The key to Africa’s climate action

World leaders say it is carbon pricing

ANALYSIS | MELODY CHIRONDA | You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, inform them, and help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them – Wangari Maathai.

Kenyan Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai’s words ring true as African leaders unite to tackle climate change.

According to research published by Science Direct, since the beginning of 2022, extreme weather events in Africa affected about 19 million people and killed at least 4,000 individuals. Cyclones, floods, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, and famine were among the severe weather occurrences.

At the African Climate Summit, a remarkable unity was displayed as presidents from across the continent enthusiastically united behind a common cause. African leaders displayed a powerful commitment and determination to address the pressing climate challenges that disproportionately affect their nations. Africa, despite contributing fewer emissions to the global climate crisis, bears the brunt of its devastating impacts.

The leaders, including Samia Suluhu (Tanzania), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Évariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi), Filipe Nyusi (Mozambique), Salva Kiir (South Sudan), Sassou Nguesso (Congo), Mostafa Madbouly (Egypt), Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana), Mohamed Younis Menfi (Libya), Julius Maada (Sierra Leone), Sahle-Work Zewde (Ethiopia), Brahim Ghali (Sahrawi), Azali Assoumani (Comoros), Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (Djibouti), Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea) and Macky Sall (Senegal), agreed to lead the way in finding sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

The summit carries as the theme, Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World.

Africa can be cradle of solutions

“History tells us that Africa, and Kenya in particular, is the cradle of mankind. I hope and pray that from this cradle, we can find the elusive solution to combating climate change,” said Kenyan Environment Minister Soipan Tuya.

“We are gathered here today to make history as the continent of Africa. The world is facing many challenges, but none is more apparent, threatening, and devastating than climate change. We can only respond by making history at this inaugural Africa Climate Summit.”

“The effects of climate change are already being felt in Africa. In Malawi, Hurricane Freddy killed 200 people and caused U.S.$2 billion in damage. The Horn of Africa recently experienced one of the worst droughts in decades, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives and thousands of livestock,” she said. “And for the first time in Kenya, we had to truck water to our wildlife in the national parks and reserves.”

Tuya added that African countries are making every effort to deal with the effects of climate change, but their economies are struggling under the weight of mounting debt. Thirty-one of the 37 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) in the world are in Africa.

“Over 20 years of climate change negotiations have produced agreements and promises that have delivered little for Africa, Tuya said. ”Instead, the image of Africa as a poor continent with a begging bowl continues to dominate climate negotiations. The inconvenient truth that Africa has historically contributed very little to global emissions has not been acknowledged by the rest of the world.

“The inaugural Africa Climate Summit is an opportunity for Africa to change the course of history. Millions of young Africans are looking to African leaders to give them hope for a future with green jobs, a dignified life, and prosperity. The summit should chart a green growth pathway for the continent and set the stage for Africa to lead the globe toward a more ecologically responsible global industrialization,” added Tuya.

Kenyan President William Ruto was joined on the panel by Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission; António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations; and Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

AfDB to commit U.S.$25 billion

The African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina announced a commitment of U.S.$25 billion towards climate financing by 2025. He called for a change in the global financial architecture to prioritize the needs of Africa, and for delegates to mobilize resources for climate financing. He believes that Africa has the resources to become a greener continent by embracing the use of its natural gas combined with renewable resources and that it needs help from the international community to make it happen.

“Africa must use its natural gas resources in a sustainable way, combining it with renewable energy sources,” said Adesina.

He stressed that Africa must also ensure that its food and agriculture sectors are resilient to climate change. He further called on African countries to voluntarily take climate-friendly actions, “not because someone has told us so, but because we have to.”

Carbon Pricing Key

The European Union (EU) President, Ursula Von Der Leyen, while lauding the Kenya Climate Change Act, 2023, launched during the summit, said that it puts prominence on the carbon markets.

Von der Leyen added that this Summit is a crucial step to preparing for the upcoming COP28 meeting in Dubai, to make sure that Africa’s voice is heard and that Africa’s priorities–a continent that is most affected by climate change – are duly taken on board.

“Africa and Europe have the same goal of taking climate action. Africa’s priority is to grow its economy and lift people out of poverty, and climate action is part of the solution. Africa has a huge potential for renewable energy and clean hydrogen, critical raw materials, incredible nature and biodiversity, and a young workforce. Africa can help clean up the global energy system and supply chains while creating jobs and economic opportunities for its people,” she said. “This is a win-win partnership for Africa, Europe, and the world.

“Expanding Africa’s clean energy sector would create jobs, boost economic growth, and improve energy security. Climate action can be one of the main drivers of Africa’s growth,” she added. “But for this, Africa needs massive investment. And Europe wants to be your partner in closing this investment gap.

“This is why half of our EUR-300-billion investment plan, called Global Gateway, is aimed at the African continent. Global Gateway supports investments ranging from hydropower plants in the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, to the EUR-1-billion initiative on Climate Adaptation and resilience in Africa, which we announced at COP27.

