September 4-6 marks a significant period and perhaps a potential turning point in Africa’s climate action trajectory. The continent holds its first Africa Climate Summit (ACS) in Nairobi, Kenya. The summit will be co-hosted with the African Union Commission.
The inaugural ACS will convene a wide range of actors to strategise climate interventions and will serve as a platform to inform, frame, and influence commitments, pledges, and outcomes, ultimately leading to the development of the Nairobi Declaration. It is expected that the outcomes will help shape discussions around energy development, climate finance, and adaptation in Africa ahead of the COP28 summit.
African governments must be brutally honest in addressing the elephant in the room, fossil fuels exploration and how to balance it with the continent’s net-zero targets. Regardless of the boon it offers the continent, fossil fuels are robbing us of a safe, healthy and sustainable future. Take for instance, Nigeria in 2021 and 2022, recorded 1,003 combined oil spills into the environment, according to its Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). Those who depend on farming and fishing have felt a direct impact on their livelihoods and residents have reported several health issues.
In the face of that, oil revenues represent at least 20% of GDP in Libya, Algeria, Gabon, Chad, Angola, and The Republic of Congo. In Nigeria, oil represents a more modest percentage of real GDP – about 6% – however, oil and gas account for 95% of foreign exchange income and 80% of government revenues. Moreover, the inauguration of Africa’s biggest refinery, Dangote Refinery, in May, puts Nigeria in a bind with little investments in its reviewable energy drive. Mind you, the refinery had significant investment from the World Bank. It’s surprising because the World Bank’s former President, Jim Yong Kim, announced that the World Bank would cease funding upstream oil and gas after 2019.
Kenya, where the ACS would take place, is also gearing up for oil production and export. In August 2019, the East African country exported its first crude oil from the port of Mombasa. This is an experimental stage to test Kenya’s rude oil before full production and exportation which will begin in 2024.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has calculated that there can be no more new oil and gas development if we are to keep warming to 1.5°C, the target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. We are currently on course to produce double the levels of fossil fuels compatible with this pathway and exceed 3°C warming. No one is expecting Africa to abandon its oil resources in the ground and just transition to renewable energy.
However, Africans expect their leaders can find a way to balance fossil fuels and renewable energy, using the revenues from the former to build a sustainable future for the continent with the latter. We’ve seen the impacts of climate change on agricultural production, human placement, food security, water resources and ecosystem services in Africa.
In Uganda, climate change has altered the frequency and amount of rainfall which has led to increased occurrence of droughts, rising and falling water levels, storms, landslides and floating islands. Somalia has been battling intense famine with some 8.3 million Somalis, almost half the population, requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. Nigeria is grappling with more intense and untimely rainfall due to increasing climate variability. In July, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) warned that at least 31 communities across 14 states of the country will experience heavy downpours that may lead to devastating floods.
One of the thematic focuses for the ACS is Energy Systems and Industry which includes planning and implementing policies and actions for the energy transition towards efficient and low GHG emission energy systems enhancing ambition and accelerating action is vital to the expansion of renewable energy in Africa.
The theme also aims to introduce policies that incentivize renewable energy and promote energy efficiency. In the United States, several federal government tax credits, grants, and loan programs are available for qualifying renewable energy technologies and projects. In April, cutting-edge businesses in the UK benefitted from a share of £30 million to be at the forefront of designing and testing innovative technology of the future that will store renewable energy for later use.
Africa is a highly blessed continent with an abundance of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and biomass. The continent receives high sunlight in comparison to all the other continents. If the right policies, frameworks, public-private partnerships and infrastructures match the political will, two things can occur: Africa can provide power to its over 600 million people lacking access to electricity and develop the potential to become a major player in the global renewable energy industry.
If African governments can agree, at the ACS, to share production capacity for renewable energy sources across borders, they can strengthen the reliability of their power supplies and improve access to electricity. The continent can become a pathfinder in renewable energy solutions, with abundant solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal resources that may contribute to a 6.4 per cent increase in GDP from 2021 to 2050, according to a United Nations Environment Programme study. Thus, this should take a comprehensive front-row seat alongside fossil fuels talk.
Africa needs to reassess its energy investment needs and address them through domestic and international sources of financing. What’s also more important is a just transition and climate financing. Climate financing needs to be available to poor African countries feeling the heat of climate disasters. There is a great mismatch between domestic agendas designed to stimulate investment in renewable energies and meet climate targets and the external-focused trade and investment policies pursued by Washington, Brussels and other capitals in developed nations.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2023 Report, with no improvements to vulnerability or adaptation, high emissions could see sub-Saharan Africa lose 12% of GDP by 2050 and 80% by 2100. There can be no global green economy agenda without resilient and sustained support for climate adaptation in Africa. This must include at least 50% of climate finance going to adaptation, with all rich countries meeting their COP26 commitment to double climate adaptation finance by 2025.
So, the need for finance and investment must blow hot at the Africa Climate Summit discussions. This means that rich countries with pledges must realise the hindrances of green finance for Africa and clear the pipelines for those funds to come in. Africa’s long-term energy solutions will set its countries on the path to sustainability, and economic buoyancy, limiting human impact and spurring innovation. Actions should be mapped, and commitments and resolutions must be monitored, evaluated, and upheld to ensure that promises translate into concrete outcomes. Africa must prove itself more than ready.
Salako, a Freelance Journalist and Editorial Assistant at UK-based Divinations Mag, writes from Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached via email@example.com or Twitter @iam_seawater.