Africa’s first climate summit has opened in the Kenyan capital Nairobi with delegates expected forge a common continental position.
The summit is also expected to discuss how to fund the continent’s environmental priorities.
Deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars in deals are also expected to be announced at the three-day summit.
The summit will showcase Africa as a destination for climate investment rather than a victim of floods, drought and famine.
Kenyan President William Ruto opened the summit on Monday and urged thousands the delegates to see the climate crisis as a chance to attract investments.
“For a very long time we have looked at this as a problem. It is time we flipped and looked it from the other side,” Ruto told delegates.
“We must see in green growth not just a climate imperative but also a fountain of multi-billion dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the world is primed to capitalise,” he said.
Who are the participants?
The summit is bringing together more than 20 presidents and heads of governments from the continent.
They will issue a declaration outlining Africa’s position ahead of a U.N. climate conference next month in New York in September and the COP28 U.N. summit in the United Arab Emirates from late November.
Environment ministers, business executives and climate campaigners are participating in the summit to discuss how to increase climate finance and carbon markets, investments in adaptation to rising temperatures, and transformation of food systems.
Kenyan Environment Minister Soipan Tuya in her opening remarks stressed the urgency of the moment.
“The climate change debate has entered a new era. It is no longer just about tackling an environmental or development problem, but about addressing climate change in the context of justice,” Tuya said.
“If we do not develop adequate response measures to deal with climate change crisis, it will destroy us.”
Other demands and divergent views
African leaders are pushing for market-based financing instruments such as carbon credits in a bid to mobilize funding that they say has been slow to arrive from rich-world donors.
Carbon credits allow polluters to offset emissions by funding activities including tree-planting and renewable energy.
One of the top lenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rawbank, and global energy trader Vitol (VITOLV.UL) announced a $20 million investment on Monday in renewable energy, clean cooking and forest conservation in Congo.
Many African campaigners, however, have opposed the summit’s approach to climate finance, saying it advances Western priorities at the expense of the continent.
They say carbon credits and other financing instruments are a pretext for wealthier countries and corporations to continue polluting and that African countries should hold donors to financial commitments they have previously made to poorer ones but so far only met in part.
“Africa needs funding from countries that have got rich off our suffering. They owe a climate debt,” said Mohamed Adow, the director of energy at the Power Shift Africa think tank.
According to UN figures, African countries contribute only about 3% of global carbon emissions.
They are increasingly exposed to the impact of extreme weather linked to climate change, including the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades.