18 October, 2023

Posted by: Victor Odhiambo


Category : Power Shift in the News | tags:

The inaugural African Climate Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4 to 6 September presented a great opportunity to rally African leaders and the world behind an alternative climate and development vision for Africa.

The summit brought together regional leaders, decision-makers, civil society organisations and the private sector to discuss the continent's development pathways. Many civil society organisations hoped the summit would prioritise climate adaptation in Africa and adopt people-centred solutions and rights-based approaches.

The African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Finance, which was read out on the last day of the summit after three days of negotiations, takes a few steps in the right direction.

However, there are notable gaps and failures that must be addressed before COP28 if we are to truly build a resilient and equitable pathway for Africa.


The declaration puts an emphasis on Africa's disproportionate vulnerability to climate impacts, recognises Africa's adaptation needs, and calls for the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund.

While these are crucial steps in addressing the climate crisis on the continent, they are mentioned in passing, lacking a clear priority, and require substantive improvements. For instance - the Loss and Damage Fund need not only be capitalised, but also operationalised.

While the Global Goal on Adaptation is mentioned, it lacks substance on the overarching goal or targets. It's also concerning that adaptation issues, despite being a top priority for a continent already experiencing climate impacts, receive far less attention compared to energy issues.

While we support the reiteration to the global community to honour the $100 billion in annual climate finance, emphasis must be placed on grant-based financing, in line with historical responsibility and common, but differentiated responsibilities - respective capabilities. Overall, the ambition for Africa to receive a larger share of climate finance is largely absent and needs improvement.

While the declaration mentions debt management, there is a missed opportunity to raise ambitions and call for debt cancellation for Africa. Lending to Africa has historically been used as a tool to control our economies and hold back development.

We cannot allow the climate crisis to be replaced with a debt crisis. Debt cancellation is urgent, given many African countries are already struggling to survive the climate crisis, rebuild after climate shocks, and strengthen resilience.

Gaps and failures


The declaration makes little mention of gender. This is disappointing, especially for civil society groups that are clear that women bear the brunt of the climate crisis and are more vulnerable to changes in climate.

Climate shocks such as droughts and floods affect women at a higher rate, with 80% of people who are displaced by climate change being women. In the African context, women and girls are responsible for growing food and collecting water, but often lack access to resources, which is worsened by climate change.

Migration due to climate change further exposes women to gender-based violence and assault. Across the continent, women are key actors in climate action, often championing adaptation for communities. Gender-responsive policy making is imperative to empower communities to build resilient pathways through the empowerment of women.

Land rights and adaptation

Support for smallholders, indigenous peoples and local communities is mentioned in the declaration, but without any recognition that protecting and securing their land rights is a vital precondition to building these groups' resilience.

The declaration falls short in calling for an increase of adaptation finance to Africa, based on needs or vulnerability, and does not call for the global community to honour commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow to double adaptation finance.

Instead, the declaration repeats the same mistake as the multilateral climate agendas by prioritising mitigation and energy issues over Africa's adaptation, calling for increased funding for renewable energy. Current spending on adaptation across Africa totals $11.4 billion, making up only 39% of the continent's total climate finance.

The large gap between adaptation needs and costs is a major stumbling block to scaling up adaptive solutions that already exist across Africa. On a continent hit hardest by climate impacts, prioritising Africa's adaptation, resilience and securing land rights must be a priority.

False solutions  

Promotion of climate-smart agriculture is concerning in a continent where millions go to bed hungry every day, yet 60% of the population works in agriculture, largely for export. Increased productivity does not necessarily decrease hunger. Therefore, the mention of climate-smart agriculture and the need to boost yield is not in line with the needs of people on the ground.

Climate Smart Agriculture is also criticised for lacking clearly defined practices and reinforcing agribusiness and corporate control of the food system while still incorporating the problematic use of pesticides, fertilisers and GMOs.

On the other hand, agro-ecology, smallholder farmers and respect for indigenous knowledge can not only feed Africa by providing more affordable and accessible food, but are also more resilient to the climate crisis.

Climate-smart agriculture is a false solution to a problem that needs a meaningful and urgent solution. Another false solution mentioned in the declaration is carbon markets, which we see as a permit to pollute.

Instead of finding market solutions that prolong the burning of fossil fuels, we are in favour of a just transition which prioritises the shift to renewable energy in a fair and equitable way.

Though the summit and declaration mark an important step forward for Africans coming together behind a common vision and agenda, the reality has left much to be desired.

As we have our eyes on COP28, we hope Africa's final position recognises the urgent need for adaptation finance in Africa, meaningfully includes civil society organisations, and considers their positions on adaptation to pursue a development pathway that is resilient, fair and equitable. 

Courtney Morgan is a campaigner at African Climate Reality Project and Amy Giliam Thorp is senior climate adaptation and resilience policy advisor at Power Shift Africa.

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