By Hyacinthe Niyitegeka and Julie-Anne Richards
14 / 09 / 2023
African leaders including Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres attended the African Climate Summit in Nairobi Kenya, between the 4-6th of September. Image credit: Paul Kagame via Flickr, licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The impact of climate change is devastating, especially for those living in developing countries who are on the front lines. In Africa, despite contributing less than 4% of global emissions, they suffer severe consequences such as loss of lives, livelihoods, and gross domestic product (GDP) losses among many others - a sentiment echoed by many of the heads of State and governments, world leaders and other speakers at the Africa Climate Summit.   

The first-ever Africa Climate Summit which concluded on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, saw decision-makers, civil society representatives, indigenous peoples, academia, activists, advocates, researchers, and analysts among other stakeholders come together to discuss solutions for the worsening climate crisis in Africa. 

Many have emphasised that large emitters must fulfil their climate finance commitments to developing nations. One significant outcome of the summit was the adoption of the Nairobi Declaration. This declaration emphasised the urgent need for world leaders to take action by reducing emissions, accelerating global decarbonization, and simultaneously striving for equality and shared prosperity. During the Summit, various speakers presented intriguing perspectives and proposals on measures that can be implemented to enhance climate action worldwide, with a particular focus on Africa. The following are the key points discussed:

What was at the centre of discussion at the Summit?

Keeping 1.5 degree goal alive and energy transition

During the Summit, world leaders emphasised the need for immediate climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement necessary measures to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. During the discussion, several speakers, including United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Simon Stiell, emphasised the importance of taking urgent action to ensure that we can limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Stiell further stressed that the upcoming 28th Conference of Parties (COP 28) will be a crucial opportunity to prevent further temperature rises. To achieve this goal, it is necessary for the world to reduce emissions by 43 per cent from 2019 levels by 2030. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that any temperature increase beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius will have significantly more severe consequences. 

The Summit also placed a strong emphasis on the energy transition, with Kenya's president highlighting the potential for Africa to become a green industrial hub that supports other regions in achieving their net zero strategies by 2050. “Unlocking the renewable energy resources that we have in our continent is not only good for Africa, it is good for the rest of the world.” President Ruto added. The declaration also pointed out the goal of increasing Africa's renewable generation capacity from 56 Giga-Watt in 2022 to at least 300 Giga-Watt by 2030. This ambitious target aims to tackle energy poverty and contribute to the global supply of affordable and clean energy for industries. Achieving this objective would mean a nearly six-fold increase in just eight years. 

The concept of energy transition was also asserted by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. She pointed out the need to accelerate the global energy transition in order to effectively limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “This implies that in order to achieve our objectives, we must increase renewable energy capacity threefold and enhance energy efficiency twofold by the year 2030,” she stressed. 

However, the African leaders expressed their concerns in paragraph 11 of the declaration. They highlighted the fact that Africa possesses approximately 40 percent of the world's renewable energy resources. Despite this, only US$60 billion, which accounts for just two percent of the total US$3 trillion invested in renewable energy over the past decade, has been directed towards Africa.

Climate finance architecture

The leaders also placed emphasis on the importance of establishing a new climate finance architecture, implementing reforms within international financial institutions, and ensuring the provision of climate funding. “The global financial architecture must prioritise the needs of Africa.” Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank said. 

They urged developed nations to fulfil their commitment to providing US$100 billion per year for climate finance, a goal established at COP 15 of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen in 2009. “We call upon the global community to act with urgency in reducing emissions, fulfilling its obligations, keeping past promises, and supporting the continent in addressing climate change, specifically to: … ii) Honor the commitment to provide $100 billion in annual climate finance, as promised 14 years ago at the Copenhagen conference…” the declaration reads.  Another focus was on the consideration of the private sector in investing in the green economy, this was emphasised by the EU Commission president who in her speech mentioned that “the green transition will require an unprecedented scale of private investment. Public finance will not suffice”.

Furthermore, African leaders are calling on world leaders to support the idea of implementing a global carbon taxation system. This system would involve imposing a carbon tax on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport, and aviation. Additionally, it could be complemented by a global financial transaction tax (FTT). The purpose of these taxes would be to generate dedicated, affordable, and accessible funding for large-scale climate-positive investments at scale, and ring-fencing of these resources and decision-making from undue influence from geopolitical and national interests.