“Green bonds are recognised as a key solution to climate change. We are here to share our expertise and help you develop your own green bond initiative,” she said. “Together with the European Investment Bank and our Member States, we are allocating EUR 1 billion to de-risk private investments in emerging markets. This could help attract up to EUR 20 billion in sustainable investment. So let us work together on that to build and grow Africa’s green bond markets.”

Von der Leyen also said that developing carbon markets would help Africa generate new revenue from its carbon sinks.

“I believe that setting a price on carbon emissions is one of the most efficient and effective tools in our hands. Because it fosters innovation in the private sector. Because it makes heavy polluters pay a fair price. And because the revenues can support the clean transition in developing countries.”

Von der Leyen concluded by saying that achieving this goal may seem impossible, but quoted Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” She said we have a responsibility to fight climate change for the good of our children and grandchildren, and urged everyone to work together in this spirit.

A threat to all of humanity

Kenyan President William Ruto believes that climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity and that only urgent and coordinated action on a global scale can stop the impending catastrophe. He highlighted the importance of climate action, saying that it is “the greatest challenge facing humanity”. He noted that Africa is already feeling the impacts of climate change, and that the continent is losing between 5-15% of its GDP growth every year to these impacts.

“At the same time, the cost of adaptation continues to rise along with the cost of living, while the cost of development capital for African economies remains prohibitive, as millions of our youth remain unemployed,” he said.

Ruto then praised the courage and imagination of African leaders in addressing the climate emergency. He said that Africa is “converging with extraordinary focus and commitment” on the climate agenda and that this is essential for the continent’s future prosperity.

He added that Africa is the most affected by the climate crisis, even though it contributes the least to pollution. He gave the example of Kenya, which had to divert funds from development to deal with the effects of climate change. He said that many African countries are headed into debt distress because of the climate crisis.

Ruto said that there is a need to discuss the possibility of introducing a carbon tax in Africa. He said that the revenue from a carbon tax could be used to finance Africa’s development, such as investing in renewable energy, climate-resilient infrastructure, and other projects that will help Africa adapt to climate change.

He called for a more equitable international financial system to lessen Africa’s debt burden.

U.S. Pledges U.S.$3 Billion

Speaking during the Africa Climate Summit, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, said that “20 countries produce 80% of all the emissions, mine is one of them. Twenty countries. And it is critical for all those 20 countries to immediately take steps to get on the path to the Paris agreement (to) keep 1.5 degrees alive”.

“My sense is that we have no choice but to act,” he said.

“Africa is a land of great promise, but it is also a land of upheaval. The entire continent is being disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. To combat this crisis, early and effective adaptation is required.”

“Adaptation saves lives and creates jobs – it’s also just common sense,” he said.

Kerry said President Joe Biden is aware that climate change is already having a devastating impact on people in developing countries, especially in Africa. To help these countries adapt to the worst effects of climate change, he has launched the PREPARE initiative. As part of PREPARE, President Biden is committed to working with Congress to provide U.S.$3 billion annually for adaptation by 2024. This is the largest commitment to adaptation in U.S. history. He is also working with partners on the Transitional Committee this year to design an effective fund to help vulnerable developing countries respond to loss and damage caused by climate change.

“As part of implementing PREPARE, I’m pleased to announce the U.S. intent to provide an additional U.S.$30 million to accelerate climate-resilient food security efforts across Africa,” he said.

“Africa has the greatest opportunity in the world to win the climate change dialogue,” said Kerry. “I believe that Africa offers an enormous opportunity at this moment. The problem we face is man-made, and humanity is being threatened by humanity. We need the Loss and Damage Fund in one year, this year, in Dubai. We can win this battle, but only if we make fundamental choices.”

Leaders must deliver

The COP28 President-Designate, H.E. Dr Sultan Al Jaber, has said that COP28 will no longer accept pledges and promises on climate finance. He called for a plan that would focus on people, lives, and livelihoods, and that would finally fix climate finance.

“I will continue to press on the issues of the U.S.$100 billion pledge by donors, that they fulfil their pledge,” Jaber said. “What was promised in Sharm El Sheikh must be delivered in Dubai.”

Jaber said that a plan that would focus on people, lives, and livelihoods would be the real panacea for climate change. He also called for enhancing food security and stimulating green growth in Africa.

“Fast-tracking the energy transition, fixing climate finance, focusing on people, lives and livelihoods, and underscoring these efforts with full inclusivity are the key pillars of the COP28 Presidency’s Action Agenda,” he said. “This continent is rich, and can help not just Africa.”

According to the African Development Bank, U.S.$250 billion is required to fulfil Africa’s climate needs. However, Africa only receives 12% of that, and only 2% on adaptation. Jaber said that it was only fair for Africa to get a global share of the climate finance.

“We need a surgical intervention of the global financial architecture,” he said. “I am pleased to answer the need by African leaders to foster green growth.”

“If Africa loses we all lose, if Africa wins we all win,” said Jaber.

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