The Africa Climate Summit is coming: Should we expect concrete outcomes on climate action?






By Hyacinthe Niyitegeka and Julie-Anne Richards
01 / 09 / 2023
The city of Nairobi, Kenya, where the inaugural Africa Climate Summit will be held. Image credit: Pexels

From September 4th to 6th, African leaders, civil society, academics, practitioners, activists and researchers will gather in Nairobi, Kenya for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit. The summit, championed by HE President Ruto, has the theme "Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World", and aims to address the increasing exposure to climate change and its associated costs, both globally and particularly in Africa, with urgent action required due to escalating climate crises in frequency and intensity.

Relevance of Africa Climate Summit 

Despite emitting less than 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and currently having the lowest per capita GHG emissions, Africa experiences devastating climate-induced economic and non-economic ‘loss and damage’. Resulting from worsening extreme weather events, such as floods, tropical cyclones, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and sand and dust storms, as well as slow-onset climatic processes such as sea-level rise along the African coastlines, desertification, and biodiversity loss, land degradation among others hitting the most vulnerable hardest. 

Communities in Africa have already experienced severe consequences of the climate crisis, including famines, malnutrition, loss of life, destruction of homes and infrastructure, displacement, mental health issues, water scarcity, and the destruction of croplands. A few examples include droughts in Southern Africa that left more than 9.6 million people hungry, Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Cyclone Freddy's devastation, destruction, and numerous fatalities in Malawi, Cyclone Batsirai's recent strike in Madagascar, heavy rainfall in two South African provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape and unprecedented drought in the Horn of Africa, among many others. Thus, it is crucial that climate change discussions result in tangible outcomes for climate action, including debt relief in poorer countries, particularly in Africa. 

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report predicted that Africa will experience global warming above 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 and the projected impact of the climate crisis on Africa's acute poverty by 2030 is 39.7 million people - unless urgent concrete climate action is taken. In light of the challenges posed by loss and damage - exacerbated by insufficient adaptation finance, it is of utmost importance to quickly take action on the need for financial support to address this issue. Africa, like other developing countries, struggles with climate change impacts that are escalating and insufficient finance to tackle them, as well as the debt crisis, but there is no clear understanding of whether debt relief would be possible. Thus, it is crucial that climate change discussions result in tangible outcomes for climate action including debt relief in poorer countries particularly in Africa. This is our expectation for the Africa Climate Summit.

The Africa Climate Summit amongst the “Season of Summits”

As climate impacts in Africa and the rest of the world increase in severity; as warnings about the time to take climate action grow more urgent; and as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement approaches its 5-year milestone, due to be measured in the first Global Stocktake at COP 28; a rash of climate summits are being held.

In June, President Macron of France hosted an international summit on a new global financial pact in Paris, at which President Ruto, and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley supported by civil society and developing countries called for a complete transformation of the current financial system, which unfairly benefits polluters and industrialised countries and rebalancing towards people, particularly those on the front lines of the climate crisis. Whilst Macron’s Paris Summit fell far short of this objective, the Africa Climate Summit creates a significant opportunity to progress this agenda.

Additionally, UN Climate Weeks are being held in Africa, alongside the Africa Climate Summit, and the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific. These events have the potential to strengthen developing countries' voices on climate action toward COP28.

Finally, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, hosts a Climate Ambition Summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September. This is an opportunity for African leaders to take the outcome from the Africa Climate Summit global, and create momentum leading into COP28.

Relevance of Africa Climate Summit to Loss and Damage Finance

The Africa Climate Summit will provide African leaders and other participants with a valuable platform to further discuss the ways to effectively take climate action in African regions, including exploring a new climate finance architecture. With ‘Climate Finance Solutions’ among the topics that will be discussed during the summit, Africa needs to effectively adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change. It has been reported that the current financial resources allocated for adaptation are insufficient to address the continent's growing needs. This results in increased climate change-related loss and damage. Thus, increasing financial support for adaptation actions will decrease the need for support in cases of loss and damage. 

