The first-ever Africa Climate summit. 'This is not a descent into a scramble for resources reminiscent of the colonial era' (Photo: Instagram)
In the realm of climate change, a significant transformation is underway, one that demands the West’s immediate recognition: African nations are emerging as the world’s most influential catalysts for combating climate change. This paradigm shift is now unmistakable, and it is high time for the West to acknowledge that Africa has taken the helm.
The inaugural Africa Climate Summit, convened in the capital of my homeland this week, serves as an undeniable testament to this dramatic pivot. While African nations currently contribute a mere 10 percent of global emissions, they are poised to become the globe’s fastest-growing economies in the coming decades, as projected by the African Development Bank Group. The imperative lies in ensuring that this economic growth is synonymous with environmental sustainability.
This objective underpins the significance of the joint statement jointly issued by the chair of the African Union Commission, which manages the 55-member intergovernmental body, in collaboration with the government of Kenya and the COP28 presidency.
Their endorsement of the goal to “triple renewable energy capacity” and “double energy efficiency” by 2030 signals a vital stride forward. The Nairobi summit ultimately marked both the first unified voice of the continent in the fight against climate change, and the first time such an ambitious vision of Africa’s clean energy prospects has been tabled at such a high-level forum.
Though not yet enshrined as a binding pan-African accord, with some member-states expressing reservations, the African Union Commission’s public endorsement of this audacious idea is unprecedented. Is it possible that Africa might outpace the Western world in renewable energy ambitions? While it may be premature to draw a definitive conclusion, it is worth noting that no political representatives from the United States and the United Kingdom have publicly endorsed the goal of tripling renewable energy.
Furthermore, internal EU documents suggest that the European Union’s own aspirations fall significantly short of this tripling target, despite its public support.
West falls short
Western leaders also fall short in providing the necessary climate financing to Africa, even as calls mount in the West for a gradual phase-out of fossil fuels. It is essential to understand that making bold declarations, no matter how ambitious, remains hollow without the financial backing to substantiate them.
However, a promising shift may be on the horizon, driven not by the West but by the solidarity among developing nations. Dr. Sultan al-Jabr, the president of the upcoming UN climate summit in Dubai, made a groundbreaking announcement at the Africa Climate Summit. His proclamation of a new $4.5bn [€4.2bn] climate facility dedicated to bolstering investments in African renewable energy is a game-changer.
The devil, as they say, is in the details.
The initial investment aims to mobilise an additional $13bn [€12.15bn] in project finance through clean energy firms Masdar and AMEA Power, with the potential for even more significant investments in the future.
During the summit, Al-Jabr emphasized that this initiative would serve as a testament to the commercial viability of investing in Africa’s clean energy revolution, offering a replicable model that could be rapidly expanded across the continent.
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The COP28 presidency is also orchestrating meetings with the world’s major financial institutions to dismantle long-standing barriers that have obstructed funding for urgently needed climate adaptation and mitigation projects over the decades.
In August, al-Jabr convened experts from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Finance Corporation, European Climate Foundation, and other influential institutions in Abu Dhabi to chart a course for reforming international finance, with the aim of unlocking the $2.4 trillion needed annually for climate financing in developing nations.
To put this into perspective, this represents an order of magnitude greater than what Western countries have ever accomplished. This innovative approach, explicitly designed to break the deadlock that has kept Africans at a disadvantage for generations, offers genuine hope of unlocking the much-needed financing to expedite Africa’s journey towards becoming a clean energy superpower.
And the term “superpower” is no exaggeration.
Experts concur that Africa not only possesses significantly greater solar potential than the rest of the world but could potentially meet a substantial portion of global energy demands using just a fraction of its land.
Energy, as we know, serves as the cornerstone of economic growth and industrial development. With abundant, clean energy, Africa can swiftly evolve into a global epicentre for the clean industries of the future.
This is not a descent into a scramble for resources reminiscent of the colonial era; rather, it’s a collective ascent to the summit where everyone stands to reap the rewards. By investing in Africa, the world is investing in a future characterised by sustainable prosperity for all.
Therefore, I extend a resounding call to our Western allies to join hands with us in this historic endeavour. Let your actions speak as loudly as your words so that together, we can stride confidently into a future powered by clean energy. Africa has taken the first step, and now the ball is firmly in your court.