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2023 Africa Climate Summit: Key Takeaways

2023 Africa Climate Summit: Key Takeaways

Written by

Lauren Ashmore

Published on

September 12, 2023

The Africa Climate Summit and UN Africa Climate Week took place from September 4-8, 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenyan President William Ruto opened the summit by stating, "The future is not just something to hope for, neither is it something to merely wish and wait for. The future is for us to conceptualize and actualize starting now".

The Nairobi Declaration, which received unanimous support from the African leaders present at the summit, put forth Africa's shared positioning on key climate debates in the run-up to COP28 this November. Overall, the declaration garnered a mixed reception, with some observers noting that the summit could have advanced more ambitious goals and demands from the international community. The absence of leaders from South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda also called into question the strength of Africa’s common positioning going into COP28.

What were key takeaways for development advocates to keep in mind?

The SEEK Climate Team highlighted some key topics from both the climate and the resultant Nairobi Declaration.

  • The acceleration of existing agendas and initiatives: The declaration called for the acceleration of the Paris Agenda for People and the Planet, which was the result of the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in June 2023. The Paris Agenda calls for the reform of MDBs, measures to improve debt management, and reform to address the high cost of capital in Africa. Other initiatives that the Nairobi Declaration highlighted include the Bridgetown Initiative, as well as the Accra-Marrakech Agenda, which supports climate action across the world’s most vulnerable countries;
  • The mobilization of finance to tackle both climate and development challenges: The declaration reiterated the notion that no country should have to choose between climate action and development. Many leaders called for reform of current debt structures to better help countries with high debt burdens tackle climate change. The declaration also called for new debt relief interventions and default prevention instruments. The summit saw the mobilization of approximately USD$26 billion in finance from the public and private sectors, MDBs, and philanthropic foundations;
  • The potential for a green economic transformation across the continent: African leaders called for the growth of the continent’s renewable energy capacity from 56 GW in 2022 to a minimum of 300 GW by 2030. To achieve this goal, the declaration highlighted the need to develop the primary processing of Africa’s CRMs within the continent, increase access to innovative technologies, and foster more equitable regional and local value chains to facilitate the trade of environmental goods. The declaration has called upon the African Union Commission to develop an implementation framework and roadmap for Africa’s green industrialization;
  • The development of trade-related environmental tariffs: The declaration encouraged global leaders to ‘to rally behind the proposal for a global carbon taxation regime including a carbon tax on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport and aviation, that may also be augmented by a global financial transaction tax. Ruto pointed to the proposed financial transaction tax in the EU as a possible model for a global carbon tax regime; and
  • The need for greater global alignment on climate action priorities: The principle of common but differentiated responsibility, which was integrated into the 2015 Paris Agreement, was a core theme of the summit. African leaders called upon all countries, especially those with high carbon emissions, to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to fulfill the COP15 $100 billion climate finance promise.

The declaration called for a new era of partnership, where partner countries align and coordinate their technical and financial resources to achieve climate goals.

What should advocates be on the lookout for?

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, who attended the Summit, described the Nairobi Declaration as a clear statement of Africa's focus on climate leadership, aligning with the ambitions and priorities of the UAE COP28 Presidency.

As attention turns to the UAE as hosts for the upcoming COP28, advocates should focus on:

  • Engaging with donor countries on the key topics presented by the Nairobi Declaration, such as debt reform and the climate-development nexus;
  • Following up on implementation of commitments announced by both public and private sector actors during the Summit;
  • Pushing for more ambitious and concrete commitments from COP28 this November; and
  • Maintaining momentum for global financial architecture reform, as well as mobilizing support for climate-vulnerable countries by engaging with multilateral partners, civil society, and private sector representatives.
Lauren Ashmore

Lauren Ashmore

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