Government of Kenya and the African Union will from today play host to the inaugural Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, which is a major opportunity to turn the tide on climate change and showcase how renewables are fundamental to Africa’s green growth pathway.
With the expectation of an escalating climate crisis in terms of frequency and intensity, leaders, particularly African Heads of State, UN leadership, Presidents and governments of different parts of the world will use the three-day forum to inform, influence commitments, pledges and outcomes, ultimately leading to the development of the Nairobi Declaration.
The summit is themed around opportunities for green growth and sustainable development. With anticipated deals and announcements, organisers are looking to provide market signals for investments in Africa’s vast resource endowment in clean energy, key minerals, agriculture and natural capital.
Africa, in particular, faces severe climate-related challenges, including drought, desertification, and increasing cyclones, leading to displacement, migration, and food crises. The continent is also disproportionately affected by the global temperature rise and is projected to experience escalating physical climate risks.
Additionally, African governments’ limited ability to respond to the climate crisis due to debt-distress and economic shocks necessitates urgent action to provide debt relief and increased liquidity.
Africa is ready to contribute to global decarbonisation efforts by leveraging its abundant resources, including renewable energy, critical minerals, agricultural potential and natural capital. By harnessing these assets, Africa can drive its own green growth and support global renewable energy needs. The continent also offers a range of investment opportunities for global capital to promote decarbonisation and local economic development.
According to a recent report on Africa’s Just Transition, the continent’s renewable energy potential is 50 times greater than the anticipated global electricity demand for the year 2040. The continent also has over 40 per cent of the global reserves of key minerals for batteries and hydrogen technologies.
With about less than four per cent of historic global emissions, Africa is least responsible for the climate crisis yet the continent bears the largest burden of devastating climate impacts from extreme weather events. The summit host, Kenya’s President, Dr. William Ruto, has been calling for financial approaches to relieve countries facing significant debt distress, compounded by the economic shocks of COVID-19 and other challenges.
He has joined the call for a global effort to raise the necessary funds for climate action, which would include targeted taxes, removal of fossil fuel subsidies, and a global fossil fuel tax.
MEANWHILE, environmental groups are supporting the new initiative. Director of energy and climate think-tank, Power Shift Africa, Mohamed Adow, said: “The reality of climate change is that it was not Africa that caused the crisis, but it is Africa that will determine whether humanity can fix it. How Africa develops over the next two decades will determine the fate of the planet. We have an abundance of clean, renewable energy and it’s vital that we use this to power our future prosperity.
“But to unlock it, Africa needs funding from countries that have got rich off our suffering. They owe a climate debt. But climate change in Africa is more than just solar panels. Africa cannot afford to further delay the vital conversation about adaptation when our communities are already suffering the ravages of a climate crisis we did not cause.
“The summit offers the best opportunity to discuss ways to boost investments that will help communities on the climate frontline to adjust effectively. This meeting should emphasise ways of ensuring communities can live in dignity and to thrive “to live in dignity and to thrive.”
Founder and Director of Africa Policy Research Institute, Dr. Olumide Abimbola, said: “Africa has many of the minerals that the world requires to power the green transition. What we are seeing is that African governments are looking for ways to make sure that these minerals are not just exported out of the continent, but that value addition happens on the continent, that the minerals power national and regional industrialisation processes.
“I am hoping that we see this message come out strongly during the summit. But beyond that, I am hoping to see deeper discussions regarding concrete plans on how to make this happen – and the roles that external actors can play.”