Africa’s first climate summit drew towards a close this morning. Two dozen heads of state from the continent called on the international community to phase down coal use, abolish fossil fuel subsidies, honour climate finance commitments and create a “new financing architecture more responsive to Africa’s needs”, including debt restructuring and relief.
The so-called “Nairobi Declaration” will serve as a common negotiating position for African nations ahead of this month’s New York Climate Week and COP28 in Dubai at the end of the year. The host, Kenya’s president William Ruto said that the global “climate conversation” began in 1992 during a UN summit in Rio de Janeiro, but “this is the first African summit 31 years later”.
The star-studded list of attendees included more than 20 African presidents, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo. Also in attendance were US climate envoy John Kerry, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and UN secretary-general António Guterres who called for a “course correction” for the global financial system.
Africa accounts for only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but “suffers some of the worst effects of rising global temperatures”, said Guterres. In spite of this, the tone struck at the summit over the past three days has been relatively free from recrimination and focused on investments and financing.
See below for my report on the summit with the FT’s east and central Africa bureau chief Andres Schipani, who is on the ground in Nairobi. — Kenza Bryan
‘A climate-positive trajectory’
A strategic decision appears to have been made ahead of the Africa Climate Summit to focus on the opportunities of the green transition, rather than pointing fingers at the biggest emitters or complaining about the global north’s failure to follow through on cash promised for adaptation and mitigation.
“This summit is about presenting the opportunities and the potential that the continent of Africa has in developing in a climate-positive trajectory whilst contributing to the overall global decarbonisation agenda,” said Ali Daud Mohamed, the special climate envoy for Kenya.
The main areas of focus have been clean energy and carbon credits, the latter being a significant asset in a continent home to the Congo River basin, which holds 30 gigatonnes of carbon — equivalent to 15 years of US emissions.
CYNK, a platform which describes itself as the first carbon offsets exchange based in Africa, said yesterday that it had completed a futures trade of 2mn carbon credits. These credits will be based on the production of a cleaner form of fuel from agricultural waste, which would otherwise emit methane, a greenhouse gas.
And one of the first deals to be announced at the summit was a $20mn carbon finance investment from global trader Vitol and Kinshasa-based bank Rawbank to support renewable energy, clean cooking and forest conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At least $23bn in spending and financing has been pledged by public, private, and multilateral development banks, philanthropic foundations, and other partners in the development finance community, Ruto said earlier today.
The United Arab Emirates promised on Tuesday to plough $4.5bn into clean energy projects, just one of the deals aimed at helping boost the continent’s renewable energy generation capacity fivefold to 300GW by 2030.
But top figures from important countries have been missing in action from the summit: China, the world’s biggest emitter, and leaders from some of Africa’s biggest economies, South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria.
According to Yemi Osinbajo, a former Nigerian vice-president and adviser to The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, a coalition of charitable foundations and multilateral lenders, climate finance needs in Africa are in the order of about $350bn annually but the continent is receiving only 10 per cent of that.
“It’s evident there’s a great need,” he said. “In the past it was always down to mitigation and adaptation funds, but it makes more sense now to have a business proposition, a commercial proposition.”
Not everyone agrees that focusing on the positive is the way to go. Charra Tesfaye Terfassa, a senior associate at the independent climate think-tank E3G, said from Nairobi yesterday that the summit had focused excessively on “green growth opportunities”, without being demanding and critical enough of countries in the global north.
The summit could have been an opportunity to call for urgent grants to deal with climate impacts and mitigation, and to articulate a detailed position among African countries on loss and damage funding requests, he said. Countries agreed to create a loss and damage fund at the UN COP27 talks in Egypt last year, but no money has yet been paid out.
“Both sides of the equation need to be presented: this is what we want from the world and also what we can give.”
With trillions of dollars needed to finance adaptation on the continent, Terfassa described the amount committed by the US — $30mn towards food security — as “not even enough as a starting point to galvanise others to contribute”. The European Commission promised nearly €12mn in grants to finance Kenya’s green hydrogen plans, while Germany pledged €450mn in loans and debt cancellation.
Some 500 civil society organisations called for a “reset” of the gathering in an open letter to Ruto as the summit started. The activists argued the summit “foregrounds the position and interests of the west, namely, carbon markets, carbon sequestration, and ‘climate positive’ approaches”, that are “led by western interests while being marketed as African priorities”.
Joshua Amponsem, founder of the Ghanaian Green Africa Youth Organization, said that although he was suspicious of “huge multinational entities leading some of the conversations”, he did not sign the protest letter. “It’s the first time the continent is coming together on its own and not being convened by the UN as an intermediary: that’s good.”
His bigger concern was that money from deals being announced would not filter down to help poorer communities adapt to climate change.
Money from carbon credit deals could disproportionately benefit governments, foreign consultancies with expertise in carbon accounting, and foreign intermediaries who sell the credits, rather than smaller landowners or rural communities, he added.
He compared the carbon credit trade with the exploitation of diamonds by western colonisers in the 20th century, or of Africa’s lithium mines by Chinese companies in the 21st century.
“We need to start thinking about who benefits the most when investments arrive,” he told Moral Money. “You can always say Africa, but Africa for who?” (Kenza Bryan and Andres Schipani)
Negotiators have missed a mid-August deadline to finalise investment plans to mobilise Indonesia’s $20bn Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) funding. Indonesia’s increased reliance on coal power and disagreements on practical matters like the mode of financing have led to the delay, and may have implications for upcoming JETP negotiations in Vietnam and India, write Sayumi Take and Erwida Maulia from Nikkei Asia.