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COP28: Africa must define her path to sustainable future now

Health Opinion
 Olkaria one power substation in Naivasha. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The planet is suffering an urgent climate crisis, and we find ourselves at a crossroads where immediate action is not just a choice but a necessity.

The recent Africa Climate Summit 2023 in Nairobi, along with the upcoming COP28 conference in the UAE, provide a beacon of hope and a clear direction for Africa.

These pivotal events underscore the pressing need to decarbonise our energy sector and set the stage for a greener and more sustainable future. A turning point in our global commitment to address climate change was marked at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last year.

The decisions taken there sent a resounding call to all nations to intensify efforts in combatting the climate crisis. A significant breakthrough was establishment of a dedicated fund for loss and damage, recognising the vital support needed by vulnerable countries affected by climate disasters.

This fund and its funding mechanisms will be instrumental in aiding those who bear the brunt of climate change impacts. Furthermore, maintaining our focus on limiting global warming to 1.5°C is imperative, as emphasized by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has set stringent deadlines, to peak global greenhouse gas emissions before 2025 and reduce them by 43 per cent by 2030.

These ambitious targets are key for ensuring a sustainable future. Accountability for commitments made by various sectors, businesses and institutions is equally crucial as we transition into the implementation phase, ensuring that all aspects of human activity align with the 1.5°C goal.

Additionally, mobilising financial support for developing countries is essential, redirecting financial flows toward low-emission, climate-resilient development. This is why the Africa Climate Summit 2023, was a significant moment for our continent. The summit resulted in the Nairobi Declaration, which urgently called for global action on climate change. African leaders reiterated the disproportionate burdens and risks Africa faces due to climate change.

The summit also highlighted Africa’s potential for green growth, with an impressive $23 billion pledged to green projects by governments, investors, development banks, and philanthropists.

Notably, the United Arab Emirates pledged $4.5 billion to clean energy initiatives in Africa, with the potential to generate 15 gigawatts of clean energy by 2030. Germany and the US also made substantial climate finance commitments, reinforcing Africa’s resolve to combat climate change.

The Nairobi Declaration’s call for global carbon pollution taxes, coal phase-out, and ending fossil fuel subsidies. Decarbonising the energy sector is central to our efforts. Kenya has made commendable progress in this regard, with a commitment to renewable energy. Our geothermal, wind, and solar energy projects serve as scalable examples.

We are also exploring opportunities in hydropower, biomass, and small-scale solar installations. By diversifying our energy sources, we can ensure a stable and sustainable power supply for our growing economy. Looking ahead, we must continue to invest in clean energy sources, enhance energy efficiency, and foster innovation to achieve our decarbonisation goals.

While Kenya’s efforts are commendable, the broader African continent has a pivotal role to play in the global energy transition. Africa is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal potential.

These resources can not only meet the continent’s energy needs but also make a huge contribution to global climate action efforts. Africa’s vast deserts and sunny climate make it a potential solar energy hub, with investments in large-scale solar projects offering clean and affordable electricity while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

In the same way, the continent’s extensive coastlines and open landscapes provide ideal conditions for wind power. Companies like KenGen are at the forefront of driving the deployment of renewable energy boasting over 86 per cent renewable energy share making Kenya a leader in the region in combating effects of climate change.

Notably, hydropower, already well-established in countries like Ethiopia and Zambia, remains a reliable and sustainable energy source that should be maintained and expanded across the continent. Additionally, geothermal energy, exemplified by KenGen Kenya’s exploits in Olkaria, Naivasha represents an underutilised resource in many African countries, necessitating government investments in exploration and development to fully harness this clean and renewable energy source.

As we prepare for COP28 in Dubai, Africa finds itself in a unique position. UAE, which has pledged substantial investments in clean energy projects across Africa, will host this pivotal conference. This presents a remarkable opportunity for African nations to showcase their commitment to sustainable development and secure further support for their clean energy initiatives.

African nations must collaborate closely with global partners to ensure climate resilience investments translate into tangible projects that benefit our people and planet. COP28 provides a platform for Africa to advocate climate finance mechanisms that prioritise needs of developing nations.

Africa should also use COP28 as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of technology transfer and capacity building. Access to clean energy technology and knowledge sharing are essential for our continent to accelerate its energy transition.

The continent’s journey toward a sustainable and decarbonised energy sector is well underway, with Kenya leading by example. The Africa Climate Summit 2023 and COP27 resolutions have set the stage for meaningful action, and COP28 in Dubai offers an opportunity to showcase our commitment to a greener future.

The writer is the Managing Director KenGen PLC. md&[email protected]

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