The first Africa Climate Summit concluded on Wednesday, September 6th, marking a significant stride in the continent’s fight against climate change. This groundbreaking event, which began on Monday, September 4th, was set against the backdrop of Africa’s increasing susceptibility to climate-induced economic and environmental challenges.
Delegates from the entire continent of Africa were joined by delegates from Europe and the United States to discuss climate challenges and possible solutions at the Kenyatta International Convention Center in Nairobi. Talks were held with the general consensus being the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as keep the promises made to combat climate change.
Although Africa’s contribution to global carbon emissions is a mere 2-3%, the continent is disproportionately affected by the repercussions of climate change. Kenyan President William Ruto spoke at the summit, which is a joint venture between the Kenyan government and the African Union. In his inaugural address, 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 capitalize on.”
The summit’s primary objective was to shape climate commitments, particularly the Nairobi Declaration, which outlines Africa’s trajectory towards sustainable energy. A report from the Science Direct database reveals that extreme weather events since 2022 have affected 19 million Africans, claiming over 4,000 lives. The financial implications are stark: Africa faces annual losses ranging from $7 billion to $15 billion due to climate adversities. To counteract these challenges, the continent requires an estimated $124 billion annually. However, current funding stands at a mere $28 billion.
The summit’s vision extends beyond the African continent. Organizers are keen to position Africa as a prime destination for climate investment, showcasing its potential ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in the United Arab Emirates in November. The discussions encompass a range of issues, from climate action financing to sustainable urban development in Africa.
Prominent attendees include UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, and COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber.
UN Secretary-General Guterres said, “Renewable energy could be the African miracle but we must make it happen. We must all work together for Africa to become a renewable energy superpower.”
President Ruto said the agreements made at the conference show the current severity of the climate situation and seriousness of nations in Africa to tackle the issue. He said, “The Africa Climate Summit is both a demonstration of the unwavering collective commitment of the people of Africa to their vision to make humanity’s first home here in Africa, a land of abundant potential, limitless opportunity, and the possibility of shared prosperity.”
He continued, “It also showcases our determination to mobilize a global coalition of emergency responders to ensure that the industrialization necessary to drive future economic transformation restores our planet’s vitality and ecological balance.”
The summit has not been without its share of controversies. African nations are pressing for the fulfillment of the $100 billion-a-year pledge made at COP15 in Copenhagen. Civil society groups have expressed concerns, suggesting that Africa’s genuine climate interests might be overshadowed by Western priorities.
Mithika Mwenda, executive director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, voiced concerns about the undue emphasis on carbon markets. He stressed the need for adaptation finance that aligns with Africa’s unique requirements.
Leaders at the summit suggested ideas to incentivize the development and implementation of regulations, policies, and solutions on a local, regional, and global stage. As the effects of climate change begin to rear its face across the globe, the 1.3 billion people that reside on the African continent face the brunt of the effects. Nigerian delegate Michael Otitoju encouraged the reliance on natural resources and the younger generations to help solve climate issues. He said, “Discussions around energy transition to renewable energy sources I think all of that is giving us hope that Africans can solve our problems with our own resources, with our own human capacity, so I think there is hope for Africans.”
The UN reports that countries in Africa spend approximately 5-15% of their GDP on tackling climate change even though they are the lowest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The inaugural Africa Climate Summit stood as a testament to Africa’s resolve to combat climate change, seek sustainable solutions, and foster unity in the face of a global crisis.