The urgent need for finance to address loss and damage in developing countries, including those in Africa, has been a prominent call. This need is in addition to the funding already allocated for adaptation and mitigation efforts over the past 30 years. With the support of civil society, this call led to the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh. However, the new fund has not yet received any funding nor been put into operation. The Transitional Committee, consisting of twenty-four members from both developing and developed countries, is charged with delivering recommendations for operationalising the Loss and Damage Fund and funding arrangements at COP 28.

The Africa Climate Summit will occur prior to both the Ministerial consultations on operationalising the Loss and Damage Fund and the fourth and final meeting of the Transitional Committee. Thus it is a good opportunity for African leaders to discuss and propose ideas to inform these consultations and meetings. One of the key topics for African leaders to discuss is the urgent need for financial resources to address the significant challenges of loss and damage. Research suggests that it is important to consider a minimum floor of US$400 billion per year for loss and damage finance, recognising that financing requirements will inevitably increase over time. Africa's ability to achieve its climate and development goals is contingent upon having the financial resources required to address loss and damage, as well as to urgently increase mitigation, including phasing out fossil fuels, to reduce climate impacts; and advance adaptation efforts that enhance climate resilience and reduce vulnerability.

Expectations: What could the Africa Climate Summit deliver?

• The Africa Climate Summit should prioritise building momentum towards operationalising the Loss and Damage Fund and funding arrangements at COP 28. This summit presents an opportunity for countries to define funding sources and address loss and damage.

• The Africa Climate Summit should issue a clear set of needs and expectations for the Loss and Damage Fund. Since the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, developing countries, including Africa, have been calling for new, additional, predictable, and grant-based finance to fill the fund. This summit should serve as a space to reiterate this call and discuss the needs Africa has for the new fund, including how to ensure money is available to support national priorities, delivered in a timely and proactive fashion so it is available when it is needed by vulnerable counties, and accessible by communities on the front line of climate impacts. The outcome of this discussion should inform the Ministerial consultations scheduled for September and the fourth Transitional Committee meeting, as well as flow into the ultimate COP agreement. 

• The Africa Climate Summit should agree on clear next steps to operationalise new sources of finance for Loss and Damage that are fair, additional, polluter pays, publicly controlled and can generate the scale of finance needed. Scaling up climate finance pools in Africa is critical. Suggestions made by President Ruto and others include levies on fossil fuels, wealth, global carbon, and air travel in addition to contributions from developed countries. The summit can make proactive proposals as to how to action a number of these sources of finance in a way that is fair, generates additional finance, and provides incentives for positive action —like phasing out fossil fuels— that will incentivise climate solutions.

• The African Climate Summit provides an opportunity to reconsider old colonial power dynamics and give African countries a fair say in decision-making in relation to climate finance, and financial institutions more broadly. The summit should make a set of recommendations that go beyond the “business as usual” adjustments that came out of President Macron’s Summit, which emphasised subsidies for the private sector and increased debt. Instead, the Africa Climate Summit should adopt a truly transformational approach to the financial system that will reconfigure control into the hands of developing countries, increase the level of finance available significantly, rebalance international climate finance toward grants, and take concrete steps to reduce debt.

In conclusion, it is of utmost importance that African leaders and participants make the most of their time in Nairobi during the inaugural Africa Climate Summit by devising a l strategy relevant for the continent. This provides an opportunity to deliberate on potential solutions to address the gaps in funding for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage.

Hyacinthe Niyitegeka is a water scientist and a climate negotiator with experience working on climate policy in different contexts. She coordinates the Loss and Damage Collaboration, where she oversees day-to-day operations.

Julie-Anne Richards is the  Loss and Damage Collaboration’s Strategy Lead. She has two decades of experience working on the climate crisis, has written extensively on loss and damage, and campaigned with civil society and in collaboration with vulnerable countries on the need for loss and damage finance.

This article has been Funded by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung New York Office with support from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The publishers are solely responsible for the content of this publication; the opinions presented here do not reflect the position of the BMZ. We also note that views and any errors, are the authors alone and that the content of this brief does not necessarily represent the views of all the members of the Loss and Damage Collaboration (L&DC).