Recently, African leaders gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for the first-ever African Climate Summit. The event, hosted by the African Union (AU) and the Kenyan government, brought together world leaders, climate activists, and policy experts to find solutions to one of the continent’s most complex and devastating crises.
Since the start of 2022, extreme weather events have caused at least 4,000 deaths and 19 million more cases of extreme weather in Africa, according to a report published by Science Direct. The state of the climate in Africa 2022 report released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) indicates that over 110 million people in Africa had to deal with weather, climate, and water risks in 2022, resulting in an estimated $8.5 billion worth of economic losses.
The summit was hosted against the background of Africa’s climate emergencies and the urgency of climate action towards averting a future of gloom and doom. People like the United Nations Secretary-General and the African Development President made it clear that climate change is more than just a problem for the environment—it’s a major factor in Africa’s economic survival, so it’s essential to take action to tackle it.
In his remarks, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the inequities that exist in the context of the current climate crisis. Despite the fact that Africa is responsible for a small portion of global emissions, it is still facing some of the most severe consequences of rising temperatures. He emphasized that a significant step forward in climate action is necessary in order to protect the people of Africa and the world from these extreme conditions.
He said: “It is still possible to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But only with a quantum leap in climate action. The people of Africa — and people everywhere — need action to respond to deadly climate extremes.”
The Africa Climate Summit (ACS) provided an African vision for a Green Growth agenda that maximizes the continent’s enormous natural and human resources while incorporating enhanced climate-positive growth.
Many stakeholders pledged to take action on climate change in Africa. The summit concluded with the Nairobi Declaration, which serves as a roadmap for the continent’s action on climate change. The overall message is that Africa wants to be a global leader in clean energy and low-carbon economic development.
At the end of the summit, the Nairobi Declaration was adopted, outlining the continent’s climate action plan. The declaration serves as a reminder of Africa’s ambition to lead the world in the field of clean energy and low-carbon economic development.
The Nairobi Declaration met with some resistance from African stakeholders, with some critics claiming that it was overly elitist and designed to benefit the interests of the global North. Climate activists argued that the declaration was designed to serve the interests of the Global North and that the majority of the points made in the declaration were intended to promote the economic interests of Global North capitalists. In response to the summit’s official statement, a group of civil society organisations issued a People’s Declaration, which served as a contrast to the Nairobi declaration.
The People’s Declaration read in part:
“We do not see climate change as a problem in isolation, nor as a simple equation of particles in the atmosphere, but rather as the result of a fundamentally broken system of power, politics, and economics which has put elite interests ahead of the people’s, and allowed the crossing of fundamental natural and social boundaries in the name of profit – this cannot be solved through technology changes alone but requires a fundamental systems change to our societies.”
The activists complained that “real solutions to climate change cannot be designed in boardrooms and ivory towers – they must come from genuine consultation with people and communities and must put people-centred (not profit-centred) goals at their core.”
The various statements made by the parties and stakeholders demonstrate the enthusiasm of the continent’s leaders on the path to addressing the climate crisis. The statements provide a range of perspectives on the potential solutions to Africa’s climate crisis. African leaders discussed the solutions to the climate crisis from an economic perspective, emphasizing the importance of climate finance and the necessity to combat the crisis through the promotion of economic activity.
African leaders presented the Africa Green Growth Agenda, which outlines their philosophy and what they believe to be the most effective approach to addressing the energy crises. They argued that Africa must shift its narrative from one of victimisation to one of offering itself as a new market for the emerging energy revolution. The leaders spoke from a place of marketing rather than a place of defeatism, as almost all of the African speakers were salespeople and women. They acknowledged the devastating effects of climate change but maintained that their priority was to ensure that Africa could progress economically despite the economic difficulties.
This point was amplified by the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akwinumi Adesina, in his speech. He said: “Africa must develop with what it has, not what it does not have. Africa is blessed with the largest sources of renewable energy in the world, renewables from solar, hydro, wind and geothermal. But we cannot power Africa with potential. We must fully unlock Africa’s renewable energy potential.”
African leaders conceptualised the solution of the continent’s climate crisis to economic advancement. On the other hand, civil society leaders and climate activists take a different view. They argue that climate change is a complex issue that cannot be addressed through technological advancements alone; instead, it is the result of a systemic shift in power, policy, and economics that has placed the interests of the elite above the interests of the general population, allowing for the exploitation of natural and social resources for profit.
They believe there is no sustainable solution to the continent’s climate crises without first addressing the structural issues of equity, fairness, equity and inclusion. The People’s Declaration, a counter-statement to the Climate Summit, released by these activists, argued that climate change and its associated losses and damages are the result of inequity and structural imbalances in society, and unless the leaders of the Global North take ownership and implement measures to address and contain the issue, climate change will only continue to change in shape and form. For these activists, the solution to Africa’s climate change crisis lies in climate justice.
The search for a long-term solution to the climate crisis is at the heart of both parties’ recommendations and ideas. The issue at hand is how to balance climate justice and climate finance. Political leaders and multilateral institutions make their arguments from the perspective of climate finance, whereas members of the civil society emphasize climate justice.
The Africa Climate Summit’s main message was that Africa is in a state of climate emergency that necessitates urgent and concerted action by all relevant actors. The important lesson however is that leaders in Africa need to build trust with their people and allow their voices to be heard in decision-making.
Ominabo wrote via [email protected]