COP28: Will world leaders answer Africa’s call on energy access?

COP28 President-Designate, Dr  Sultan Al-Jaber,  with EU Energy and Environmentministers in Spain to build momentum and foster cooperation for a successful andinclusive COP28


Just two months after Kenya hosted the Africa Climate Summit, the continent’s climate ambitions face their first serious test. They will be under the spotlight at COP28, which begins in Dubai on November 30.

The September gathering produced the Nairobi Declaration, the continent’s plan for a sustainable and equitable future. A major theme was the need to bring energy to more than 600 million people who don't have it.

In Dubai, we will hear the response of wealthy nations and global finance institutions. Africa has played its cards; the others must show their hand.

The Nairobi Declaration calls for global support to boost renewable energy generation by more than 500 per cent—from 56 gigawatts to at least 300GW—by 2030 as a means of beating energy poverty.

The goals will be impossible without investment in energy access. How can ambitions such as sustainably boosting farm yields and creating stronger extreme weather warning systems be realised? The declaration calls for global action on debt relief and the availability of finance.

COP28 could deliver progress on these asks if the delegates grasp the centrality of clean energy to development and resilience in a warming world. In particular, look out for fresh commitments on December 4 and 5, when finance, energy and the ‘just transition’ are official themes.

More funding would help to fulfil a broken promise by rich nations to give $100 billion in climate financing yearly to Global South nations.

And it is essential more of this investment is channelled to frontline organisations—local businesses, social enterprises and community organisations. They are best placed to work with marginalised people and ensure the energy transition brings benefits to all.

Their support helps smallholder farmers to use solar-powered water pumps and refrigerators to become more productive and lights up rural shops so that they can trade into the evening. It powers schools and clinics, phones and televisions. And it tackles common barriers to energy access—such as when communities lack training and knowledge or the finance to buy modern technologies.  

Frontline organisations have joined others in the energy access sector to back the Power Up campaign. This calls on governments, development partners and financial institutions to increase investment in energy access—to boost development and help threatened communities to withstand the climate crisis.

Of course, reforms are also essential at the domestic level. So, inside Kenya, Power Up’s recommendations include stable and long-term policies on energy access as well as smart subsidies and incentives, technical assistance for businesses and campaigns to build consumer confidence in clean energy products.

COP organisers have urged delegates to come to the summit with innovative solutions, policy incentives and instruments to unleash the potential of the private sector. Africa can meet this challenge—and, with 40 per cent of the world’s renewable energy resources, become a true clean power pioneer. 

Mr Omenyi is the coordinator of Sustainable Energy Access Forum Kenya. [email protected].