Africa will host its first climate summit with one eye on Cop28

Results of the conversation that progress in Nairobi will come to fruition in the UAE later this year

A solar power plant in Ouarzazate, central Morocco, in 2016. AP Photo
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Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change. Africans lose up to 15 per cent of their potential GDP to climate-related risks, including failed seasonal rains, drought and loss of livestock. By 2100, this might rise to as much as 64 per cent of forgone GDP, equivalent to hundreds of millions of people prevented from escaping poverty. The need for transformational change is therefore not only apparent but urgent.

That is why Africa is holding the Africa Climate Summit in September, co-hosted by Kenya and the African Union Commission. Africa would like to build consensus and take concrete steps forward. We want to use the Summit as a springboard for Africa’s engagement with the next global round of climate diplomacy at Cop28 in the UAE in November.

Africa has abundant renewable resources that could transform the global energy sector, ensuring green growth with low greenhouse gas emissions. Our continent’s renewable energy potential is rated as “superabundant”. With the right technologies and supportive financing mechanisms, Africa holds the world’s potential to change the renewable energy narrative for the entire world.

Moreover, in Africa we have between 30 to 40 per cent of the minerals that will be indispensable in the world’s green industrial revolution. Africa’s arable land could feed the globe without the adoption of industrial agriculture and its attendant contribution to climate change. All these enlisted resources, coupled with the carbon sinks in Africa’s equatorial and tropical forests, would demonstrate that Africa holds part of the solution to climate change.

Africans lose up to 15 per cent of their potential GDP to climate-related risks. By 2100, this might rise to 64 per cent

Cop28 could not have come at a better time and at a better venue. African leaders, heads of state and heads of government will have concluded the inaugural Africa Climate Summit and adopted a declaration that will outline the continent’s road map for diplomatic engagement with the world on climate change. As part of the Nairobi declaration, African leaders are expected to come up with a climate change financing architecture that works for all Africans.

The UAE, the host nation of Cop28, though a fossil fuel producer, is leading in global transition to renewable energy. The examples and lessons of the Emirates’ transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy should enlighten the global debate on fossil fuels, renewable energies and just transitions.

The UAE will be leading by example, providing much-needed conversations on just transitions. Moreover, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the Cop28 President-designate, has repeatedly spoken of the UAE’s commitment to ensuring that climate finance should be available, affordable and accessible.

The position taken by the Cop28 President-designate on climate financing resonates with the African leaders’ anticipated new financing architecture for climate change. Nairobi, essentially, thanks to the Africa Climate Summit declaration, will hand Dr Al Jaber the button at Cop28 to finish the race on climate change financing architecture for the globe in general, and for Africa, in particular.

Africa’s shortcomings in dealing with climate change, despite its immense resource potential, are related to inaccessible and inadequate financing. Outstanding pledges to provide up to $100 billion per year of climate finance have remained unfulfilled. In other frontiers, only 2 per cent of the $3 trillion invested in renewable energy worldwide over the past 20 years have come to Africa.

If we are to accelerate climate action as a continent, we need better collaboration and new partnerships. Africa is proposing trade and investment as the pathway to tackling climate change. We have seen over the years that donor aid rarely comes to bear in dealing with this challenge.

This is why a different global conversation on climate change financing needs to begin; that conversation will progress in Nairobi during the Africa Climate Summit and its results will come to fruition in the UAE at Cop28.

It is Kenya’s belief that this new financial architecture will provide the financing required to reduce fossil fuel emissions by making available adequate funds for renewable energy development, as well as technologies that are critical enablers in the race to net-zero emissions. This will ensure that energy transition is just and equitable throughout the world, and that developing countries are empowered to opt for low-carbon development pathways.

As co-hosts of the Africa Climate Summit, Kenya looks forward to hosting Dr Al Jaber and his delegation in Nairobi from September 4 to 6. We believe that the Africa Climate Summit will provide necessary tools for diplomatic engagement on climate financing architecture and just transitions for the renewable energy campaign, as Dr Al Jaber prepares to pitch for Africa and other regions of the world that bear the greatest brunt of climate change at Cop28.

Dr Al Jaber’s calls for the tripling of global renewable energy capacity to 11,000 GW by 2030 are in accord with the African leaders’ aspirations. This should make diplomacy easy and self-reinforcing for the UAE, the Cop28 presidency and African leaders.

In our view, as Africa, Cop28 will be a crucial moment to restore hope and optimism that the continent can turn its resources in energy, arable land, critical minerals and carbon sinks into a source of abundance. We can become a continent that starts to tackle climate change and provide solutions to the rest of the world.

Kenya is convinced that in the UAE we have a formidable partner that will help encourage the world to ensure that Africa attains its potential for sustainable development. Each time we speak about climate change, we know that the collective global fortunes are all tied together.

If Cop28 in the UAE succeeds, Kenya will have succeeded, and Africa and the entire globe will have succeeded. And that is why for now, we are all systems go for the Africa Climate Summit, as well as for Cop28, and we look forward to hosting the Cop28 President-designate in Nairobi this September.

Published: June 27, 2023, 5:00 AM