By Thuku Kariuki and Daniel Furnad

The recently concluded Africa Climate Summit (ACS) held in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital was described as a mini–United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP) Summit.

The civil society said it had been hijacked by the global north, and the ACS host, the Kenyan President William Ruto declared it a Pre- COP28.

It was billed as an African COP, but the usual players in the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) summits were in Nairobi from across the globe, both from the UN, governments, activists, and the civil society.

It concluded on September 6 with a declaration calling for global taxes on the fossil fuel trade, maritime transport, and aviation. This money would be directed to Africa to help develop green energy and mitigate and adapt to the effects of global warming.

The African leaders were categorical. The continent contributes just 4% of the carbon that causes climate change. Yet the effects on the continent are dramatic; 43,000 people in Somalia died last year due to the drought exacerbated by the rise in temperatures; 1.2 million left their homes to search for food.

A report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), to coincide with the summit, says that 100 million Africans were directly affected by weather, climate, and water-related hazards in 2022. The study found $8.5 billion dollars in related economic loss, a number that seems low to many experts.

But the WMO and its study partners together with the UN and the African Union (AU), also expect things to get worse.

“Given Africa’s high exposure, fragility and low adaptive capacity, the effects of climate change are expected to be felt more severely. People’s health, peace, prosperity, infrastructure, and other economic activities across many sectors in Africa are exposed to significant risks associated with climate change,” wrote Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment at the AU Commission.

In 2009, at the COP15 UN-sponsored global climate change summit in Denmark, developed nations pledged $100 billion a year to clean up the effects of global warming. That money is now 3 years overdue. And its realization was another demand in the Nairobi Summit Declaration.

President William Ruto during a session at the ACS

The 17 African Heads of State, including President Ruto, were joined by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US Climate Envoy John Kerry.

Kerry told the African leaders that the US would give an additional $30 million to boost food security efforts in African nations and that Joe Biden, the American President, is working with Congress to provide $3 billion per year in adaptation aid to vulnerable countries.

The European representative touted a 150-billion-euro plan, called the Global Gateway, that will invest in green technologies. She also said that a carbon tax will go into effect in Europe next month.

“We are not only interested in extracting resources. We want to partner with you to create local value chains, to create good jobs here in Africa. We want to share European technology with you. We want to invest in skills for local workers. This is crucial for the young people. Because the stronger you are as suppliers, the more Europe will diversify supply chains towards Africa, and the more we will both de-risk our economies,” stated European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen.

The United Arab Emirates came with a cheque book in hand. Abu Dhabi is investing $4.5 billion to develop 15 gigawatts of clean energy on the continent. They will also buy $450 million in carbon credits from African nations. This was among $23 billion pledged by various participants during the summit. The UAE will host the COP28 climate talks later this year.

Not everyone was thrilled with the event’s outcome. Many environmental activists criticized the conference for embracing fossil fuels. Nnimmo Bassey, founder of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, complained, “The declaration … barely escaped living up to its billing as a carbon stock exchange jamboree. It is loaded with platitudes pandering to worn ideas of the carbon market, green growth and so-called land degradation neutrality and other false solutions.”

It was also noted that the Loss and Damage Fund, set up at last year’s COP27 meetings, is yet to be realized.

But the host was upbeat, portraying the event as a success; “Africa has spoken. We have clearly articulated the way forward for our continent and the world,” President Ruto declared.

It is hard to know what has been accomplished, however, until climate change finance funds start flowing in this direction.