Africa Climate Summit: Delegates laud President Ruto for ‘hugely successful’ event

Patricia Scotland

From left: Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, Angolan Vice-President Esperança da Costa,and Chad’s transitional President Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno at the KICC in Nairobi on September 6, 2023.

Photo credit: AFP

In the wake of the Nairobi Declaration, the world is waiting to see whether African countries are determined to exert greater global influence and attract far more funding and support.

After three days of intense discussions among more than 20 heads of state and government, it is clear that the first African Climate Summit has taken a leap of faith and is now seeking to assert a stronger voice in the global climate challenges to which it contributes the least.

Led by President William Ruto, who is beginning to emerge as a continental voice of reason on climate change and other issues affecting the continent, the Heads of State, in a rare show of unity, issued a strong declaration that sets the continent on an African vision that simultaneously pursues climate change and development agendas.

Africa Climate Summit: President Ruto makes the Nairobi declaration

The leaders called for the full implementation of all COP27 decisions on a Climate Loss and Damage Fund, which the global North is still wrangling over just months before the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in Dubai.

They also called for a faster acceleration of emissions reductions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, to meet the commitment to provide $100 billion in annual climate finance as pledged 14 years ago at the Copenhagen conference, and to uphold commitments to a fair and accelerated process of phasing out coal and eliminating all fossil fuel subsidies.

Heads of State and Government expressed concern that many African countries face disproportionate burdens and risks from unpredictable weather events and patterns linked to climate change, including prolonged droughts, devastating floods and wildfires, causing massive humanitarian crises with negative impacts on economies, health, education, peace and security, among other risks.

The declaration received mixed reactions from climate and energy experts, activists and NGOs, who said the Nairobi Declaration lacked a radical approach to development.

Some of the experts questioned the involvement of climate leaders from the Global North in an all-African summit, leading to claims that the summit had been “hijacked” by some of the top Western polluters.

Mohamed Adow, founding director of think-tank Power Shift Africa, said: “We had hoped that the inaugural Africa Climate Summit would put forward and rally behind a radical development and climate vision for Africa. The final declaration was disappointingly similar to previous summits that have produced hopelessly inadequate results. We want to see Africa embark on a different, ambitious and progressive path that can truly capitalise on our unique position in history and our vast renewable energy potential.”

Mr Adow continued: “The US President's Special Envoy on Climate Change, John Kerry, and the US lead negotiator for COP28, Trigg Talley, were both in town. But this was not a UNFCCC negotiation. So what were they doing? Countries and companies from the Global North have pledged huge sums of money to set up carbon markets in Africa. The downside of this move is that the biggest polluters, fossil fuel giants and Western credit brokers stand to gain the most from these schemes. Carbon credits are really 'pollution permits', and they excuse rich polluting companies from actually reducing their own emissions.”

But UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell said the summit had been a huge success.

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He praised President Ruto for hosting the event, saying it has set the pace not only for the continent, but also for other developing countries around the world.

“The summit addressed both the need for financing and Africa's role as part of the solution,” Mr Stiell said.

Former Colombian President Ivan Duque also said the summit was a “great success”.

He singled out Dr Ruto for his steadfastness on climate change issues on the continent.

“The summit brought African leaders together for the first time, giving weight to coordination and identifying African climate solutions,” said Mr Duque.