It is no longer news that, despite the fact that Africa is responsible for less than 4% of global greenhouse emissions (which are the main driver of climate change), it is the region most vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. 

All over the continent, the increasingly devastating effects of climate change can be found: flooding in Nigeria due to extreme rainfall levels; droughts in Northern Africa brought on by rising temperatures; and cyclones have seemingly made a home in the southern regions of the continent. 

Something needs to give, and urgently too, because experts have predicted that Africa will face even more damaging impacts if immediate steps aren't taken to develop climate adaptation and reparation solutions.

The African Development Bank, for example, estimates that by 2050, 230 million Africans will be facing water scarcity due to climate-induced droughts. 

In other words, the world is dealing with a climate crisis but Africa is dealing with a climate emergency, and the impacts are visceral. People across Africa have already lost so much: lives, properties, farmland, business, health care facilities, schools — the list goes on.

This is not a problem to be solved sometime in the future, it requires urgent action today and now. 

So What Is the Africa Climate Summit?

The Africa Climate Summit is being convened by Kenya's President William Ruto, from Sept. 4-6, 2023, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. 

It's also being reported as the largest gathering of African Heads of State, ministers, UN agencies, humanitarian and development partners, the private sector, and young people in the continent's history.

With the theme of "Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World", the event aims to unlock climate finance and drive key actions needed to tackle the climate crisis and its impacts — including putting targeted taxes on high carbon emission sectors, like aviation and shipping; removing fossil fuel subsidies worldwide; and implementing a global fossil fuel tax.

It will also seek to get commitments from world leaders on what's known as Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms (CBAM) — which are carbon tariffs on carbon intensive products, such as cement — and how they can be used as a tax for targeted mitigation and adaptation efforts. It will also explore a global financial transactions tax, or what campaigners are calling a "Robin Hood Tax" (find out more about financial transations tax here), as another potential avenue for unlocking the money needed for climate action. 

"Africa has the greatest potential for renewable energy — from solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. Kenya is already leading the way with 92% of our grid being green," said President Ruto in June at Global Citizen’s Power Our Planet: Live in Paris event.  

“We call for a global financial system that is fit for purpose," he continued. "One that does not pit the West against the East, the North against the South, or emitters against those who don’t emit, or the developed against the developing. We want a financial system that is fair and transparent and it isn’t too much to ask for a fair system." 

Why Are Activists Calling for a Truly African Agenda at the Summit?

Unfortunately, there are concerns that the summit, which is in its inaugural year, might not be centering Africa’s interests as much as it could. More than 500 civil society organisations have written and signed an open letter calling for an urgent reset to the summit's focus away from the current agenda, which the activists say “foregrounds the position and interests of the West, namely, carbon markets, carbon sequestration, and ‘climate positive’ approaches.”

Carbon markets and sequestration practices (often evangelised by wealthier nations) has been a controversial climate change topic and it is one that has been linked to neocolonialism. 

The University of Oxford puts it this way: “Under the veil of ‘development projects’ and ‘carbon offsetting’, western countries and companies can continue to pollute as normal, which disproportionately affects BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] folk in both developed and developing countries.” (You can learn more about the connection between colonialism and climate change here).

These solutions, the organisations say in the letter, will only embolden large corporations and wealthy nations to continue to pollute the world and worsen Africa’s suffering from the impacts of climate change. 

“Rather than advancing Africa’s interests and position on critical climate issues, the summit has been seized by Western governments, consultancy companies, and philanthropic organisations hellbent on pushing a pro-West agenda and interests at the expense of Africa,” the CSOs said in the open letter. “Even more worryingly … the lead of African officials and ministers has been pushed on the backburner.”

The CSOs are calling on President Ruto to “avoid all false solutions such as carbon markets and geo-engineering” and prioritise the adoption of climate policies that promote an equitable phase-out of oil, gas, and coal projects on the African continent, among other things. You can read the CSOs' open letter here

What's Global Citizen Calling for? 

At the Africa Climate Summit, we're calling on leaders to support solutions that reduce the impact of climate change, such as reducing deforestation, cutting fossil fuels, and investing in renewable energy, as well as unlocking adaptation financing.

We will also be advocating for the unlocking of money needed to fight climate change by:

  • calling for debt pause clauses for natural disasters, famine, drought, and other climate-induced phenomena
  • ensuring Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) are channelled through the African Development Bank (AfDB)
  • calling for the reaffirmation of commitments to the Malabo Declaration
  • and urging increased investment in climate-resilient agriculture through smallholder farmers. 

How You Can Take Action to Help

We have a lot of actions you can take, either by downloading the Global Citizen app or by heading to our website, to raise your voice and take action to help fight the climate crisis — from calling on Africa's leaders to be climate champions, to sharing how you've been impacted by the climate emergency, to urging world leaders to Power Our Planet, and calling on the US and the UK to urgently deliver promised climate funding. 

To further drive the point home, CSOs and activists will be having a march on Sept. 4, the first day of the summit, to encourage delegates to actively participate in discussions and take concrete actions to phase out fossil fuels during the Africa Climate Summit. If you're in Nairobi, you can can fill out this form to participate.

If you can't make the march, follow us on social media @GlblCtzn to find more ways you can take action against climate change throughout the summit and beyond. 

Global Citizen Explains

Defend the Planet

What Is the Africa Climate Summit? And Why Are Activists Calling for a Truly African Agenda?

By Akindare Lewis