View(s) from Africa: What’s at stake at Africa Climate Week?
We asked a panel of policy experts about their hopes, fears, and expectations from the Africa Climate Summit and Week.
When President William Ruto announced that Kenya would be hosting the inaugural Africa Climate Summit earlier this year, he presented it as an opportunity to “propel Africa to join the leadership of the global climate action”. This is the continent’s chance, he said, to unite and to “refine its position” ahead of COP28.
As we have approached the 4-6 September summit, co-hosted by the African Union Commission, the meaning of this ambition has been questioned. As we reported, over 400 civil society organisations signed an open letter claiming that the summit’s agenda, which was helped shaped by McKinsey, foregrounds “concepts and false solutions [that] are led by Western interests while being marketed as African priorities”. Other campaigners, writing in African Arguments, have said that a truly African agenda would prioritise the elimination of fossil fuels, something the summit’s concept note does not mention.
Amid these disagreements, we asked a diverse panel of climate policy experts what their hopes, fears, and expectations are of the Africa Climate Summit.
Lily Odarno, Director, Energy and Climate Innovation (Africa), Clean Air Task Force
“As governments, the private sector and civil society gather in Nairobi to discuss Africa’s climate future at Africa Climate Week, my hope is that all parties come to this year’s dialogue with a deep sense of realism and a commitment to achieve tangible results.
The African continent is sitting in a delicate balance. On the one hand is deep crisis from political instability, food insecurity, mounting debt burdens, and climate vulnerability. On the other is opportunity and a massive potential for innovation and growth on a continent that is home to the youngest population in the world and is endowed with rich energy and natural resources. We must tip the balance in favour of opportunity and hope.
To do this, Africa Climate Week must take the real issues head-on and strive to answer these questions: How can we transform the continent’s energy system whilst bringing energy access and development to all? How can we build a resilient financial architecture that can support the continent’s climate and development goals? How can we build effective systems of accountability to measure progress in climate action over time?
Emerging regional frameworks like the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and existing regional electricity markets, amongst others, can be potential levers of opportunity. In Nairobi, we must explore how we can harness the potential of these regional opportunities and incubate new and strategic alliances between governments, the private sector, and civil society to support Africa’s climate, energy, and development future.”
David McNair, Executive Director for Global Policy, ONE
“It’s no secret that climate change is going to change everything; no secret that it poses massive threats for the spread of disease, the destruction of infrastructure and displacement of people; no secret that those who contributed least will be hit the hardest.
But Africa Climate Week offers an opportunity to tell a different story. A story where Africa is the protagonist in the transition to a green sustainable and prosperous future. The continent with 60% of the world’s solar potential, 70% of the world’s cobalt, whose forests remove more carbon from the atmosphere than the Amazon.
I hope that African leaders can articulate this potential clearly and present a clear plan for investment that captures the attention of private investors and of global leaders. That they voice their anger at the injustice of just how much more African countries pay to borrow money than rich countries, and that they call for the G20, which meets just days later, to agree on tripling the low-cost lending capacity of the World Bank and other development banks.
If this summit started to unlock the hundreds of billions in investment needed to transform our energy system it could also transform Africa’s economies and that would be a very good thing.”
Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Executive Vice President, African Center for Economic Transformation
“Over the next several months, we have the potential to reshape the global financial system and the climate agenda to reflect Africa’s needs and ability to help solve global challenges. As I look ahead, I have a few hopes for Africa Climate Week and the Africa Climate Summit.
First, I hope that any actions on climate finance are paired with actions to ensure a fairer global financial system, so that we can once and for all put to bed any competition between the climate and development agendas. African countries have clearly outlined their asks on debt relief, concessional finance, SDR reallocation, voice, and green growth. These work in support of both the development and climate agendas.
Second, I hope to see a strong focus on economic transformation with commitments from the private sector to invest in green industrialisation and green growth in Africa. This will require the private sector to step up in a big way.
Third, I hope to see continued strong and unapologetic leadership from African voices, refusing incrementalism in favour of bold, ambitious policy reforms and climate actions.
And lastly, these gatherings should not be seen as an end point, but rather a time to bring Africa’s climate and finance priorities to the forefront and decide on a way forward for the coming months and years. I hope we all come out of Africa Climate Week and the Africa Climate Summit with a clear roadmap for action owned by a coalition of leaders, activists, and citizens who will act collectively toward a greener, more prosperous and fairer future for Africa.”
Olivia Rumble, Director, Climate Legal
“The African Climate Summit comes at a timely moment, right before the G20 Summit and the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Ambition Summits in September, and ahead of the World Bank and IMF annual meetings in October. In so doing, it is well placed to advance an ambitious and reinvigorated African position on a host of climate issues and anchor these in the dialogues of the upcoming summits and COP28.
Given President Ruto’s forthright positioning in the media around climate finance, I would be interested to see to what extent Kenya, as host of the Summit, garners support for some of the more ambitious proposals it has put forward, including the new Green Bank and its financing through novel sources such as carbon taxation and related levies. In particular, I’m curious to see how African countries feel about imposing a domestic price on carbon, particularly given the anticipated impacts of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism but also taking their own market sensitivities and tax administrative realities into account.
I am also hoping to see the political statements and outcomes of the Summit pick up and give greater traction to some of the detailed and important work that has already been undertaken within related initiatives and groups, such as the African Ministers of Finance in the UNECA-coordinated High-Level Working Group on the Global Financial Architecture. For instance, I understand that a handful of developed countries will also be attending, and it would be important to not just focus on the traditional issues of IMF, World Bank and MDB climate-related reforms but to also see global attention centred on the broader push to fundamentally restructure the architecture of the current economic system, most notably in relation to debt.”
Saliem Fakir, Executive Director, African Climate Foundation
“The African Climate Foundation (ACF) trusts that Africa Climate Week, organised in parallel to the first African Climate Summit, will deliver decisive and comprehensive action to address the critical issues of climate change and its impact on Africa.
Recognising Africa’s unique vulnerabilities to climate change, the ACF welcomes the forthcoming Summit’s focus on scaling adaptation on the continent. To achieve this, adaptation actions need to simultaneously build resilience to climate impacts whilst supporting economic and social development goals, in a manner that builds on indigenous and local knowledge and expertise. This requires significant investments in adaptation and resilience building and innovative means to advance these at scale.
To achieve this, the Foundation anticipates global cooperation that ensures the provision of adequate, predictable, new and additional adaptation finance, which also creates the necessary fiscal space for African countries to prioritise these measures within their own budgetary processes. It also requires creative measures to sustainably mobilise adaptation funding built on policy and planning instruments that chart sectoral adaptation pathways and a pipeline of bankable projects.
The Summit offers an opportunity to provide a uniquely African lens to inclusion and equity, ensuring that the most vulnerable are not left behind. As such, we welcome efforts by the host to facilitate collaboration amongst all participants to achieve an outcome that is co-created and supported by all.”