OPINION | Nairobi declaration: A neglected chance to elevate ambition for climate action in Africa

Opinion | Nairobi Declaration: A Neglected Chance To Elevate Ambition For Climate Action In Africa

Despite being a primary concern for Africa, the issue of adapting to climate impacts was given much less attention compared to energy issues at the continent’s first-ever climate summit, as noted by Courtney Morgan and Amy Giliam Thorp.

The inaugural African Climate Summit, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from September 4th to 6th, presented a significant opportunity to unite African leaders and the world behind a new vision for climate and development in Africa.

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The summit brought together regional leaders, decision-makers, civil society organizations, and the private sector to discuss the continent’s paths to development. Many civil society organizations were hoping that the summit would prioritize climate adaptation in Africa and adopt solutions centered around people and human rights.

The African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Finance, which was announced on the final day of the summit after three days of negotiations, takes some steps in the right direction.

However, there are notable gaps and failures that need to be addressed before COP28 in order to truly establish a resilient and equitable path for Africa.


The declaration acknowledges Africa’s disproportionate vulnerability to climate impacts, recognizes the adaptation needs of the continent, and calls for the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund.

While these are crucial steps in addressing the climate crisis in Africa, they are mentioned briefly without a clear priority and require significant improvements. For example, the Loss and Damage Fund not only needs to be funded but also put into operation.

Although the declaration mentions the Global Goal on Adaptation, it lacks substance regarding the overall goal or targets. It is also concerning that adaptation issues, despite being a top priority for a continent already experiencing climate impacts, receive far less attention compared to energy issues.

While we support the call to the global community to fulfill the $100 billion in annual climate finance, the emphasis should be placed on providing grant-based financing, in line with historical responsibility and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Furthermore, the declaration largely lacks ambition for Africa to receive a larger share of climate finance and requires improvement in this aspect.

Although the declaration mentions debt management, there is a missed opportunity to raise ambitions and call for debt cancellation in Africa. Historically, lending to Africa has been used as a tool to control our economies and hinder development.

We cannot allow the climate crisis to be replaced by a debt crisis. Urgent debt cancellation is necessary, considering that many African countries are already struggling to cope with the climate crisis, recover from climate shocks, and build resilience.

Gaps and failures


The declaration lacks sufficient mention of gender, which is disappointing, especially for civil society groups that recognize that women bear the brunt of the climate crisis and are more susceptible to climate change impacts.

Climate shocks, such as droughts and floods, disproportionately affect women, with 80% of climate change displacements being women. In the African context, women and girls are primarily responsible for food production and water collection but often lack access to resources, which is exacerbated by climate change.

Migration due to climate change further exposes women to gender-based violence and assault. Across the continent, women play a vital role in climate action, often leading adaptation efforts in communities. Gender-responsive policymaking is imperative to empower communities and build resilient pathways through the empowerment of women.

Land rights and adaptation

The declaration mentions support for smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities, but it fails to recognize that protecting and securing their land rights is a crucial prerequisite for enhancing their resilience.

The declaration falls short in calling for increased adaptation finance to Africa based on vulnerability and needs, and it does not urge the global community to honor the commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow to double adaptation finance.

Instead, the declaration repeats the same mistakes as previous multilateral climate agendas, prioritizing mitigation and energy issues over Africa’s adaptation. It calls for increased funding for renewable energy, while the current spending on adaptation across Africa only accounts for 39% of the continent’s total climate finance, which amounts to $11.4 billion.

The significant gap between adaptation needs and costs is a major obstacle to scaling up existing adaptive solutions throughout Africa. As the continent most affected by climate impacts, prioritizing Africa’s adaptation, resilience, and the protection of land rights must be a primary concern.

False solutions

There is cause for concern regarding the promotion of climate-smart agriculture in a continent where millions go to bed hungry every day, despite 60% of the population working in agriculture, mainly for export. Increased productivity does not necessarily lead to a decrease in hunger. Therefore, the mention of climate-smart agriculture and the need to enhance yield does not align with the needs of the people on the ground.

Climate-Smart Agriculture is also criticized for lacking well-defined practices and reinforcing corporate control of the food system, while still incorporating the problematic use of pesticides, fertilizers, and GMOs.

On the other hand, agroecology, smallholder farmers, and respect for indigenous knowledge can not only provide more affordable and accessible food to feed Africa but are also more resilient to the climate crisis.

Climate-smart agriculture is a false solution to a problem that requires a meaningful and urgent solution. Another false solution mentioned in the declaration is carbon markets, which we see as a permit to pollute.

Instead of seeking market-based solutions that perpetuate the burning of fossil fuels, we advocate for a just transition that prioritizes a fair and equitable shift towards renewable energy.

Although the summit and the declaration mark an important step forward for Africans rallying behind a shared vision and agenda, the reality falls short of expectations.

As we look towards COP28, we hope that Africa’s final position recognizes the urgent need for adaptation finance in Africa, meaningfully includes civil society organizations, and takes into account their perspectives on adaptation to pursue a development pathway that is resilient, fair, and equitable.

Courtney Morgan is a campaigner at the African Climate Reality Project, and Amy Giliam Thorp is a senior climate adaptation and resilience policy advisor at Power Shift Africa.

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