The Inaugural Africa Climate Summit

This month saw an important milestone – the first time that African Heads of State, through the auspices of the Africa Union convened themselves on the continent’s climate agenda. This has been a call for years, and so we hope it will be the first of many. The focus of this inaugural Africa Climate Summit was to articulate and demonstrate the investment opportunity that the African continent represents as a climate solutions destination for itself and for the world.

But achieving this vision will require a tectonic transformation in the way we attract investment to the continent – today, Africa, with all this potential attracts US$30 billion per annum, or 4% of all global climate finance and investment. So there is major transformation necessary. The Summit was curated to focus on three key areas for growing investment: clean energy and green minerals, sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions; urbanization and industrialization, and had two cross-cutting themes focused on climate finance and adaptation finance.

CNN Interview on what’s at stake for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit

So what did this inaugural African Climate Summit achieve?

  1. The formal outcome was the signing of the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action, which now forms the basis for Africa’s position during the upcoming COP28 in Dubai this November. The declaration is the first of its kind for Africa, considering that climate change is not usually a high political priority or agenda for many governments on the continent. The declaration calls for some now standard things (reduced global emissions, fulfilling the $100 billion per year climate financing commitment, and global finance reforms). It also commits African leaders to strengthen actions on deforestation, restoration and more. While not particularly actionable or heavy on African commitments, it is indeed a first-fruit, laying the foundation for what will hopefully be stronger and more specific African commitments in the near future, to help create the investable environment that local climate solutions need.  
  2. Another major outcome of the Summit was a slew of climate investment commitments. According to Sustainable Energy for All, during the Summit, donor nations and multilateral organizations pledged approximately USD 26 billion for climate investments. Notable commitments included the United Arab Emirates’ “non-binding letter of intent” for USD 4.5 billion toward clean energy and USD 450 million for carbon credits. Denmark also announced a USD 232 million pledge for the Green Climate Fund’s second replenishment. The United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Finland, and Germany also pledged several financing and debt swaps for green projects. The Africa Development Bank committed USD 1 billion towards adaptation with a pledge to invest USD 25 billion in climate financing by 2025. Other commitments were made by The Bezos Earth Fund (USD 22.8 million), Climate Asset Management (USD 200 million), Masdar (USD 10 billion) and Camco (USD 100 million).
  3. In my personal opinion, a third important outcome of the Africa Climate Summit was the showing up of a powerful and engaged community of civil society, youth, indigenous peoples in Africa. While demonstrating investability is an important mission, the reality of our altered climate is already here. Africa is warming faster than any other continent on earth. Solutions for climate adaptation, or compensating Loss & Damage, or delivering climate justice, will not be solved by markets or capital investment. There are very divergent views across the continent on how to progress these real climate needs, and a wide spectrum of perspectives on what makes for true or false climate solutions – from the role of green growth, to carbon markets, to fossil fuels like gas, and more. This was not a major theme of the Summit as designed, but Kenya’s very vocal civil society – and that of the continent writ large – ensured that regardless, their voice was heard. Rarely is something perfect in its first iteration. Rather than opting out of participating in the Summit, it was incredibly meaningful to see civil society and local community raising these issues and debates in and around the Summit space.

At WRI Africa we build partnership platforms that lay the infrastructure to grow the markets for sustainable enterprise, and also, we lobby for greater national climate action, track climate finance flows, lobby for L&D and build capacity for adaptation financing. So from where I sit, we see these as mutually reinforcing missions, and we want to build help bridges between actors, local and global, that can advance both races. As such, I was proud to participate in many events at the Summit, profiling the opportunity to center community in enterprise.

Moderating the AfDB and IEA Joint Launch of the report, Financing Clean Energy in Africa

It is crucial that space for deep, inclusive and interrogative multi-stakeholder dialogue is not only allowed, or created, but amplified and encouraged. All voices must be heard at these gatherings, especially our vibrant civil society, youth, women, and local community groups. So I stand with those advocating for more inclusive dialogue, and I am optimistic that the next Summit will be an even fuller, more inclusive space of dialogue and action.