Africa: Nairobi Climate Summit – Will Africa pay for its own mistakes in cash?

Africa: Nairobi Climate Summit - Will Africa Pay For Its Own Mistakes In Cash?

To prepare for the upcoming 28th Conference of the Parties (COP) in the United Arab Emirates in December, African heads of state held a continental climate summit in Nairobi, Kenya, from September 4th to 6th. The goal was to establish a common position on strategies to combat climate change, as Africa, which is suffering the consequences of climate change, struggles to have a significant impact on major decisions and receive adequate recognition for its efforts in preserving the planet.

This summit is crucial, especially considering that Africa, despite being heavily affected by climate change, finds it challenging to exert a united front and receive fair rewards, compared to major polluting powers. However, during the summit in the Kenyan capital, instead of showcasing unity and strength, African heads of state revealed divergent opinions, raising doubts about Africa’s ability to present a united front at the Dubai summit.

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Disparities of interests among leaders are particularly concerning, as they indicate a tendency to prioritize selfish interests over the common good. For example, while some, like Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, advocate for carbon energy to be at the core of the fight for financing and the creation of a global carbon market centered around the forests of the Congo Basin, Indonesia, and Brazil, which collectively hold 80% of global biodiversity and regulate the planet’s carbon balance, others, such as Comorian President Azali Assoumani and Djiboutian President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, emphasize the development of a blue economy focused on the oceans.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, aligning with the host of the summit, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, believes that the core of the fight lies in the development of a green economy and the need to address the non-compliance of international funding commitments. Consequently, unanimity among African leaders regarding the adopted strategy to best defend the continent’s interests is far from being achieved at this climate summit in the Kenyan capital.

Under these circumstances, concerns arise, especially knowing that major powers, also the biggest polluters, are not known for their straightforwardness in climate negotiations. The difficulty encountered in achieving certain agreements raises questions about Africa’s potential consequences if its representatives were to attend the Dubai summit with dispersed opinions. Already suffering from inequality in climate crisis efforts, the African continent not only lacks the means to respond to extreme phenomena compared to Northern countries but also appears to be abandoned, even playing the role of a laughingstock when it comes to the polluter-pays principle aimed at establishing “climate justice,” which is still struggling to fulfill the commitments made in previous COP meetings. Furthermore, the unredeemed promise of the 2015 Paris Agreement to provide $100 billion annually to mitigate the consequences of African countries’ vulnerability to climate change adds to the lack of optimism regarding the consideration of Africa’s interests in the fight against climate change.

This self-centered approach could severely harm the interests of the African continent.

Without questioning the relevance of the arguments put forth by different leaders, prioritizing individual interests in this manner could strongly prejudice the interests of the African continent unless efforts are made before the start of COP28 to find common ground and harmonize strategies.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, declared at the Nairobi summit on September 5th, Africa has the potential to become a “superpower of renewable energy.” However, if Africa fails to seize the opportunity presented by the $4.5 billion investment in clean energy announced by the United Arab Emirates, the continent may jeopardize its chances. Will Africa rise to the occasion?

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