Africa wins Sh4 trillion pledge as summit insists on climate justice

President William Ruto speaks at the KICC after the closure of the Africa Climate Summit, on August 6, 2023. [Silas Otieno, Standard]

The first Africa Climate Summit (ACS) came up with a resounding call for climate justice, underpinned by the demand for rich countries to fulfil their financing commitments to mitigate the impacts of climate change in Africa even as wealthy countries made a Sh3.9 trillion fresh pledge.

More than Sh3.9 trillion was pledged for green growth, mitigation and adaptation efforts across the continent after the three-day summit in Nairobi. 

Delegates from diverse backgrounds, including youth, civil society, private sector leaders and children, came together to address pressing climate and development priorities.

Their declarations were deemed a landmark moment in the global fight against climate change. African leaders united to demand climate justice, hold rich nations accountable for their commitments and set an ambitious agenda for a greener and more equitable future.

The summit's host President William Ruto, also chair of AU heads of state committee on climate change, alongside African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat and AU Chair, Comoros President Azali Assoumani, in their remarks, issued a resounding call for climate justice and urged rich countries to fulfil their financing commitments.

The Nairobi Declaration, a comprehensive document outlining Africa's climate aspirations, lays out a roadmap for climate-positive growth and global decarbonisation while demanding accountability from the global community.

The declaration emphasizes the urgency of reducing emissions to align with the Paris Agreement's goals and calls for the fulfilment of the long-standing promise to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance.

"We cannot wait any longer. Climate change is already wreaking havoc on our continent, and the world must act now," President Ruto stated.

The call for justice and equity is resounding throughout the heads of state declaration. It calls for the operationalisation of the loss and damage fund as agreed at COP27 and resolves for a measurable Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) with indicators and targets to enable assessment of progress against the negative impacts of climate change.

Africa's heads of state agreed that leaders on the continent are determined to hold the global community accountable for its role in addressing climate-related damages.

President Ruto emphasized the need for Africa to attract green investments. "We commit to developing and implementing policies, regulations, and incentives aimed at attracting local, regional and global investment in green growth and inclusive economies," he asserted.

The declaration underscores the importance of economic transformation that aligns with climate needs, promoting green production and protecting biodiversity.

A key element of the declaration is the call to increase Africa's renewable energy capacity from 56 GW in 2022 to at least 300 GW by 2030. "This ambitious target not only addresses energy poverty but also contributes to global clean energy supply," said Moussa Faki.

The chairperson of the African Union Commission said African leaders advocate shifting energy-intensive processes to the continent, reducing global emissions while fostering economic development.

The African leaders also, in their signed declaration, insisted on multilateral discussions and agreements regarding trade-related environmental tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

The declaration recognises the scale of investment required for a low-carbon economy, echoing need for USD 4–6 trillion per year.

It emphasizes the transformation of the financial system and calls for collective global action to mobilise capital for both development and climate action. "No country should ever have to choose between development aspirations and climate action," the declaration asserts.

While a diverse assembly of people, representing the vast lands of Africa, gathered with a shared purpose, among them were individuals from social movements, civil society, and those living with disabilities whose collective mission was to unite behind a declaration. One that underscored the urgent need for climate justice and the fulfilment of financial commitments by wealthy nations.

The gathering, known as the People's Assembly, unfolded parallel with the first Africa Climate Summit. In a resounding declaration, the assembly outlined Africa's pressing needs and the collective commitment to strive for them. They voiced their demands on governments, domestically and in international forums like the upcoming COP28.

They cited decades of oppression, violations of rights, and destruction of nature and livelihoods that had marred Africa's history. Resource theft and extraction had often driven these injustices, all while the continent's peoples endured the consequences.

Yet, the declaration recognised that true climate justice could not be achieved within the confines of a broken system that had to be dismantled to secure the human rights of all people and communities, especially those defending these rights.

Central to their declaration was the call for a reversal of global financial flows. Promises of billions in financing were insufficient. They highlighted the staggering reality that over $2 trillion flowed from the Global South to the Global North every year. This financial drain needed to be reversed for any meaningful, lasting change to occur.

The declaration also issued concrete calls to action. Mohammed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa urged world leaders to align with Africa's vision for sustainable development, renewable energy, green industrialisation, and equitable trade. “We demand for reform in the multilateral financial system, addressing debt issues, and mobilising capital for development and climate action.”

The Children Declaration sought to address the specific vulnerabilities and rights of children in the face of climate change. It also emphasized the need to empower children and youth in climate-related policy processes.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate, expressed the urgency of the children's message: "Our future is at stake, and we will not be silent. Rich countries must step up and fulfill their promises to fund climate action."

African Union Youth Envoy, Chido Mpemba, stressed the importance of meaningful participation: "Children and young people are not just bystanders in this climate crisis; we are change-makers, and our voices must be heard."

The declaration outlined several key points that aim to address the specific challenges faced by children and in the climate crisis.

It called for child-friendly mechanisms and platforms to enable children's active engagement in climate-related policy processes at national and international levels.

It advocated a dedicated focus on children's rights to environmental education and meaningful participation through the Glasgow Work Program on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), adopted at COP26.