The first Africa Climate Summit opens in Nairobi

Cross section of participating African leaders at the Africa Climate Summit. PHOTO Facebook page of Eliud Owalo 1140x570 1

The inaugural African Climate Summit is underway in Nairobi with heads of state and other participants emphasizing a more influential global presence on an issue that disproportionately affects the continent with its 1.3 billion population, despite its minimal contributions to the problem.

Kenyan President William Ruto’s administration, in collaboration with the African Union, launched the ministerial session on Monday, with over a dozen heads of state arriving with determination to exert greater global influence and secure increased financial support.

Ruto, while addressing the climate crisis, acknowledged not just the challenges but also the substantial opportunities it presents. He highlighted the potential for multibillion-dollar economic prospects, innovative financial structures, Africa’s vast mineral wealth, and the vision of shared prosperity. He stressed that their goal was not merely to list grievances.

The Kenyan President expressed that Africa’s stance on climate action aims to save lives and the planet from calamity. He also addressed the continent’s aspiration to shape a new growth agenda that fosters shared prosperity and sustainable development. He stated that Africa is fully committed to leveraging this unique opportunity to lead the world towards inclusive climate action. To realize these ambitions, Ruto has stressed the importance of international support in unlocking financing for the continent and alleviating the growing debt burden faced by African nations.

However, there is some frustration within the continent regarding the expectation for African nations to develop cleaner practices while the world’s wealthiest countries, which have historically been responsible for most emissions endangering the climate, are not meeting their promised levels of support.

The annual flow of climate assistance to the African continent falls significantly short of what is required, representing only a fraction of the budget of some polluting companies. African leaders called for the immediate delivery of the promised $100 billion in annual climate finance from developed countries to developing ones.

Kenya, for instance, requires $62 billion to implement its emissions reduction plan contributing to global warming.

Outside attendees at the summit include John Kerry, the U.S. government’s climate envoy, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has emphasized addressing finance as one of the key injustices of the climate crisis.

John Kerry noted that 17 out of the 20 countries most affected by the climate crisis are located in Africa.

Despite its efforts in renewable energy and banning single-use plastic bags, Kenya faces challenges in other areas of climate-friendly adaptation. For example, trees were cleared to make way for the expressway used by summit attendees, and charcoal made from local trees can still be found in some Nairobi areas.

In a symbolic gesture, President Ruto arrived at the summit in a small electric car, a contrast to the typical government convoys. Nevertheless, nearly 600 million Africans still lack access to electricity, despite the immense potential for solar and other renewable energy sources.

Additionally, the African continent faces challenges in forecasting and monitoring the weather, as inadequate weather prediction capabilities result in thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damages, with far-reaching consequences beyond the continent, much like the impacts of climate change itself.

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