African Climate Summit – Who Has Shaped the Agenda?

Arusha, Tanzania — “Africa must not be denied its rightful place at the table.”

The African Climate Summit, scheduled taking in Nairobi, Kenya is at risk of being hijacked by Western interests, according to a group of African climate experts and activists who have expressed grave concern about the direction of the African Climate Summit.

Over 500 civil society organisations from across Africa previously called for the African Climate Summit to be put on hold until it is restructured to put Africa’s interests first. The African Climate Summit is a major opportunity for Africa to set its own agenda on climate change and demand the support it needs to build a clean, safe, and prosperous future.

The Kenyan government denied these claims, saying that the summit is an African-led event. Soipan Tuya, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry, dismissed the claims that the African Climate Summit is being hijacked. She said that the claims are “extremely far from the truth” and that the summit is “an African Climate Summit.”

The summit is expected to draw 13,000 delegates from 126 countries, and the outcomes of the summit will inform Africa’s position in global climate discourse.

Lorraine Chiponda, co-facilitator of the Africa Movement Building Space, a collective of organisations that have created an unbranded space for organisations to come together and engage in discussions and actions on Africa’s development, climate, and energy issues, among others, commented on the agenda and petition.

Chiponda expressed concern about the exclusion of civil society organisations (CSOs) from the Africa Climate Summit, from the planners to the organisers to the group of experts. She also noted that the summit has been co-opted by Western interests. She questioned the lack of African representation in the expert groups and advisors listed on the Africa Climate Summit website. Chiponda asked why Africa’s expertise, experience, and knowledge of climate issues are not being prioritised and pointed out that there are many African people and organisations with the knowledge and experience to work with grassroots communities to address the climate crisis.

In a petition to Kenyan President William Ruto, the Chairperson of the Committee of African Heads of State and Governments on Climate Change (CAHOSCC,) experts warn that the African Climate Summit risked being hijacked by Western interests. They are concerned that the agenda will be shaped by Western consultants and organisations, rather than by African leaders and experts, hell-bent on pushing a pro-West agenda and interests at the expense of Africa.

“Even more worryingly, the agenda of the Summit has been unduly influenced by U.S.-based consultancy firm McKinsey and Company. The lead of African officials and ministers has been pushed on the back burner. These developments are seriously unsettling,” the letter added.

McKinsey, a consultancy firm, is involved in the African Climate Summit as a “technical lead” on climate finance, according to a draft programme. McKinsey helped design the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI), which aims to scale up the voluntary carbon market on the continent. They have also supported the Kenyan government in assessing its carbon credit potential and drafting principles for regulating the market, reports African Arguments. Campaigners have criticised the reliance on carbon markets as a “false solution” and an escape route for companies in rich countries to continue to pollute.

Civil society organisations say they were excluded from the planning process and not being given a voice in the decision-making.

Climate activist Chiponda expressed concern about the text of the discussions and the Africa Climate Summit. She says that the text discounts equity in the principle of differentiated responsibility. For example, one segment of the text states that there is no need to distinguish between the global north and the global south. Chiponda and other activists are not happy with this language because it removes the responsibility of polluters from polluters. It also shifts the responsibility from rich nations to own up to the climate crisis and commit to climate finance, as they should in the form of climate reparations or debt cancellation.

“The African Climate Summit was intended to be a forum for African leaders to come together and discuss climate action and resilience in a pan-African way. The summit was to be driven by a pan-African agenda, with Western governments and donor agencies only invited to support the efforts of African leaders,” Chiponda says. “For example, many African organisations that applied to hold side events at the summit were denied accreditation. This is a cause for concern because it undermines the summit’s goal of giving African voices a platform.”

Chiponda adds that the ‘concept note’ dismisses the responsibility of the global north, which has contributed the most to climate change. It waters down critical issues, such as debt and food security, that are essential to Africa’s climate resilience. It excludes various constituencies, such as women and Indigenous people, who are disproportionately affected by climate change. And it does not break down silos between different sectors, such as agriculture and energy, which need to work together to address the climate crisis.

