At the beginning of September 2023 (4th– 6th), the African Heads of State and Government gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for the Africa Climate Summit (ACS).
In the presence of other global leaders, intergovernmental organizations, Regional Economic Communities, United Nations Agencies, private sector, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, local communities, farmer organizations, children, youth, women and academia the summit ended with a common declaration on climate change.
H.E. President William Ruto, the host of the summit, presented the conclusions of the fruitful high level gathering, which provided a unified approach and political leadership on an African vision that simultaneously pursues climate change and development agenda.
The African leaders called in the common declaration for the full implementation of all COP27 decisions, mentioning the need to cut global emissions by 43% during this decade, in order to achieve the ‘Paris agreement’ climate target, while highlighting that Africa is currently warming faster than the rest of the world and, if unabated, climate change will continue to have adverse impacts on African economies and societies, and hamper growth and wellbeing.
Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing humanity and the single biggest threat to all life on Earth.
Many African countries face disproportionate burdens and risks arising from climate change-related, unpredictable weather events and patterns, including prolonged droughts, devastating floods, wildfires, which cause massive humanitarian crisis with detrimental impacts on economies, health, education, peace and security, among other risks.
In 2023, 600 million people in Africa still lack access to electricity while 970 million lack access to clean cooking. African cities and urban centers are growing rapidly, and by 2050 would be home to over one billion people.
Despite the fact that Africa has an estimated 40 percent of the world’s renewable energy resources, in the last decade only 60 billion USD renewable energy investments have come to Africa.
The continent possesses both the potential and the ambition to be a vital component of the global solution to climate change. As home to the world’s youngest and fastest-growing workforce, coupled with massive untapped renewable energy potential, abundant natural assets and entrepreneurial spirit, Africa has the fundamentals to spearhead a climate compatible pathway as a thriving, cost-competitive industrial hub with the capacity to support other regions in achieving their net zero ambitions.
The declaration also mentioned the important role of forests in Africa, in particular the Congo Basin rainforest, in regulating global climate change, while further recognizing the critical importance of the oceans in climate action and commitments made on ocean sustainability in multiple fora such as the Second UN Oceans Conference in 2022 and the Moroni Declaration for Ocean and Climate Action in Africa in 2023.
Collective actions are needed: accelerated efforts to reduce emissions, providing 100 billion USD in annual climate finance, as promised 14 years ago at the Copenhagen conference, a fair and accelerated process of phasing down coal and abolishment of all fossil fuel subsidies, while developing and implementing policies, regulations and incentives aimed at attracting local, regional and global investment in green growth and inclusive economies.
The African leaders emphasized that strengthening continental collaboration is essential to enabling and advancing green growth, including but not limited to regional and continental grid interconnectivity, and further accelerating the operationalization of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
Advancing green industrialization across the Continent should prioritize energy-intense industries to trigger a virtuous cycle of renewable energy deployment and economic activity, with a special emphasis on adding value to Africa’s natural endowments. Sustainable agricultural practices should also be a priority, in order to enhance food security while minimizing negative environmental impacts, enhancing drought resilience systems to shift from crisis management to proactive drought preparedness and adaptation, to significantly reduce drought vulnerability of people, supporting smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities in the green economic transition given their key role in ecosystems stewardship.
The final summit declaration highlighted the importance of building effective partnership between Africa and other regions, to meet the needs for financial, technical and technological support, and knowledge sharing for climate change adaptation.
The declaration was a call upon world leaders to appreciate that decarbonizing the global economy is also an opportunity to contribute to equality and shared prosperity, and meanwhile an invite for partners from both the global south and north to align and coordinate their technical and financial resources directed toward Africa to promote sustainable utilization of Africa’s natural assets for the continent’s progression toward low carbon development. It was a call for access to and transfer of environmentally sound technologies, including technologies that consist of processes and innovation methods to support Africa’s green industrialization and transition, while redesigning global and regional trade mechanisms in a manner that enables products from Africa to compete on fair and equitable terms.
The decision 31/ COP27 that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investment of at least 4 to 6 trillion USD per year was reiterated. Delivering such funding in turn requires a transformation of the financial system and its structures and processes, engaging governments, central banks, commercial banks, institutional investors and other financial actors. No country should ever have to choose between development aspirations and climate action.
The African leaders proposed for consideration a new SDR issue for climate crisis response of at least the same magnitude as the Covid19 issue (650b USD), new debt relief interventions and instruments to pre-empt debt default, including a 10-year grace period, inclusive and effective international tax cooperation at the United Nations (Resolution A/C.2/77/L.11/REV.1)– with the aim to reduce Africa’s loss of 27 billion USD in annual corporate tax revenue through profit shifting, by at least 50 percent by 2030 and 75 percent by 2050.
A multilateral finance reform is necessary but not sufficient to provide the scale of climate financing that the world needs, in order to achieve 45 percent emission reduction by 2030, without which keeping global warming to 1.5° would be in serious jeopardy. However, the scale of financing required to unlock Africa’s climate-positive growth is beyond the borrowing capacity of national balance sheets. Africa’s borrowing costs, typically 5 to 8 times higher than what wealthy countries pay are a root cause of recurring developing country debt crisis and an impediment to investment in development and climate action.
World leaders are urged to rally behind the proposal for a global carbon taxation regime, including a carbon tax on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport and aviation, that may also be augmented by a global financial transaction tax (FTT)) to provide dedicated, affordable, and accessible finance for climate-positive investments at scale. A new financing architecture that is responsive to Africa’s needs is desired, including debt restructuring and relief, while developing a new Global Climate Finance Charter through UNGA and COP processes by 2025.
In the end, African leaders decided that the Africa Climate Summit should be a biennial event convened by African Union and hosted by AU Member States, to set the continent’s new vision taking into consideration emerging global climate and development issues.