High stakes for continent as Africa Climate Summit starts

The three-day summit themed "Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World" organised by the African Union Commission in collaboration with Kenya, is expected to chart a path for more than 900 million people.

President William Ruto has articulated the unified African voice on the global stage, affirming that the continent is prepared to provide leadership and contribute to global efforts to decarbonize.

He said in his address to the 36th ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

"We, therefore, have an opportunity to lead the world and show that we can industrialise and prosper - and achieve this in a low carbon and sustainable manner, and make this century, the African Century."

The summit serves as an occasion to draft the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions. This declaration carries significant weight as it provides a framework for coordinated action by African Union Member States and their supporting partners.

With the clock ticking and the stakes higher than ever, African nations at the summit will voice their demands and expectations, which is seen as a crucial stepping stone towards the upcoming COP28 in Dubai in November.

To adapt and thrive in this changing climate, Africa must secure significant financial commitments. However, the current funding landscape falls far short of the challenge ahead.

To put this challenge into perspective, African countries must raise $124 billion annually by 2030, but currently, they receive $28 billion per year.

This alarming funding gap has placed immense pressure on the ACS to serve as a turning point in addressing climate change in Africa.

Power Shift Africa Director Mohamed Adow said: "How Africa develops over the next two decades will determine the fate of the planet."

Restructuring climate finance remains a pressing challenge. Africa needs an estimated $1.6 trillion between 2022 and 2030 to achieve its nationally determined contributions, but the continent received only $30 billion in financing flows in 2020.

African nations are seeking to transition from fossil fuel economies to renewable growth, and finance is pivotal to this transformation.

The role of international financial institutions, particularly the IMF and multilateral development banks, is becoming increasingly crucial in providing climate finance to developing countries.

These institutions play a key role in redistributing funds from developed countries to developing nations, aiding in tackling development challenges exacerbated by climate change.

Yet, the current financial structure faces challenges amid a global polycrisis. Rising inflation levels, food crises, debt crises, and climate crises are straining resources and complicating financing efforts. Africa's potential for economic growth and renewable energy development hinges on securing the necessary funding.

The private sector also possesses significant resources that could be harnessed. An estimated $630 billion of private capital per year is available for investment in food systems.

The summit seeks commitments from governments and the public sector to mobilise funds for the vast climate finance shortfall required for agriculture.

Mwandwe Chileshe, Global Policy Lead for Food Security and Agriculture at Global Citizen, emphasises that adaptation finance must prioritise the needs of those most impacted by climate change, especially smallholder farmers who form the backbone of Africa's agriculture sector.

African nations are also looking to harness their renewable energy potential to drive sustainable development and combat climate change.

Despite possessing the capacity to produce 40 per cent of global solar power, Africa currently accounts for just one per cent of the market. The gap between potential and reality is stark, with only 0.01 per cent of wind power potential tapped thus far.

"The renewable energy industry is committed to scaling up the total global capacity to at least 11,000 GW by 2030," says Bruce Douglas, CEO of the Global Renewable Alliance.

However, the continent's renewable energy investment has lagged behind, receiving only 0.8 per cent of the global investments in 2022.

Africa's renewable energy investment stands at $9.4 billion annually, a meager figure compared to its true potential. Chilufya Chileshe, a food policy expert from the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, highlights the urgent need to prioritise climate

Several key issues related to climate adaptation are set to be discussed during the summit, including reforming finance to enable post-disaster reconstruction and strengthening the African Adaptation Initiative. There is also an urgent call to deliver the UNFCCC Loss and Damage Fund, putting pressure on wealthy nations to expedite its establishment.

Another pressing concern on the summit's agenda is the need for substantial investments in renewable energy. Africa, with its abundant solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro resources, has the potential to produce 40 percent of the world's solar power.

However, it currently accounts for just one percent of global production. According to Bruce Douglas, CEO of the Global Renewable Alliance, "Let us harness the potential of renewable energy in Africa not just for the climate but as a socioeconomic catalyst."

Despite this vast potential, renewable energy investment in Africa lags behind. In 2022, the continent received only 0.8 percent of the USD495 billion invested globally in renewables. The ACS will call for ambitious investments in clean energy, as Africa needs $133 billion annually between 2026 and 2030 to meet its energy and climate goals. Furthermore, the summit will emphasize the importance of green minerals, as Africa holds 30 percent of the world's mineral reserves, including critical minerals like copper, lithium, and cobalt.

Dr. Marit Y. Kitaw, Interim Director of the African Minerals Development Center, notes that this presents a unique opportunity for Africa to benefit from the global demand for these minerals and drive sustainable development and industrialization on the continent.

In 2023, the global financial landscape witnessed a significant downturn in the value of "offset credits" within the voluntary carbon markets. This startling decline came as revelations surfaced, exposing that a substantial portion of these credits had failed to make any meaningful contribution toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

While voluntary carbon markets were once hailed for their potential benefits, such as providing financial support to indigenous and local communities engaged in responsible land management, recent events have cast a shadow over their credibility.

In 2017, a report highlighted that these markets held approximately 300,000 million metric tonnes of carbon, primarily associated with land managed by such communities worldwide.

As the summit kicks off More than 500 African civil society organisations have issued seven hard-hitting demands on their governments and wealthy nations.

They are demanding justice, decolonisation of the continent's economic systems and repayment of climate debt. They are also demanding an end to energy capture, an immediate stop to fossil fuel projects and rejection of false solutions in a move that is set to put the plight of over 900 million people in the global spotlight.

Hardi Yakubu, from Africans Rising, stated that Africans were tired of leaders and governments paying lip service to Africa on the impact of climate change on its people.

"We demand a decolonisation of Africa's economy and development agenda, a repayment of climate debt and delivery of much-needed money to Africa for Climate Adaptation and losses and damages," Yakubu said.

Statistics show that Africa has been thrust into a never-ending cycle of poverty, hunger, undue exposure to climate-induced disasters, and ever-dwindling investment in adaptation and mitigation measures.

"It is a serious indictment on world leaders and corporations that African people continue to disproportionately experience devastating impacts of climate change for no fault of their own," Lorraine Chiponda from the Africa Movements Building Space said.