Nairobi, Kenya – More than a dozen African leaders and some of the world’s fiercest climate change campaigners are meeting in Kenya for the maiden edition of the Africa Climate Summit.
The event, which is being held from Monday until Friday, has been convened to address Africa’s increasing exposure to climate change and its associated costs on the continent.
Africa, according to the United Nations, accounts for only 2 to 3 percent of the world’s carbon emissions but has been the continent most affected by global warming.
Here’s all you need to know about the summit:
Why is the Africa Climate Summit happening?
The summit in Nairobi is being organized by the Kenyan government and African Union and is running in parallel with Africa Climate Week. Its theme is “Driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the world”.
Kenyan President William Ruto has been vocal in calling for rich nations to be held accountable for fuelling climate change.
“We need to make those who have brought us here to the climate crisis that we are experiencing, the emitters, be held accountable and a system that works for everybody,” Ruto told Al Jazeera in February.
The summit’s declared goal is to influence climate commitments, pledges and outcomes, including the Nairobi Declaration, a blueprint for Africa’s green energy transition.
According to the Science Direct database, since the beginning of 2022, at least 4,000 people have been killed and 19 million affected by extreme weather events in Africa.
A 2022 UN report also estimated that Africa loses from $7bn to $15bn annually because of climate change. To help mitigate the effects of climate change, African countries need to raise an average of $124bn annually, but so far, it has received only a fraction of that sum – $28bn.
The low level of funding has raised concerns and placed immense pressure on the summit to be a turning point in addressing climate change funding.
According to the summit organizers, their goal is to deliver climate-positive growth and finance solutions for Africa and the world and present a united front ahead of the COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates on November 30.
Panels at the summit include financing climate action, scaling up international climate financing for Africa, investing in nature and biodiversity and developing integrated, livable African cities.
Who is attending the summit?
According to Kenyan Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya, at least 20 heads of states have confirmed their attendance at the summit, and 18,500 participants from across the world have registered and been accredited for the summit.
About 30,000 delegates are also expected to attend the summit.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, US climate envoy John Kerry, COP28 Director-General Majid Al Suwaidi, and COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber are among the high-profile dignitaries who have confirmed attendance. COP28 will be the latest of the annual global climate summits when it takes place in December.
Cabinet ministers and business executives from across the continent are also participating in the climate talks in Nairobi.
But it is still unclear which presidents will be in attendance because only the leaders of Burundi, Comoros, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, and Sierra Leone had arrived in the country.
There have also been questions about whether African leaders are prioritising other events happening about the same period like the Africa Food Systems summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, in a month when the UN General Assembly will also convene in New York.
What are the controversies surrounding the summit?
African nations have been adamant about their expectations for the summit, which include a push for richer nations to honour the $100bn-a-year pledge made at COP15 in Copenhagen to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help African countries cope with the climate crisis.
Hundreds of civil society groups have called for the summit to take a meaningful stand for the continent.
According to the groups, Africa’s climate interests and positions have been brushed aside by Western governments, consultancy companies and philanthropic organisations, which are using the summit to push a pro-West agenda at the expense of Africa.
Speaking at a press conference on August 28, Mithika Mwenda, executive director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, criticised the Kenyan government for what he called “an obsession with carbon markets”.
“The summit must press for increasing adaptation finance to Africa by more than double and ensure it is based on Africa’s needs and reaches the communities at the forefront of the climate crisis,” he said.
More than 400 African civil society organizations also signed an open letter to Ruto in August.
“Some African organisations that advance a Western agenda have also been given a disproportionately huge role in the organisation of the event,” it said. “The result is a Summit agenda that foregrounds the position and interests of the West, namely, carbon markets, carbon sequestration and ‘climate positive’ approaches.”
“These concepts and false solutions are led by Western interests while being marketed as African priorities. In truth, though, these approaches will embolden wealthy nations and large corporations to continue polluting the world, much to Africa’s detriment,” it added.
The summit has about 40 partners, and only a quarter are originally from the continent.
Ruto, chairman of the committee of African governments on climate change, has also been accused of doublespeak. While calling for environmental conservation, he lifted a six-year logging ban in July, reversing the previous government’s efforts to mitigate damage to Kenyan forests.
Neither Ruto nor his government responded to the letter by the civil society organisations.