As a result of these concerns, the group of African civil society organizations (CSOs) wrote a letter to the summit organisers, urging them to resist the domination of non-African actors and to ensure that African voices are heard. The activists warn that if these demands are not met, the African Climate Summit will be a wasted opportunity and will do little to help Africa address the climate crisis.

The protests come at a critical time for Africa. The continent is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and it is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of future climate change. Increasing temperatures and sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, and more extreme weather are all threatening human health and safety, food and water security, and socio-economic development in Africa, reports the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Chiponda argues that “Africa is uniquely positioned to provide solutions for the climate crisis. Africa is already facing the brunt of the climate crisis, with 600 million people living in energy poverty and many communities being affected by droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events. However, Africa also has a unique set of advantages that can be leveraged to address the climate crisis”.

“Africa has abundant renewable energy resources, including solar, wind, and hydropower. These resources can be used to generate clean and affordable energy for Africans, while also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she says. “Africa has a young and growing population. This means that Africa has a workforce that can be mobilised to build a clean energy economy.”

“We know that we need to make certain shifts, or paradigm shifts, with regards to ideas around how we can transition from the system that is causing the climate crisis. We know that the climate crisis is being driven by fossil fuel production. Africa, however, has the solution: it is home to 40% of the strategic minerals that are needed by the world to transition from dirty energy to clean. This gives Africa an opportunity to show the world that there is another path to development, one that does not promote extractivism, pollution, colonisation, displacement, water pollution, or food system problems.”

“African people can show the world that we can lead the way in leapfrogging dirty development to cleaner forms of development. It is important to bring African voices to the table, especially those who have been affected by the climate crisis, and have alternative ways of development that the world can learn from. Africa has suffered from structural debt and economic systems that have destroyed our economies, food systems, and other systems. We can provide the solutions to climate action,” she says.

Chiponda says that “Africa has a unique and untapped potential to lead the way in sustainable development. By investing in renewable energy and climate-resilient infrastructure, Africa can guarantee its own future and also help the world to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”.

“We have seen countries develop as a result of fossil fuel extraction and dirty energy. Africa is now in a position to leapfrog these countries and show the world what real climate action looks like. This includes building climate resilience, which means doing away with harmful development practices such as forced displacement and the use of harmful seeds and fertilisers. Instead, we should embrace agroecology, which has been proven to work in Africa. African farmers have been using agroecology for centuries, and it has allowed them to feed their communities and even export food.”

The organisations are calling on African leaders to take urgent action to address climate change and to ensure that Africa’s interests are protected. The signatories to the petition included the  350 Ghana Reducing Our Carbon, a youth-led organisation that works to raise awareness about climate change and promote renewable energy solutions in Ghana;  the Climate Action Network (CAN) Africa, a pan-African network of over 1,200 civil society organisations working to promote climate justice in Africa;  the Friends of the Earth Africa, a regional network of environmental organisations working to protect the environment and promote sustainable development in Africa; the GenderCC SA  – Women for Climate Justice, a South African organisation that works to empower women to take action on climate change; and the Green Arise Initiative, a Kenyan organisation that works to promote sustainable development and environmental protection.

Why we should lead on climate action

As Chiponda says, Africa has the potential lead on global climate action.

She adds that “we have a renewable energy potential of over 10,000 gigawatts, and we can play a significant role in stopping the climate crisis. However, we need to call out the hypocrisy of global countries that are investing in fossil fuels instead of renewable energy. Africa is only receiving 2% of the global renewable energy investment, and 600 million people in Africa are living in energy poverty. We need to expose the practices that are happening and those that are trying to divert the Africa climate summit from the people. We will be carrying out various actions to ensure that people’s voices are heard, including using the press, media, marches, videos, and our art and creativity”.

“We urge you to be on the lookout for these actions and to speak to the people who are attending them. We are pushing for alternative pathways to development that are not detrimental to our people or the environment,” Chiponda says.

allAfrica approached the conference organisers for a response but none was received at the time of publication.

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