of the multilateral banking and financial system will next be discussed at the G20 meeting of finance ministers scheduled in Delhi this weekend.

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