African Climate Summit – Mixed Reactions Trail Nairobi Pact

While some applauded the initiative and commitments made, others expressed reservations

Following the adoption of the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and the call to action by African Heads of State in Nairobi, Kenya, several climate activists and advocates who participated in the summit have expressed mixed concerns over the adoption of the new pact and the organisation of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit.

Some of the activists and environmentalists from different African countries who shared their views with PREMIUM TIMES, during the summit, applauded the willingness and proactiveness of the African leaders to upscale climate actions across the continent. However, others expressed concern about the proposed climate solutions captured in the climate pact adopted at the end of the summit.

Africa Climate Summit/ Week

With less than three months to the 28th edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties — COP28, Heads of State from Africa and other global leaders converged in Nairobi between 6 and 8 September for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS) and Africa Climate Week (ACW) to collectively advance global action in resource mobilisation for Africa’s green growth, adaptation and mitigation projects.

The organisation of the summit, themed: “Driving Green Growth and Finance Solutions for Africa and the World,” was led by Kenya’s President William Ruto, the African Union and other partners. It focused on delivering climate-positive growth and finance solutions for Africa and the world.

Leaders at the event made several commitments to the tune of $23 billion for Africa’s green growth and they repeatedly challenged the global community to honour its climate commitments in order to help reverse the existential threats of climate change in Africa and the world.

After three days of extensive deliberations, the African leaders adopted the Nairobi Declaration which, among several demands, calls for a just multilateral development finance architecture to liberate Africa’s economies from “odious debt and onerous barriers to necessary financial resources.”

The summit, according to the organisers, also realised many other outcomes including a pathway to a new global financial deal that includes “at-scale” and fit-for-purpose financing instruments and products; investment commitments across all sectors like energy, nature, and water and the announcements on tangible progress on ongoing African and global initiatives.

Other milestones achieved are a clear roadmap between the Summit and COP 28 which will take place in the United Arab Emirates later this year.

The ACS/ACW which officially concluded on Friday brought together about 30,000 participants, representing over 130 countries. Over 400 side events encouraging greater climate ambition in all sectors of Africa’s society were held, with over 200 events engaging around 1000 speakers, organisers said.

Perception of the Summit

During the events, some climate advocates commended the proactive move made by the African leaders and organisers of the inaugural summit, describing the event as the right step in the right direction towards achieving climate justice for the continent.

Others registered concerns over some of the solutions such as the carbon market and pledges made by the leaders at the summit.

On her part, the Executive Director of Climate Action Africa, Grace Mbah, said she is excited about the summit and that to the best of her knowledge, it was a success.

“I like the fact that it was not an African global North discussion but it was an Africa-African discussion. This means that it will ensure our African leaders and the youth rise up to their responsibility and also stop pushing the bill to some other person,” she told PREMIUM TIMES.

She said it was good to hear some of the announcements made by the Kenyan President and the head of the Africa Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina, adding that it would be great to see them come to fruition.

“Again it is good to be here because our sovereignty is respected,” she said, adding that she does not think African voices were drowned out by a lot of foreign governments and development partners in attendance. She described the summit as “something for us” which she cherished.

Mohamed Jahazi, who hails from Kenya and works with Clean Cooking Alliance, said the summit is a good building block and a good foundation for Africa.

He said he knows that promoting sustainable climate action is a big job and that is why they are trying to help reduce emissions by promoting clean cooking appliances all over the world.

Mohamed Jahazi, a staff of Clean Cooking Stoves based in Kenya


Some environmentalists also registered their concerns about the Nairobi declarations adopted at the Summit.

The Climate and Energy Justice campaign Lead at Friends of the Earth South Africa, Yegeshni Moodley, described some commitments as “greenwashing” and false solutions.

“I see political leaders being captured by the narrative of the global North and we need to protect our people, our land and our natural resources. They are not for sale and they are not a market that people can use to create a green economy and green growth,” she said.

She said the leaders should focus on protecting people and protecting communities.

Regarding the ACW, Ms Moodley said she observed that the climate week was missing the local voices that are most impacted by climate change.

“Their stories of hope, perseverance, suffering, and disaster were glaringly absent, hidden away behind security barriers and military armament,” she said.

The South Africa-based environmentalist lamented that the use of top-down, technocratic false solutions negates the value of local knowledge and traditional practices that have sustained generations on their land.

“We must decry and lament the situation Africa has been placed into, where her lands and riches are once again being sold away to the distress and poverty of her people,” she said.

Ms Moodley said she is not surprised that the declaration falls short of the expectations of civil society organisations because some ‘dangerous clauses’ embedded in the document have revealed the truth about these concerns.

She noted that the summit’s sessions brought forward the multiple ways to institutionalise carbon markets on the continent but it is a dangerous distraction from the much-needed rapid transition away from fossil fuels if Africa stays below 1.5 degrees.

