- The East African Community (EAC) will approach the upcoming COP 28 Climate Summit, to be held in Dubai from November 30th to December 12th, 2023, as one bloc.
- No country should have to choose between its development aspirations and climate change mitigation; there is a need for complementarity as opposed to competition among Partner States.
- The move comes as the continent faces the most severe challenges, including the ongoing El-Nino floods and drought that have caused havoc due to climate change.
The East African Community has revealed its intention to present a united front at the upcoming COP 28 Climate Summit scheduled to take place in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, from November 30th to December 12th, 2023.
Addressing participants at the EAC High-Level Forum on Climate Change and Food Security in Arusha, Tanzania, EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki emphasized the significance of the EAC having a unified stance as it prepares for COP 28.
El Niño floods and drought wreaking havoc in EAC
“No country should have to choose between its development aspirations and climate change mitigation. There is a need for complementarity rather than competition among Partner States,” he said.
The initiative comes at a time when the continent is grappling with severe challenges, including the ongoing El Niño floods and drought, wreaking havoc due to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Africa boasts the lowest per capita fossil fuel emissions globally, contributing only 2.8 percent of global fossil fuel emissions between 1850 and 2021.
As per the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, climate change is anticipated to force an additional 78 million people into chronic hunger by 2050, with over half of them residing in sub-Saharan Africa. The foundation highlights that more than 45 percent of Africa’s urban population resides in slum households, which are particularly susceptible to flooding.
“Almost 600 million people in Africa lack access to electricity, which is more than the combined population of France, Japan, the US, and the UK,” reports the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The Heads of States in the EAC have also committed to expanding their investments in Climate Smart Agriculture and renewable energy to address the impacts of climate change and enhance food accessibility and availability for their populations.
President Samia Hassan Suluhu of Tanzania emphasized the significance of climate-smart agriculture in augmenting food production, highlighting the vital role the private sector plays in this endeavor.
Expanding climate-smart agriculture
President Suluhu revealed that Tanzania is actively investing in climate-smart technologies through the Build Better Tomorrow initiative. This program aims to increase the engagement of youth and women in agriculture, fostering agricultural production, poverty reduction, and environmental conservation.
Furthermore, President Suluhu underscored the private sector’s role in post-harvest agro-processing and value addition. She mentioned the government’s efforts in supporting irrigation schemes by constructing dams to capture rainwater.
Access to climate financing across EAC
President Suluhu revealed that the government was facilitating access to climate financing by encouraging commercial banks to lend to green projects. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, President Suluhu stated that Tanzania has dedicated 25 percent of its national land to forests, serving as a carbon sink, with the private sector also encouraged to venture into carbon sinking.
The Heads of State further agreed on the need to improve rainwater harvesting to ensure increased water availability for irrigation agriculture. The Summit also concurred on reducing post-harvest losses of food through the adoption of modern technologies to ensure better storage and distribution of agricultural products.
President William Ruto of Kenya highlighted that his country has prioritized the conservation of its water towers, which are being fenced to guard against encroachment and destruction. Describing Kenya as 80 per cent arid and semi-arid, he emphasized that the country doesn’t have enough rain but has adequate water.
President Ruto noted that the government had hired 1,000 new forest rangers to ensure adequate human capital to protect the national forest cover. He reiterated the country’s commitment to planting 15 billion trees over the next 10 years to protect the environment and conserve its water towers.
“We are also making use of the National Youth Service by converting them into a green army to ensure that we don’t just plant but grow trees. It is easier to plant than grow trees,” said President Ruto, adding that the country was growing trees for the twin objectives of protecting the environment and making money through carbon trading.
Regarding rainwater harvesting, President Ruto announced that Kenya will build 100 mega dams to increase food production through irrigation, with plans to increase the acreage under irrigation from 600,000 to two million acres.
President Ruto stated that the country had registered 6.5 million farmers and distributed subsidized fertilizers to them by eliminating brokers, middlemen, and cartels. He added that fertilizer subsidies had enabled the country to increase maize production by 40 per cent from 40 million tonnes in 2022 to 61 million tonnes in 2023.
To manage post-harvest losses, President Ruto mentioned that the country had purchased 100 dryers to be distributed across the country. On enabling access to climate financing, President Ruto emphasized the need to reshape multilateral financial institutions to provide affordable financing for climate mitigation.
EAC prospects in carbon trading
The Heads of State were also in consensus that increasing forest cover and carefully protecting existing ones will enhance the region’s and Africa’s prospects in carbon trading and climate financing compared to the rest of the world.
Speaking at the forum, Evariste Ndayishimiye, the Chairperson of the Summit and President of Burundi, mentioned that his country experiences nine months of rain annually but is taking measures to become more climate-resilient. President Ndayishimiye stated that Burundi is investing in agroforestry to protect its land against soil erosion. He added that the country embarked on an afforestation program five years ago to ensure its landscape is covered by forests.
Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, representing President Paul Kagame at the forum, disclosed that the country is creating synergy between the government and the private sector to increase investment in agriculture, a sector often perceived as a high-risk area by investors. Ngirente mentioned that the government is investing in essential infrastructure, including feeder roads, and providing affordable financing at single-digit interest rates to encourage investment in agriculture.
“Rwanda is investing in cold rooms and storage facilities to manage post-harvest losses, which he said were as high as 40 per cent in Africa. We have established the Ireme fund to increase investment in climate-smart agriculture and climate change mitigation,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for EAC Affairs, Right Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, mentioned that Uganda is evicting people from its wetlands due to excessive use and abuse, which has had devastating impacts on the environment. Kadaga stated that the government is relocating those evicted from wetlands to other areas and encouraging them to undertake more environmentally friendly activities, such as cage farming and soil cultivation.