Kenyan President William Ruto kicked off Africa’s first climate summit on Monday by urging thousands of delegates in Nairobi to see the climate crisis as a collective challenge that affects all of us.
In his opening remarks, Ruto explained that he wants the first African Climate Summit, running in Nairobi from Monday to Wednesday, to help “deliver African solutions.”
“For a very long time we have looked at this as a problem. It is time we flipped and looked at it from the other side,” Ruto told delegates.
“We must see in green growth not just a climate imperative but also a fountain of multi-billion dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the world is primed to capitalise,” he said.
During the summit on Monday, environment ministers, business executives and climate campaigners will discuss how to scale up climate finance and carbon markets, investments in adaptation to rising temperatures, and transformation of food systems.
The goal is to transform the continent into the source of the world’s revolution in green power — but to achieve this, it needs an influx of funding and help for its debt burden.
More than 20 presidents and heads of government are expected to attend the summit from Tuesday. They plan to issue a declaration outlining Africa’s position ahead of a U.N. climate conference next month in New York in September and the COP28 U.N. summit in the United Arab Emirates from late November.
Ruto and other African leaders have sought to show that “Africa is not a victim but a critical player in solving the world’s climate crisis,” said Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi of the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET).
African leaders are pushing market-based financing instruments such as carbon credits in a bid to mobilize funding that they say has been slow to arrive from rich-world donors.
Carbon credits allow polluters to offset emissions by funding activities including tree-planting and renewable energy.
Many African campaigners, however, have opposed the summit’s approach to climate finance, saying it advances Western priorities at the expense of the continent.
They say carbon credits and other financing instruments are a pretext for wealthier countries and corporations to continue polluting and that African countries should hold donors to financial commitments they have previously made to poorer ones but so far only met in part.
Africa, home to 1.2 billion people spread across 54 nations, is famously diverse, politically and economically.
Analysts say if the summit can bring together leaders from the continent to define a shared vision of Africa’s green development, then that could ripple across a flurry of international diplomatic and economic meetings leading up