By Gift Briton

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS23) has officially kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya.

The summit which runs between 4th -6th September, has attracted thousands of participants across the globe including Heads of Governments and Ministers, civil societies, international and non-governmental organizations, youth representatives and representatives of indigenous communities among others.

Kenya’s President, Dr. William Ruto in his welcoming remarks, took this opportunity to renew his continued championship for the partnership between the global north and global south in the fight against climate change saying that climate change talks cannot continue to be a blame game about who is the victim or the polluter.

“This is no ordinary summit. We are not here just to talk about Africa or climate change in the usual way-which often accentuates our divisions. Action is the engine for propelling Africa into a realm of stability and prosperity, elevating us to middle-income status and beyond. This context is precisely what sets this climate summit apart from others. It aims to unite us across neighborhoods, sectors, institutions, continents, and generations,” he notes.

“The urgency to address loss and damage and to configure appropriate financial mechanisms for resilience grows with each extreme weather event. A complex interplay of needs and responsibilities is a daily challenge but it should not lead to a deadlock. We must be alert to the fact that they can sometimes blind us to the bigger picture.”

President Ruto during the Africa climate summit in Nairobi

Kenya’s Head of State also highlighted the untapped potential that Africa is yet to leverage including in the areas of renewable energy, labor market and natural assets among others.

President Ruto, who drove himself to the conference centre in an e-vehicle, says that Africa possesses all conditions to realize a future that embraces the values of equality, human security and shared prosperity.

According to him, climate is not only about the problems it has caused, rather people should look at climate change with an opportunity lens saying that it presents immense opportunities as well.

“We are not here to catalog grievances and list problems. We are here to scrutinize ideas assess and perspectives so that we can unlock solutions. African and global leaders, innovation trailblazers, experts, and investors are here to explore these opportunities, tackle the barriers and scale up solutions,” he said.

The Head of State also reiterated his call for the restructuring of the global financial architecture in order to alleviate African countries from the debt burden saying that, “it is unfair for Africa to pay five times more for borrowing than the rest of the world.”

Josefa Sacko- Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission (AUC) urged the global partners to honour their climate financing pledges saying that the promises made by developed nations including the USD$100 billion for climate financing promise made during the Conference of the Parties(COP) 21 in Paris, is yet to be honored.

She observed that the cost of climate change is too expensive for Africa with some countries forced to use up to half of their Gross Domestic Product(GDP) in response to climate-induced disasters.

“What we are witnessing is the situation where governments are abandoning development and concentrating their resources in responding to climate-related disasters without building resilience,” she noted.

Sacko continued: “The fundamental driver of success for African green transition will be the availability of resources for investment and this must be accompanied and strengthened by the ability of African countries to mobilize their own domestic resources.”

Representing the civil societies in Africa, Dr. Mithika Mwenda-Executive Director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance-  pointed out that the summit should seek not only to provide a neutral guide for conversation and restore hope and dignity for millions of people whose livelihoods but should also be responsive to African people’s realities, aspirations, desires and imperatives of climate change justice.

“Africa, with the most progressive position in international dialogue on climate change, has pronounced itself on what we require in adaptation and mitigation. we are doing more than our fair share in the global effort to combat this crisis. Africa needs between 160 to 340 billion USD by 2030 for adaptation. While the current flows are only around 16 billion USD annually,” he said.

He further urged that the summit should convey an unequivocal and bold message from Africa that it is not a forum to aid the industrialized countries to escape their historical responsibilities and transfer the burden of their actions to the victims of their actions.

On behalf of indigenous people, Ann Samante-Acting Executive Director at Mainyoito Pastoralists Integrated Development Organization (MPI) in Tanzania, also took the platform to air the challenges faced by ingenious people of Africa despite their immense contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and advised on how they wish to be engaged in the fight against climate disaster moving forward.

According to Samante, any investment around the transition to renewable energy must take into consideration the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people, considering that the majority of these initiatives take place in their territories.

“We request this summit to recognize the contributions of indigenous people’s traditional knowledge which make them more resilient to climate change,” she said.

With research showing that indigenous people receive less than one percent of the climate financing globally, Samante notes that as indigenous people of Africa, there is a need for the establishment of indigenous people’s climate resilience fund to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Elizabeth Wathuti, an activist representing the youth, reaffirmed their commitment to the fight against climate change saying, “We are committed to harness the power of our youth to drive meaningful change. Young people are one of the biggest resources that Africa is endowed with. We seek to elevate youth participation and inclusion in climate governance, forging pathways towards sustainable development and green growth and we urge you, our esteemed leaders, to join hands with us in this endeavor.”