Africa: United in Purpose for a Resilient Africa

Posted on 13 September 2023

Last week in Nairobi saw yet another Africa-wide event unfold under unrelenting sunshine, making everyone hot under the collar … literally!  So it was appropriate that the gathering was the Africa Climate Summit. It was one of the rare African events that brought together Heads of State, Ministers and Heads of Government Assemblies for a single purpose - climate change.

It was a statement in every way, not just in the communiqué issued at the end, but also in the unity of purpose on display.

The Nairobi Declaration established Africa's common position in the global climate change process, particularly leading up to COP28* and beyond. It succeeded in setting a new narrative, that Africa is a continent full of climate solutions, ready, and open for business.

Here are some of the key outcomes from the Summit, captured in the declaration:


A Call to Action on Climate Financing

Two key highlights from the Nairobi Declaration are African leaders' urgent request for developed nations to fulfil their pledge of $100 billion by 2025, made in 2009 at the UNFCCC COP15, as well as to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund. There is a heavy emphasis on the development of a new financial architecture that addresses Africa's specific demands, such as debt restructuring and relief. This is consistent with the WWF position paper, which advocates for tangible financial commitments and for previous commitments to be met. The Declaration emphasizes the importance of reforming Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to ensure their effectiveness and representativeness.


A Greener Future Through Energy Transition

Energy transition emerged as another major focal point of the Summit. The Declaration calls for a fair and accelerated process of phasing down coal and the abolishment of fossil fuel subsidies. It also calls for the international community to support Africa's transition to renewable energy. The goal is to boost Africa's renewable generation capacity from 56 GW in 2022 to at least 300 GW by 2030. This ambitious target is said to not only address energy poverty, benefiting over 600 million Africans without access to energy but also contribute to the global supply of cost-effective clean energy. 


The Role of Nature in Climate Action

The importance of nature in the climate change discourse has also been highlighted by the African leaders in the Declaration. They have pledged to take the lead in developing global standards, metrics, and market mechanisms to accurately value and compensate for the protection of nature, biodiversity, socio-economic co-benefits, and climate services. Furthermore, they reaffirm their commitment to implementing the draft African Union Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with the ultimate goal of achieving the 2050 Vision of living in harmony with nature. WWF has actively participated in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) discussions, and the support from African leaders adds impetus to ensure that nature conservation is given due consideration in shaping the climate change narrative.


Food Systems

Agroecology, climate-smart agriculture, food security, food loss and waste, innovation, accelerating adaptation, water, livestock, and financing were among the subjects covered under food systems. While there has been a focus on enhancing food security in Africa, food production should not contribute to environmental deterioration. The necessity of empowering farmers to adapt to climate change through improved practices, new technologies, and funding methods was also emphasised during the discussions. It was also emphasised that merging traditional knowledge with new technologies (for example, rain forecasting) is vital to food security.


Africa’s Special Needs and Circumstances

The Declaration failed to address Africa's special needs and circumstances. Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, Africa has consistently sought to make this issue a formal agenda item in all UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COPs). Addressing this matter at the Summit and within the Declaration would have provided the necessary political leverage for the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN) to ensure its inclusion and prioritization at COP28.


Adaptation and Mitigation

The Summit also made positive strides in other areas, with leaders pledging to mainstream adaptation into development policymaking and planning in the Declaration. The proactive approach of identifying, prioritizing, and mainstreaming adaptation into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs  or national plans) signifies a political resolve to elevate both mitigation and adaptation ambitions.


Carbon Markets and Critical Minerals

Some solutions proposed at the Summit such as the discussions on carbon markets, carbon credits, and even carbon taxation have been criticized as “false solutions” to the real issue of climate change impact in Africa. Many Africans felt the Summit focused more on market solutions to the climate crisis and not dealing directly with the human impacts. Another interesting issue discussed during the Summit was how Africa will position itself in the new energy transitional era. The focus during most of these discussions was on how to unlock the potential of critical and green minerals.


Looking Ahead 

The decision to institutionalize the Africa Climate Summit as a biennial event is a sign of the times. Even as the Summit took place, record-breaking heat waves hit the Northern Hemisphere, causing the UN Secretary General to declare that Earth has passed from a warming phase into “an era of global boiling”.

With no time to lose, Africa reshaped its narrative and established itself as a "continent of solutions" to the climate crisis. African negotiators will be comforted by the political backing and a more unified position that speaks to its realities of the continent. It will allow them to arrive at COP28 ready to push for meaningful climate action and forge a sustainable future for its people and the planet. 

*COP28 will be held in Dubai, UAE, from 30 November - 12 December 2023.


Reading of the Nairobi Declaration by H.E William Ruto The President of the Republic of Kenya at the closing ceremony of the Africa Climate Summit.
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