Commitments and pledges made at the Africa Climate Summit

During the Africa Climate Summit, various stakeholders including development banks, private investors, and philanthropists made significant pledges and commitments. These commitments amounted to nearly US$23 billion, as reported by Kenya's President Ruto. The funds are intended to support green growth initiatives and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change across Africa. Among others, some of the pledges were made by: 

• COP 28 President-Designate, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber made an announcement regarding the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) commitment to Africa. The UAE pledged a package of US$4.5 billion to help develop 15 Gigawatts of clean electricity in Africa. Dr. Al Jaber expressed the hope that this initiative would serve as a catalyst, encouraging additional funding of at least US$12.5 billion from various sources such as multilateral organisations, public institutions, and private entities.

• The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has announced that the bank has committed to providing US$25 million towards climate finance by 2025.

• The European Union member states, in collaboration with the European Investment Bank, have allocated a sum of 1 billion Euros to reduce the risks associated with private investments in emerging markets. The President of the European Commission stated that this initiative will assist in attracting up to 20 billion Euros in sustainable investment.

• Germany has pledged an amount of nearly $500 million to support the advancement of green energy infrastructure.

• A consortium of investors based in the UAE made a non-binding pledge: they promised to purchase US$450 million worth of carbon credits through the African Carbon Markets Initiative by 2030. 

The focus on offsets and the private sector has been slammed by civil society. In his blog post, Andy Rowell highlights the concerns raised by civil society regarding the relatively small amount of money pledged compared to the trillions required for clean energy, power, and the implementation of climate pledges. The blog further explains that the Summit not only promoted false solutions but also failed to address the complete phaseout of fossil fuels, rather than just making a mere call for it. Whilst the Power Shift Africa organisation pointed out that certain aspects of the Nairobi Declaration were in contradiction to Africa's common position on climate change for COP28. Additionally, they observed that the agenda deviated from Africa's genuine priorities as the discussions and resulting outcomes focused on potentially harmful distractions, such as carbon markets.

‘Loss and Damage’ discussions at the Summit

African leaders have acknowledged the significance of Loss and Damage by advocating for the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund, as previously agreed upon during COP 27. In his statement, the UN Secretary-General urged all countries to operationalize the Loss and Damage fund at COP 28 in Dubai. The President of COP 28 emphasised the importance of securing pledges for the Loss and Damage Fund. "This fund is crucial in providing support to vulnerable countries as they strive to recover from the severe climate impacts they are currently facing" he added. Simon stressed that “we must respond to those impacts we know cannot be averted through our approach to loss and damage and the operationalisation of the new fund and funding arrangements at COP 28.”

Loss and Damage was also a part of the demands made by Priscilla Achakpa, Global President of the Women Environment Programme. She delivered her statement on behalf of African women and girls, emphasising the need for financial assistance to address loss and damage. She stressed that this financial support should be provided in the form of grants and public funding, guided by the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR). She added that the Loss and Damage Fund must cover all forms of loss and damage (economic and non-economic). 

What comes next after the summit?

The Africa Climate Summit demonstrated the significance of Africa coming together with a unified effort to drive progress towards COP 28 and beyond. The platform was stellar in offering the African leaders' call to action emphasising that the time for discussions has ended, and it is now crucial to focus on taking action and implementing solutions. The Nairobi Declaration includes the outcomes of the Summit, specifically in relation to Africa. These outcomes are anticipated to make a valuable contribution to the global stocktake at COP 28.

Leaders decided that the Summit will occur biennially under the auspices of the African Union and will be hosted by member states of the AU. The primary goal of the Summit will be to continue to develop Africa's new vision, while also considering emerging global climate and development concerns. This presents a valuable opportunity for Africa to enhance its influence and voice, as well as foster green economies across the continent. Given Africa's significant vulnerability and immense potential to contribute to climate action, this development holds great promise.

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.

Hyacinthe Niyitegeka’s engagement with the Africa Climate Summit, and this article, was generously supported by the Commonwealth Foundation.   

The development of this article has also 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).