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Africa Climate Summit concludes with 'Nairobi declaration'

September 6, 2023

The first ever Africa Climate Summit ended on Wednesday with a call for world leaders to back global taxes to fund climate action. The "Nairobi declaration" also calls for financial reforms to help African countries.

Kenya Nairobi | Africa Climate Summit 2023 | William Ruto, President, Kenya
Kenyan President William Ruto hosted the Africa Climate Summit in NairobiImage: Monicah Mwangi/REUTERS

The landmark Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, came to a close on Wednesday with leaders adopting a joint "Nairobi declaration" to highlight the continent's potential as a green powerhouse and encourage other world leaders to support new global carbon taxes.

"This declaration will serve as a basis for Africa's common position in the global climate change process," read the final document. "No country should ever have to choose between development aspirations and climate action."

Backed by the leaders of the continent of 1.3 billion people — a population set to double by 2050 — the declaration will form the basis of Africa's negotiating position at November's COP28 summit.

"Decarbonizing the global economy is also an opportunity to contribute to equality and shared prosperity," it said.

Calls for new global carbon taxes

Agreed upon unanimously by leaders at the three-day summit, the declaration calls on the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and its richest countries to keep their promises — noting in particular an unfilled pledge of $100 billion in annual climate finance to developing nations, made 14 years ago — and for today's world leaders to rally behind a global carbon tax on fossil fuels, aviation and maritime transport.

About two dozen countries worldwide currently impose taxes on carbon, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but the idea of global carbon tax regime has never gained much traction.

As a potential model, Kenyan president William Ruto cited European Union proposals for a financial transaction tax (FTT) back in 2011, which never won the unanimous approval from the European Council required to become law.

United States Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry addresses delegates during the opening ceremony of the Africa Climate Summit
United States Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry addresse delegates during the opening ceremony of the Africa Climate SummitImage: Monicah Mwangi/REUTERS

Financial reforms

Despite suffering from some of the worst impacts of climate change, Africa only receives about 12% of the financing it needs to cope, according to researchers.

What's more, African countries say they are forced to pay borrowing costs that are five to eight times higher than wealthy countries, leading to recurrent debt crises and preventing them from spending more to respond to climate change. 

The declaration therefore also seeks to reform a global financial system that forces African nations to pay more to borrow money and calls for the continent's vast mineral wealth to be harvested and processed in Africa.

Germany’s special envoy for International Climate Action, Jennifer Morgan, told DW from Nairobi that securing financing so that African countries can benefit from the green transition was key. 

"We need to find innovative sources of financing," she said. "We need to reform the international financial institutions so that Africa now can get the financing it needs to develop in a green and sustainable way."

'Africa is not only the cradle of humanity, it is the future'

During the summit, governments and private investors committed billions of dollars to green initiatives, including a $4.5 billion (roughly €4.2 billion) pledge by November's COP28 hosts the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But the declaration warned that unlocking green growth across the continent "on a scale that can contribute meaningfully to decarbonization of the global economy" required a massive increase in funding.

"At the summit, our shared understanding became clear: that Africa is not only the cradle of humanity, it is indeed the future," said President Ruto. "We demand a fair playing ground for our countries to access the investment needed to unlock the potential and translate it into opportunities."

Climate envoy Jennifer Morgan touted Germany’s announcement that it would provide debt relief of €60 million for Kenya in return for investment in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy projects.

"Obviously, Germany can do our part, but we need other countries to do so — other developed countries, but also countries like China that hold much of the world's debt… we need these types of debt swaps, and others to come in in order to give the fiscal space [for African countries] to be developing in a sustainable way that they can profit from the green energy revolution that's going on," she told DW.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the summit on Tuesday that renewable energy could be "the African miracle" if the continent could creat an alliance with developed countries, financial institutions and technology companies to drive progress. The climate in the region is particularly well suited to solar power generation. 

"We must all work together for Africa to become a renewable energy superpower," Guterres said. 

mf/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)