Kenya President William Ruto has officially opened the Africa Climate Summit on Monday, September 4, saying Africa has the potential to decarbonise global economy.
The first African Climate Summit holding at Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, is opening with heads of state and others asserting a stronger voice on a global issue that affects the continent of 1.3 billion people the most, even though they contribute to it the least.
Ruto’s government and the African Union launched the ministerial session on Monday while more than a dozen heads of state began to arrive, determined to wield more global influence and bring in far more financing and support.
According to WCOS TV, the first speakers included young people, who demanded a bigger voice in the process.
“For a very long time we have looked at this as a problem. There are immense opportunities as well,” Ruto said of the climate crisis, speaking of multibillion-dollar economic possibilities, new financial structures, Africa’s huge mineral wealth and the ideal of shared prosperity. “We are not here to catalog grievances.”
And yet there is some frustration on the continent about being asked to develop in cleaner ways than the world’s richest countries — which have long produced most of the emissions that endanger climate — and to do it while much of the support that has been pledged hasn’t appeared.
“This is our time,” Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance told the gathering, claiming that the annual flow of climate assistance to the continent is a tenth or less of what is needed and a “fraction” of the budget of some polluting companies.
“We need to immediately see the delivery of the $100 billion” of climate finance pledged annually by rich countries to developing ones, said Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. More than $83 billion in climate financing was given to poorer countries in 2020, a 4% increase from the previous year but still short of the goal set in 2009.
“We have an abundance of clean, renewable energy and it’s vital that we use this to power our future prosperity. But to unlock it, Africa needs funding from countries that have got rich off our suffering,” Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa said ahead of the summit.
Outside attendees to the summit include the U.S. government’s climate envoy, John Kerry, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has said he will address finance as one of “the burning injustices of the climate crisis.”