- A considerable gap exists between symbol and substance regarding an African climate change approach.
- The pioneer Africa Climate Summit 2023, held in Nairobi in early September, sought to change the continent’s climate narrative.
- Now, there is more vigor for designing and implementing an African climate change approach that can serve as a model for the rest of the world.
A considerable gap exists between symbol and substance regarding an African climate change approach. Foreign leaders often nod to how Africa accounts for only four per cent of global emissions but bears the brunt of the devastating climate change effects. Rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions, and ecosystem disruptions threaten millions of Africans’ livelihoods.
For many communities across the continent, the climate threat is already existential. With 18 per cent of the global population, Africa has 16 of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change, according to Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative.
Global climate deliberations have overlooked Africa’s specific climate challenges and the continent’s potential to contribute to a low-carbon future. The current global climate agenda has failed Africa by focusing on emissions reductions above all else. This obsession with mitigation disregards Africa’s pressing need for adaptation financing and “loss and damage” compensation. Meanwhile, Africans worry that global efforts to mitigate climate change could come at the cost of their economic development.
Africa’s Climate Summit 2023
The pioneer Africa Climate Summit 2023, held in Nairobi in early September, sought to change the continent’s climate narrative. When leaders from across the globe gathered in Kenya’s capital, they sought to look at what the rest of the world should do for Africa and what the continent could do for the world in return.
African leaders called on rich nations to belatedly fulfil their pledge in 2009 to spend $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries fight climate change and the promise made at the COP27 Summit in 2022 for a fund to help with climate “loss and damage.”
The ACS 2023 declaration noted that an “incipient debt crisis” complicates the formulation of an African climate change approach. According to the IMF, some 21 African economies are in debt distress or highly vulnerable to slumping into it. Runaway inflation has caused central banks to raise interest rates, spiraling the cost of capital to fund an African climate change approach.
The strain from Western policies
Apart from the fury from the lack of capital to fund an African climate change approach, the continent also frets about Western policies. Africa remains relatively reliant on trade with both China and the West. Therefore, ss per the IMF, Sub-Saharan Africa remains a region after the highest risk from China’s decoupling of the West.
As such, African economists are concerned that the United States’ subsidies on renewable energy will render African firms less competitive while raising import costs. African exports to the European Union stand at about 6 per cent.
Some quarters view the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which taxes carbon-intensive imports, as a block towards Africa’s industrialisation. “The US and the EU are seeking to destroy our export potential,” observes Mohammed Amin, the Ghanaian minister of state for finance.
Nevertheless, some African leaders understand that they must do more than complain. “African countries have a choice,” reiterates William Asiko, the African vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, an American philanthropic outfit. “They can focus on things that others are in charge of- or they can focus on the things they can control. “
A good example is the investment in climate change. Only $60 billion or 2 per cent of the global $3 trillion renewable energy investment in the last decade went to Africa. “We can rightfully say that there has been a success in attracting climate finance in the continent,” observes Bogolo Kenewendo, a former cabinet minister in Botswana, now working at the United Nations.
A keen transition to green energy for African countries
Kenya seeks to change the climate narrative by applying climate-related investments in industrialization. East African heavyweight signed a deal with an Australian firm for a geothermal station to power the making of green fertiliser. In July, Kenya amended its climate change act, Africa’s first when enacted in 2016, to regulate carbon markets.
President William Ruto’s government in February 2023 ended a moratorium on renewable deals and pledged an auction system for new projects. In everything, the Kenyan government hopes to make carbon credits a significant source of export revenue.
However, Kenya’s embrace of the carbon markets in green industrialization has had its critics. African climate activists have criticised Kenya’s approach by saying it takes shine away from the “climate justice” campaign. Still, some African leaders mutter that Kenya is an unusually natural fit for green energy projects.
Kenya generates almost all its electricity from renewables, particularly the geothermal project. Officials from Mozambique and Senegal want to ensure they can develop a combination of gas and renewable sources. Other nations need more capacity and the approach to redesign their creaking power systems.
However, African leaders must find ways to have geothermically heated cake and eat it. As Namibia’s recent discoveries indicate, private foreign investments in oil and gas still flew to Africa. Similarly, countries with the right market-friendly policies, including Namibia- can still attract investments in green hydrogen in other projects.
At the ACS 2023, President Joe Biden’s envoy on climate, John Kerry, hailed African efforts to develop carbon markets. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, pledged EU financing towards a Kenyan green hydrogen project.
Nature and wildlife protection
The Nairobi Summit also offered a valuable platform to highlight nature conservation and wildlife protection as critical tools for an African climate change approach. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown, agriculture, forestry, and land use changes that threaten endangered wildlife and vital ecosystems, such as deforestation, industrial development, and urbanization, also contribute up to 24 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The good news is that protecting, restoring, and effectively managing wildlife habitats and critical ecosystems are among the most effective and economical options for mitigating climate change. The IPCC reckons such “nature-based solutions” are among the top five most effective strategies for reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Stopping biodiversity loss and accelerating the implementation of these solutions must, therefore, be a top priority in the global effort to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
As a continent, Africa is home to some of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, from the savannas of Kenya to the mountains of Uganda and Rwanda and the tropical rainforests of the Congo and Gabon. It, therefore, has the potential to act as a world leader in delivering nature-based climate action through the protection, restoration, and effective management of wildlife and biodiversity.
Building upon the landmark agreement of the Convention on Biological Diversity to secure 30 of the world’s terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030, Kenya used the ACS 2023 as a platform to showcase Africa’s unique natural heritage and to call for a significant increase in the amount of international finance invested into nature-based solutions to the climate crisis.
Countries must build on Kenya’s lead
The world will hope that other countries will follows Kenya’s lead in implementing an African climate change approach. Although many people might feel that President William Ruto is using climate endear himself to the global voice, his efforts towards clean energy and climate finance for industrialisation remain laudable.
Kenya has led African countries in highlighting climate impacts. Now, there is more vigour for designing and implementing an African climate change approach that can serve as a model for the rest of the world. A good example is Kenya’s County Climate Change Fund, which delivers local climate finance directly to communities to implement their own climate adaptation plans.
Also Read: Investing in Wildlife Conservation in Kenya