First Africa Climate Summit sets a high bar for the world

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL September 7, 2023
COP28 climate summit president Sultan al-Jaber controversially wears twin hats as head of the UAE’s national oil company but he made a good point that the global financial architecture 'was built for a different era'

Africa’s first climate summit drew to a close on September 6 with quite a bang. Not only did European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen and United States’ climate envoy John Kerry attend, two dozen heads of state from the African continent called on the international community to create a “new financing architecture more responsive to Africa’s needs”, including debt restructuring and relief.

As a call to action, the so-called “Nairobi Declaration” packs a punch. It is hard for the world to ignore the plea to do something to prevent the inherent inequity of a continent that accounts for only four per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but “suffers some of the worst effects of rising global temperatures”, in the words of United Nations head Antonio Guterres.

What Africa wants is for the world to reduce coal use, abolish fossil fuel subsidies and honour climate finance commitments. This will serve as a common negotiating position for African nations ahead of this month’s New York Climate Week and at COP28 in Dubai at year’s end.

As summit host, Kenya’s president William Ruto said, “this is the first African summit 31 years later” from the 1992 start of the global “climate conversation” in Rio de Janeiro.

It’s worth noting that the tone struck at the three-day summit was refreshingly free of finger-pointing and focussed instead on the future – on investments and financing.

The summit concentrated on clean energy and carbon credits, particularly the reform of global financial structures to align with climate and green development goals.

For all the kerfuffle over COP28 climate summit president Sultan al-Jaber’s twin hats – he heads the UAE’s national oil company ADNOC and government-owned renewable energy company Masdar – he did make the case in noting that the global financial architecture “was built for a different era”.

That, at least, is a good point.