Four Ways Africa Can Influence the Global Climate Agenda Through the Africa Climate Summit

Posted on 30 August 2023

By Alice Ruhweza, Senior Director, Policy Influence and Engagement (WWF International)
The Africa Climate Summit, scheduled from September 4th to 6th, 2023, arrives amid multiple challenges as well as significant prospects. The convergence of climate-related shocks, loss of biodiversity, the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the conflict in Ukraine have undermined a substantial portion of Africa’s developmental progress. Nonetheless, these crises also offer a unique opening for African Governments to collaboratively pursue concrete solutions to tackle these pressing issues.

A strong momentum is building to address these crises. The adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in the previous year has paved the way for nations to formulate fresh national strategies and action plans for biodiversity. During the Nineteenth regular session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), African member states pledged to persist in addressing and resolving environmental challenges on the African continent. This commitment includes active participation in a globally binding treaty aimed at eliminating plastic pollution caused by hazardous and high-risk plastics. Moreover, they have resolved to capitalize on available opportunities to advance both national and regional sustainable development agendas.

The African Climate Summit arrives just ahead of a series of pivotal political events for the year, strategically positioning itself to influence the ongoing narrative. The Summit will run concurrently with the Africa Climate Week, and followed by other regional climate weeks scheduled to occur in various regions over the next two months. The outcomes of the Africa Climate Summit will be presented at the UN General Assembly and will serve as valuable input for the COP28 negotiations set to take place in the UAE in December- where the first Global Stocktake will take place to set out a course correction to realign countries ambition with the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, the month of October will host significant gatherings such as the International Climate and Energy Summit in Madrid, the World Bank Annual Meeting in Marrakech, and the Green Climate Fund replenishment conference in Bonn.

Undoubtedly, these events offer exceptional opportunities for the Africa Climate Summit to align with, bolster, and harness the momentum surrounding key narratives related to fossil fuels, biodiversity, finance, and food. The narrative of the Summit prominently underscores Africa's capacity and willingness to dedicate its assets, encompassing mineral and energy resources, agricultural capability, and natural wealth, to drive the global decarbonization agenda.

With a vibrant youth comprising over 60 percent of the population. Africa is the young, clean, and green continent of the future.

Here are four deliverables the summit can lead on:-

Actively Phase out of Fossil Fuels and Engineer a Leapfrog into Renewables
The urgency is clear; to usher in a cleaner, greener, era in a just and inclusive way for Africa. Africa leads the world in solar energy potential with 60% of the world’s best solar resources according to the IEA, African countries could engineer a leapfrog to 100% renewables (avoiding gas as a transition fuel) which would address dual climate and sustainable development goals. Indeed this transition offers important benefits. Africa can leverage its vast renewable energy potential, including abundant sunlight, wind resources, and hydroelectric capabilities, and shift away from coal, oil, and gas. There is already a growing momentum towards renewables. Solar is set to overtake the amount of investment going into oil production for the first time. According to the IEA’s World Energy Investment Report released in May this year, for every dollar invested in fossil  fuels, about 1.7 dollars does not go into clean energy. Africa needs to win a share of this global investment given the urgent need to speed up efforts to achieve universal access to electricity across the continent.  Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa and Senegal play host to significant solar and wind development. 

African countries can ensure these and other transitions are planned and inclusive and address the pressing sustainable development challenges including access to clean cooking, and green jobs transitioning. Specifically, the continent should aim to increase the share of global investments in Africa’s renewable energy sources from 1% annually to 10% by 2028 and a further increase by 2035. This means shifting investments from new oil and gas exploration and infrastructure, to ensure leapfrogging to renewable energies without creating stranded assets or having bridging  fuels such as gas.  The speed of transition across the region is conditional on timely and effective climate finance, capacity and technology support to overcome barriers; such as inadequate grid infrastructures and weak institutional capacity in some countries; and  the need to de-risk private investment and reduce the cost of capital,
Strengthen Alignment between Biodiversity and Climate
With a quarter of the world’s biodiversity, ten percent of the planet's internal renewable fresh water source, the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum and uranium, and the world second largest carbon sink, Africa’s biodiversity and natural resources are our  strongest ally in the fight against climate change. Africa has been a frontrunner in delivering  Nature-Based Solutions (NbS)  through initiatives such as the Africa Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative; The Great Green Wall and the Great Blue Wall  to mention a few. Another opportunity for Africa lies in the revision and update of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) and ensuring that climate change is mainstreamed in the NBSAPs.  The majority of African countries have submitted revised NDCs with heightened mitigation efforts to curb global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, and will be soon preparing the next NDCs. Strengthening the implementation of these NDCs requires a clear and well-defined roadmap for effective execution. The Africa Climate Summit presents an opportunity for leaders, policymakers, etc, to reiterate the call towards strengthening and implementing the revised NDCs and to advocate ahead of COP28 that the GST reflect the special development circumstances of Africa and to help Africa address its ambition gaps with regard to energy transition
Advocate for New and Increased Finance for Climate and Nature and Fulfillment of Unmet Contributions
According to a report by the Climate Policy Initiative Africa requires USD 2.8 trillion between 2020-2030 to implement its Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. This is the cost of the continent’s contribution to limiting warming to 1.5°C and addressing the biggest impacts of climate change. However, annual climate finance flows in Africa stand at only USD 30 billion. Many African countries are struggling with limited monetary and fiscal space to allocate sufficient funds to address climate change and for the conservation and protection of Africa’s natural resources. This situation is compounded by debt, competing development priorities, such as poverty reduction and infrastructure development, which often take precedence over biodiversity conservation. The establishment of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund, at the recent GEF Assembly in Vancouver, no doubt, holds immense potential for addressing the biodiversity crisis. However, it is essential that the fund works for Africa by being adequate, transparent, predictable, and timely; and benefits Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
At COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, the parties agreed to ramp up more financing to facilitate global transformations to a low-carbon economy and this will require at least US$4 – US$6 trillion a year. It is important to note that despite the call for this new money, developed countries are still to meet their pledge of US$100 billion per year. Estimates show Africa needs at least USD 2.8 trillion between 2020 and 2030 if it has to implement its commitment as spelled out in the Nationally Determined Contributions.  The Africa Climate Summit (ACS) and Africa Climate Week (ACW) are vital platforms to call for tangible financial commitments and call for the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund ahead of COP28. This support is critical for essential adaptation measures across the continent.
Align Climate Adaptation with Food Systems Transformation
With the world's largest remaining arable land, Africa has the potential to feed the world and feed itself. However, climate change is already wreaking havoc on agricultural productivity due to rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events such as droughts and floods.  After three years of drought, more than 27 million people are facing acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda which has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 9.5 million livestock; a situation that will become worse as temperatures surpass 1.5°C. The IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report makes it clear that without addressing emissions from food systems, in addition to rapid decarbonisation of all other related sectors, it will not be possible to keep 1.5°C within reach. African governments need to give more focus on climate actions in food systems. 

A study by WWF and others  found US$60 billion shortfall in climate finance for adaptation in Africa is preventing action in food systems at speed and scale necessary to address climate change..There is a need to align the implementation of national food systems transformation pathways with the continuous updates of National Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation plans (NAPs) for climate action.  As a priority, this should include securing the most impacted sources of food like fish and seed, investments in building the resilience of agricultural systems and reducing the vulnerability of food producers who depend on these natural resources — in particular rural communities, food producers, women farmers and indigenous peoples, who depend on natural systems for their livelihoods. Agri-food subsidies must be redirected to support nature-positive food production practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve long-term food security.

African governments must press for global food systems transformation with least impact (on GHG emissions and biodiversity) using an integrated approach that aligns climate actions with the recommendations from the  food systems summit declaration, and the UNCBD declaration in Montreal. The ACS comes after the global stocktake of the UN Food systems summit (UNFSS),  which noted the need for alignment of food systems and the Paris Agreement. However, it is necessary to ensure greater coherence and collaboration and the reduction of duplication and burdens on country-level engagement
The Africa Climate Summit would be remiss not to talk about Africa's Special needs and circumstances.  African countries do not have historic responsibility for the climate crisis, and contribute marginally to the current crisis (<4%). Africa is disproportionately affected by the climate crisis as it is a region that is both most vulnerable to and the least capable of protecting itself from the adverse impacts of climate change. The contribution of the continent towards global climate regulation, for example by the Congo Basin as a carbon sink, needs to be recognised and commensurate resources need to be allocated towards its protection. Recognising Special needs and circumstances is not just about accessing more finance to deal with the impacts of climate change, it also means that countries outside of the region that contribute most to climate change should do their part to ensure Africa has the sufficient capacity and technology to prepare and respond to climate impact. Furthermore, they must take all actions necessary to slow climate impacts in Africa, including through their respective domestic climate ambition. Africa is not unique in its call for the recognition of its special needs and circumstances. Latin America and Caribbean countries as well as Asian and the Arab groups have also requested the same recognition.

It is time for the world to recognise them and the Summit must reiterate this call.

Onwards and Upwards to a successful Summit.
Alice Ruhweza
© WWF-Africa