On 4-6 September 2023, the Government of Kenya and the African Union Commission (AUC) convened the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS) held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi. This followed the Decision of the 36th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government which took place in February 202. The Assembly mandated the AUC to convene a Summit on Climate Change and simultaneously endorsed the offer by the Government of Kenya to host it.
The inaugural ACS was championed by H.E. President William Ruto and it addressed the increasing exposure to climate change and its associated costs globally and particularly in Africa. With the expectation of escalating climate crises in terms of frequency and intensity, urgent action was required to mitigate these challenges. Thus, the Summit served as a platform to showcase progress, exchange perspectives, and begin to converge on common priorities for global discussions. The conference also called upon African leaders to make ambitious pledges and commitments, towards the adoption of a “Pledging and Commitment Framework.”
The ACS 2023 was attended by African Heads of State and Government, global leaders, development partners, civil society organizations, researchers, academia and relevant stakeholders, among others. It was held alongside the Africa Youth Climate Assembly and Africa Climate Week which took place from 4-8 September, 2023.
In a call to action, African leaders stressed the importance of decarbonizing the global economy for equality and shared prosperity. They also called for investment to promote the sustainable use of Africa’s natural assets for the continent’s transition to low carbon development and contribution to global decarbonization.
Leaders expressed concern that many African countries face disproportionate burdens and risks from climate change-related, unpredictable weather events and patterns. The impacts have included prolonged droughts, devastating floods, wild and forest fires, which cause massive humanitarian crisis with detrimental impacts on economies, health, education, peace and security, among other risks. Leaders acknowledged that climate change is the single greatest challenge facing humanity and the single biggest threat to all life on earth.
The Summit proposed a new financing architecture responsive to Africa’s needs including debt restructuring and relief and the development of a new Global Climate Finance Charter through the United Nations General Assembly and the COP processes by 2025.
“We call for collective global action to mobilize the necessary capital for both development and climate action, echoing the statement of the Paris Summit for a New Global Financing Pact that no country should ever have to choose between development aspirations and climate action.” read the communique.
They emphasized the need for concrete action and speed on proposals to reform the multilateral financial system currently under discussion specifically to build resilience to climate shocks and better deployment of the Special Drawing Rights liquidity mechanism.
The Nairobi Declaration was adopted to be the basis for Africa’s common position in the global climate change process to COP 28 and beyond. It was also noted that the ACS should be established as a biennial event convened by African Union and hosted by AU Member States, “to set the continent’s new vision taking into consideration emerging global climate and development issues”.
Inclusively, the Summit listened to and received declarations from the African Youth Climate Assembly which included an ambitious call for African and international decision-makers to “commit to meaningful, inclusive, and systematic embedding of youth engagement in African climate change frameworks. On the other hand, the indigenous people of Africa requested for the effective and meaningful participation including the creation of an AU focal point at the AU headquarters that will be handling their matters. Children, business community and African Parliamentarians also presented their declarations.
The inaugural ACS presented a bold and ambitious new African vision for a Green Growth agenda that optimized the continent’s abundant human and natural resources, and integrated enhanced climate positive growth. It was an opportunity to promote effective climate action that enhanced livelihoods, accelerated growth and helped Africa avoid being locked out of international markets and locked in emission intensive development.