Africa Climate Week commences, Charting a Fresh Course for Climate Action


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Writes Baboloki Semele

06 August 2023, Nairobi, Kenya: The urgency of climate change is undeniable, and the stakes have never been higher. Against this backdrop, Africa Climate Week 2023 emerged as a critical platform for dialogue, collaboration, and action. Held in Nairobi, Kenya, from the 4th to the 8th of September 2023, the Africa Climate Week has brought together government representatives, environmentalists, scientists, youth activists, and global leaders to discuss and strategize on the path forward for climate action in Africa.

Africa is one of the regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures, prolonged droughts, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise threaten food security, water resources, and economic stability across the continent. However, Africa is also rich in natural resources, innovation, and untapped potential for sustainable development.

Africa Climate Week 2023 recognized that addressing climate change is not just an obligation but an opportunity to transform economies, protect ecosystems, and improve livelihoods for millions. It aimed to harness the continent’s potential to lead the way in climate action.

The event is focusing on several key themes, including:

Nature-Based Solutions: Africa is home to some of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Discussions so far revolved around the importance of protecting and restoring these ecosystems as a means to sequester carbon, enhance resilience, and promote sustainable development. Delegates explored afforestation, reforestation, and sustainable land management strategies.

On the other theme Energy Transition: It is clear that many African nations are emphasizing their commitment to transitioning to clean energy sources. Discussions in this thematic area addressed the challenges and opportunities of scaling up renewable energy projects, including solar and wind power. Africa Climate Week 2023 also celebrated the active involvement of youth activists and highlighted their role as catalysts for change. Youth-led initiatives, innovations, and calls for action have been at the forefront of discussions, emphasizing the urgency of climate action.

The other area of concern is Climate Financing as delegates observed that financing climate adaptation and mitigation efforts remains a critical challenge for many African nations. The event explored innovative financing mechanisms, including public-private partnerships and green bonds, to bridge the funding gap. ACW will also build momentum towards positive and impactful outcomes at the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). COP28 will mark the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake, an opportunity to critically assess where the world stands on climate action and to chart the course forward through increased ambition and action to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Scaling up climate finance, adaptation support, and operationalizing the fund for loss and damage will also be key priorities in the UAE.

“In the face of the profound challenges posed by climate change in Africa, we stand unwavering in our commitment to confront this existential threat to all of humanity,” said President William Ruto of Kenya. “Africa’s abundance of wind and solar energy can power our development, creating jobs, protecting local economies, and accelerating the sustainable industrialization of the continent. But for us to lead the way toward a sustainable and prosperous future for our continent and the world, finance and technology must be provided to our developing countries. As we come together at the Africa Climate Summit and the Africa Climate Week, we aim to weave a single, resounding African voice that will carry the outcomes of these crucial events to COP28 and beyond.”

While Africa’s per capita emissions are significantly lower than the global average, the continent is disproportionately affected by rising global temperatures and escalating climate consequences. Drought, desertification, and cyclones, among others, are causing food shortages, displacement, and migration.

At the same time, the continent is rich in resources like renewable energy, minerals, agriculture, and natural capital, standing ready to drive its own green growth.

“Africa accounts for just four percent of global emissions. Yet it suffers some of the worst effects of rising global temperatures: The people of Africa — and people everywhere — need action to respond to deadly climate extremes. I’m convinced that Africa can be at the heart of a renewable future. Now is the time for all countries to stand as one in defence of our only home,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

African countries have the potential to be the frontrunners in renewable energy, sustainable land use and innovative technologies, attracting investment, facilitating technology transfer, and positioning African nations as leaders in the global transition to green development.

Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, said: “The world is asking a lot: Develop but don’t do it in the carbon-intensive way that we did. It is a global responsibility to collectively work out how we do that. And that’s exactly what we’re here to do. So that African nations can come to COP28 leading in action and ambition. The discussions taking place here will inform the global stocktake about the challenges, barriers, solutions, and opportunities for climate action and support within the context of Africa. The UNFCCC Secretariat can work with you to identify the solutions to attain those opportunities.”

The Africa Climate Week provides a timely opportunity ahead of COP28 for regional stakeholders to exchange on barriers overcome and opportunities realized in different countries, showcasing how Africa’s industrial growth can be aligned with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and drive economic progress while curbing environmental impacts.

“Africa Climate Week must be the place where we accelerate climate action across the African continent and finance a just transition to a climate-resilient future – a transition that empowers Africa to take control of its own destiny and become a green leader and economic powerhouse,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme, stressed: “Climate change is reshaping economies and impacting lives and livelihoods. The Africa Climate Week will show the implications of climate change for Africa, but also the solutions emerging from across the continent. Enhanced collaboration can drive progress by integrating climate considerations into economic and development planning, ensuring inclusive, sustainable growth through low-emissions pathways.”

Opportunities abound for strengthened cooperation across African borders, sectors, and disciplines, but effective climate action requires active engagement from all sectors. Governments and multilateral institutions hold central roles, yet civil society, academia, local communities, and the private sector are crucial contributors as well.

“The Africa climate story is about solutions for sustainable growth, and about innovation and opportunities to bring people out of poverty,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, Senior Managing Director of the World Bank. “Clean energy is key to this story. It lifts underserved communities; powers businesses, schools, and hospitals; and creates jobs for young Africans. There is much to be done to get financing flowing and help countries leapfrog to low-carbon and clean energy opportunities. Africa is part of the new climate economy in action.”

ACW will amplify the voices of Parties from the African continent, bringing their collective voice to the negotiation table at COP28 and pushing for positive outcomes that drive meaningful shifts on both regional and global scales.

ACW is the first of four Regional Climate Weeks in 2023. The events provide a platform for governments, businesses, practitioners, and civil society to showcase ongoing projects, policies, and practices that are already effecting positive change, inspiring others to follow suit.