African leaders seek united front to press green growth goals

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Panelists lead by Kenya’s President William Ruth (C) conduct a session during the Africa Climate Summit 2023 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on September 5, 2023. PHOTO: by Luis Tato / AFP

Landmark African climate talks are set to wrap up Wednesday with leaders seeking a united voice to highlight the continent’s green growth potential provided the world steps up help for funding and debt.

Africa is acutely vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change, yet Kenyan President William Ruto has fought for a narrative shift at the conference, focusing on accelerating the region’s clean energy transition.

A final declaration from the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi is expected to call on the international community to help achieve that goal by easing the continent’s crushing debt burden and reforming the global financial system to unblock investment.

Leaders will also demand that rich carbon polluters honour long-standing climate pledges for poorer nations.

Analysts say unity could generate momentum for a series of key gatherings leading to a crunch UN climate summit starting in November, including the G20 meeting this weekend.

But consensus is challenging across the diverse continent of 1.4 billion people, where some governments are championing a renewable-powered future while others defend their reserves of fossil fuels.

Competing visions of the world’s energy future are likely to play out at the COP28 talks in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, where the world will take stock of the as-yet-inadequate efforts to slash planet-heating emissions.

African potential

Speaking to his counterparts on Tuesday at the Nairobi talks, Ruto said African leaders were envisioning a “future where Africa finally steps into the stage as an economic and industrial power, an effective and positive actor on a global arena”.

Ruto says Africa is well placed to take advantage of the need to move away from carbon-spewing fossil fuels, boasting a young population, vast renewable potential and natural resources.

This includes around 40 percent of global reserves of cobalt, manganese, and platinum crucial for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

Kenya has become a leader on renewables, pledging that they will make up 100 percent of its electricity mix by 2030.

Efforts at the summit to up investment in renewables were given a boost on Tuesday, with the UAE pledging R86.85 billion to accelerate Africa’s switch to clean energy.

But there are daunting challenges for a continent where hundreds of millions lack access to electricity.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said Africa hosts 60 percent of the world’s best solar energy resources. But it currently lures only three percent of energy investments.

Global overhaul

African countries facing mounting debt costs and a dearth of funds have called for a complete overhaul of the global financial architecture, adding to pressure on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to unlock investment and climate finance.

Africa is among the hardest-hit by climate impacts and countries are pressing the world’s wealthy polluters to make good on their pledge to provide R1.93 trillion a year for clean energy and to help them brace for climate impacts.

Vulnerable nations least responsible for warming have won recognition for the need to have separate funding to help them cope with the effects of the heatwaves, droughts and floods already battering communities across the world.

In a report released this week Oxfam said the devastating drought that has gripped Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — which scientists say has been made more severe by climate change — as well as floods in South Sudan, have caused losses of between R289.5 billion and R579 billion in the two years to 2022, or around two to four percent of the region’s GDP.

It estimated that between 2021 and 2023 the four countries lost about R142.82 billion in livestock alone.

“Millions of already struggling people saw their animals die and lost their ability to grow, sell or eat nutritious food, plunging them into even greater poverty and hunger,” the report said.

The Citizen