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Africa’s first Climate Summit 2023 resolutions, criticisms, and challenges

The just concluded Africa Climate Summit, a significant gathering of leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders, unfolded for 3 days against the backdrop of pressing environmental challenges. Governments, organisations, and heads of African states deliberated on crucial resolutions to address climate change, carbon credits, and various environmental issues, amid a backdrop of criticism from young activists.

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit, which concluded on Wednesday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, issued a declaration urging a swift transformation in the manner in which more affluent nations interact with the continent.

Although Africa’s per capita emissions are notably below the global average, the continent experiences a disproportionate impact from increasing global temperatures and escalating consequences of climate change.

At the summit – which I was proud to attend personally – African governments have been urged to review their climate policies. Lax reforms have been holding back carbon investments in the continent for decades, and despite efforts from various African governments to venture into green initiatives, tangible action hasn’t been forthcoming on the scale needed.

What were the resolutions and commitments?

Governments and organisations have emphasised the urgent need for climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. Many African nations have pledged to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate impacts.

Similarly, carbon trading and credit systems have taken centre stage in discussions. African countries are exploring opportunities to harness carbon credits, emphasising the importance of environmental integrity, transparency, and fair distribution of benefits. During President Ruto’s speech, he argued that Africa’s carbon credit should be worth $50 billion by 2030.

Additionally, Ruto unveiled the ‘Nairobi Declaration’ at the conclusion of the summit. The document is to serve as Africa’s position on climate change and explain how it intends to tackle present challenges. Details were scarce, but the document is expected to be read at COP28 this December.

The summit has seen a strong commitment to expanding renewable energy sources. African leaders have emphasised the need to transition to cleaner, sustainable energy systems to combat both climate change and energy poverty on the continent.

Youth involvement at the summit, meanwhile, did not go unnoticed. The pivotal role of young activists and leaders was recognised by officials, many of whom pledged to enhance communication and engagement in upcoming decision-making processes.

At the event, private investors announced Africa would secure a $23 billion kitty that will go toward projects including solar microgrids, carbon markets, and reforestation. In this, developed nations pledged increased financial support, as announced by both US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, and the European Union President, Ursula von der Leyen.

Criticisms from activists

Young climate activists such as UNICEF’s Vanessa Nakate voiced concerns about the ambition of resolutions made at the summit and the severity of challenges facing young people.

Nakate argued that the commitments fall short of what is required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the critical threshold outlined in the Paris Agreement. During her speech, she further argued that youths are not given enough time and consideration during decision making processes.

Some activists criticised the summit for not providing enough space for grassroots and marginalised voices. They argue that but a few communities bear the brunt of climate change and should have a more significant role in policy-making.

Critics who held peaceful protests outside the venue further highlighted the continued reliance on fossil fuels in some African nations, which contradicts the summit’s goals of transitioning to clean energy. They called for a swift and just phase-out of fossil fuels in favour of renewable alternatives.

The challenges discussed

Adequate financing for climate initiatives remains a significant challenge. African nations face difficulties in mobilising the resources required to implement ambitious climate action plans.

Additionally, balancing adaptation and mitigation efforts is a complex challenge. Governments find it difficult to allocate resources to both strategies while addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable communities.

Developing functional carbon markets requires careful design and international cooperation.

According to Kenya’s president, Africa needs to have its own pricing model and command in carbon market trade as it emits the least greenhouse gases. Harmonising different countries’ approaches to carbon trading, however, poses a formidable challenge.

The Africa Climate Summit marked a crucial juncture in addressing climate change and environmental issues across the continent.

While, in-part, the summit witnessed significant resolutions and commitments, critiques from activists underscore the imperative for heightened ambition, inclusivity, and accountability in the battle against climate change.

The summit’s ultimate achievement hinges on its capacity to translate pledges into tangible actions and engage all stakeholders, including the perspectives of youth and marginalised communities.