Carbon Credits

One of the important deliberations at the summit was the drive to develop Africa’s carbon market through carbon credits to boost incentives and improve climate action financing across the continent.

Mfoniso Antia, who works with the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), expressed concerns about the restriction of participants at some of the events at the summit and the drive for the carbon market and carbon credits.

“The whole drive for carbon market and carbon credits is something that Africa should outrightly reject,” she said, adding that it is going to be another platform to plunder Africa and drive Africa back to recolonisation.

“It is a summit that has been hijacked by the global North, it is a summit that has been hijacked by the corporations and it is not fair to Africans because this is supposed to be our space,” she said.

Similarly, Mozambique-based climate activist, Alberto Tovele, said there is a concerted effort by the leaders to ensure that the carbon market operates in Africa but rather than bring in solutions, leaders simply plan to change how the model operates without changing its essence.

He expressed concerns that the carbon market will escalate land grabbing across communities in Africa.

“We know that the minerals that are needed for these transactions are in Africa and that will lead to resettlements, displacement, land right issues and impoverishment of the African people,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

The Executive Director of the International Climate Change Department Initiative, Olumide Idowu, expressed worry over the carbon credit initiative due to the existing knowledge gap of how the initiative works among Africans.

“The way they are pushing carbon credits at us, are we ready for it? There is a need to critically look into this and devise a means to inwardly drive resources so that this declaration will not only be on paper but be a reflection that will support the development of Africa on environmental issues,” he said.

“Africa is not in charge”

While commending the summit organisers for hosting the event ahead of COP28, Sulaiman Arigbabu, executive secretary of HEDA Resource Centre, said Africa was not in charge of the summit.

“Africa is not in charge of this whole conversation because Africa is not holding the purse, and they are not in charge of the technology that is required to deal with climate change and they are not part of the economy that climate change has brought forth,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr Arigbabu expressed worry that Africa is just a consumer of climate change technology and African countries are not taking full knowledge and benefits of what the market of the technology commands.

These, he said, are dynamics that could change if initiatives taken by national entities, civil society organisations, research institutions and private companies are properly harnessed.

“With the right enablement and opportunities, Africa can develop and contribute significantly to the knowledge content around Climate Change,” Mr Arigbabu said.

Unfortunately, he said, Africa is not the one holding the pockets and climate pledges such as the Green Climate fund of $100 billion pledged over a decade ago have not been fulfilled.

The climate justice advocate lamented that beyond the fact that developed countries are not paying their climate debt, they are responsible for historical emissions and current per capita emissions, and that they have made money and built their economies, yet Africa is the most vulnerable frontline of climate impact.

“Despite all of these, Africa is still being hand-tied by global trade practices and loss. Unfair international global trade practices. Trade is dollarized which is affecting many African countries’ development,” he said.

Way forward

In the face of the concerns, Mr Arigbabu said illicit financial flows out of Africa, tax evasion by global companies and trade imbalance, have to stop.

“We need trade to be fair. Don’t buy our cocoa and bring back chocolates that we cannot afford. Don’t take our cobalt away and bring back phones that our local people can’t afford. Don’t destroy Africa’s environment in the name of mining and exploring resources,” he said.

In his reaction, Maimoni Mariere Ubrei-Joe, coordinator of the Climate Justice and Energy Program for FoEI, said existing policies in Africa can be effective if they are backed by concrete actions.

“What should be Africa’s focus now is to stop the contributors to climate change at source and not look for shortcuts to keep extracting using the smokescreen of the carbon market, geoengineering, and other false solutions,” he noted.

Tyler Booth, CJE International Programme Coordinator of FoEI, said “Africa urgently needs to scale up real climate finance solutions to enact a fair and just transition away from fossil fuels towards sustainable renewable energy.”

She said at the forefront of Africa’s just transition must be the need to increase energy access and sufficiency across the continent.

“The dash for Africa’s transition minerals cannot replicate the extractivist dirty energy model that puts profits over the people and planet. Nor can this extraction be led by neocolonial pursuits by the Global North,” Ms Booth said.

She stated that any exploitation of Africa’s critical mineral resources needs to recognize the rights of Africa’s indigenous people and local communities and ensure that their energy needs are a priority in the transition.

“Africa does not need carbon markets; it needs real climate finance,” she said.

On her part, Mariann Bassey FoEI Africa’s Food Sovereignty coordinator said: “We call on our African leaders to meet their human rights obligations and to listen to the requests of the affected communities and people.”

She urged governments and intergovernmental organisations to immediately stop any policies that lead to violations of the human right to food.

“We demand public policies in favour of farmers’ seed systems. The Nairobi Declaration must prohibit monopolies, and favour instead agroecology, access to land, and good care of the soil,” she added.


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