The first African Climate Summit opens in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday, September 4th. Over three days, African leaders and delegates from around the world will gather to exchange ideas with civil society actors, public and private enterprises, and international organizations. The stated objective is to develop a common roadmap for the continent to present at the COP in November.
This time, the participants want concrete action. “We don’t want to meet and end up with nothing, as often happens at these gatherings,” says a representative from a West African climate NGO.
Twenty African heads of state or government and nearly 20,000 delegates from around the world are attending the summit in Nairobi.
Kenyan President William Ruto, whose country is hosting the event, aims to bring about a change in how the continent addresses environmental issues.
These three days provide an opportunity to discuss green growth for the continent and climate action financing.
These topics will be addressed in debates and roundtable discussions featuring Azali Assoumani, the President of the African Union, and Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The real ambition of this event is to find a common approach and develop “African solutions” to climate challenges, culminating in the signing of a “Nairobi Declaration”.
If realized, this would be a strong commitment in Africa, just three months before COP28 begins in Dubai in late November.
Concise and meaningful commitments are expected.
African countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change: droughts, floods, and cyclones are multiplying natural disasters across the continent.
Moreover, resources are lacking to address these challenges, particularly as several countries are burdened by debt.
The need for a new climate finance architecture should be at the heart of the discussions, involving debt restructuring, the implementation of taxes on fossil fuels, as well as the aviation and shipping industries.
The summit aims to highlight the continent’s potential in fighting climate change.
Commitments are expected in areas such as increasing agricultural production, protecting oceans and forests, and promoting renewable energy development.
“I hope we can move away from fossil fuels,” says one participant.
Among the 20,000 delegates are representatives from civil society. Activists and other climate defenders have high expectations for these three days of discussions.
Several organizations are calling for concrete solutions rather than just discussions and promises to address climate change challenges on the continent.
“I hope we can move away from fossil fuels and false solutions like carbon credits, and that African leaders will emphasize the need for investments in renewable energy,” says Charity Migwi, a climate activist with 350 Africa.
“We also need them to push for the implementation of climate financing promises, so that funds are made available,” she adds. “African states are already heavily indebted, taking on more loans for climate action would further plunge us into poverty.”
A Nairobi Declaration would be a document encompassing common proposals on climate issues from different African states. This is particularly important to Cherop Soy, a Kenyan youth representative at the summit.
“While African countries have diverse geographies and contexts,” she notes, “it is important for the continent to speak with a unified voice, as the challenges we face are very similar.”
The summit is also seen as an opportunity to prepare for COP28 in Dubai in December, and to contribute African solutions to climate questions.
“We hope this won’t be just another debate,” she adds.
Fatima Diallo, Executive Director of Cradesc, an organization working on energy transition in Senegal, echoes this sentiment. For her, the summit must bring about a real paradigm shift to be useful.
“I approach it with a constructive yet critical mindset. We don’t want it to be a repetition of previous COPs. We saw the disaster that COP27 was for us, the civil society,” she explains.
So, we have mixed feelings about COP28, but we’ll attend with a constructive and positive spirit, hoping that it won’t be just another debate.
“We have seen commitment, whether from the African Development Bank or the individual states, through their speeches and statements in various media outlets leading up to the summit,” Fatima Diallo continues.
Therefore, we truly hope that beyond eloquent speeches, we will come out with a declaration that leads to a clear action plan and roadmap, where states make clear commitments that they are obliged to implement.
The first day, Monday, is dedicated to ministerial discussions. On Tuesday, the heads of state and government will meet before the summit concludes on Wednesday.