Africa can contribute, Africa must benefit and Africans must decide on financing to tackle the climate crisis
As Africa Climate week kicks off, can the emerging idea of Global Public Investment bring about the truly global and collective approach to financing we need to tackle the biggest threat facing our world?
President Ruto, as the host of this year’s Africa Climate Week and the Africa Climate Summit in Kenya, is onto something.
Coming fresh from the "How dare you" summit, President Ruto has been vocal about championing a new global financial architecture. Expectation is heightening for Africa Climate Week that the president, as the host, will continue his quest for the creation of a fair and equitable mechanism for climate actions. It is hoped that he will be able to rally other African countries to support his ideas of ‘all contribute commensurate to their means’ with some being net contributors, and all deciding, because all pay.
The impacts of climate change are visible in the daily lives of Africans. Many of the women who would sell greens and fruits on major highways connecting Nairobi to other towns have resorted to selling cheap imported chargers and electronics. When asked why they no longer sell fruit, their response is “Jua ni kali”; Sun is too hot. And people who grew up in Nairobi not so long ago will recall that there were shops that used to sell heavy sweaters and thick pullovers, yet today we see many schools deciding to stop making them mandatory for uniforms since they are not needed as they once were.
These seemingly small shifts are however signs of a much more sinister fate.
The people know that ‘the Sun is too hot’ but climate scientists are observing loss of biodiversity both in plants and animals that will ultimately be catastrophic. This will worsen food security, among other challenges. Already in 2021, one in five Africans faced hunger. At a 2% increase in global warming, for instance, 36% of Africa’s freshwater fish species are projected to be extinct and over 90% of east African coral reefs will be destroyed.
The impacts of climate change reach far beyond food security too, and this reality brings a sense of urgency for climate action in Africa. The continent has the largest share (45%) of the global total surface area suitable for sustainable agricultural production expansion. The fact that agriculture employs more than two-thirds of Africans, and 70% live in rural areas, means this is also about livelihoods and the economy. Moreover, the risk of climate-induced migration is high in our region. A report indicated that Lake Victoria Basin countries like Tanzania and Uganda will see 16.6 million and 12 million internal climate-induced migrants respectively, while in West Africa those numbers would be 19.1 million in Niger and 9.4 million in Nigeria. These figures will come to bear as early as 2030 and intensify by 2050 if there is no concrete climate and development action. Climate shocks resulting in food insecurity and internal migration are also known to contribute to conflicts, as evidence across Africa indicates. For instance, a recent study found climate shocks increase the likelihood of intercommunal conflicts by 38%.
Therefore, to us Africans, sustainable development can only mean climate resilient development. Concrete climate action is a prerequisite to peace and security, food and nutrition security, sustainable livelihoods, preserving our ecosystem and cultural heritage, and much more besides.
There is so much work to do, and without the financing to do it, we are fighting a lost cause.
Africa is not getting the funding it needs. The continent receives annual climate finance of only 11% of what it needs, US$30 billion, compared to its estimated need of US$277 billion.
Apart from inadequate global climate finance mobilisation, there is also the challenge of how inaccessible available funds are due to complex and rigid application procedures, misalignment of climate financing to national priorities and a range of other barriers. And there has been widespread condemnation of those who failed to deliver the pledge made in 2009 to mobilise US$100 billion annually for climate-vulnerable states.
Of course there is also a fundamental injustice to all this when Africa contributes just 3.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions yet stands to be hurt most by the world’s failure to act decisively at this critical juncture.
Things have to change. Radically.
It is crucial that efforts to tackle the climate crisis are understood as a global public good where benefits are transboundary, and that a holistic approach is taken, particularly given that we know that maladaptation is a real and evident risk. Where is the meaningful global solidarity and collective action Africa and, indeed, the whole world now needs? How do we move to climate financing that is sufficient, predictable, drawn based on national priorities and easily accessible?
It is time to reimagine climate financing mechanisms leading to these outcomes.
Africa Climate Week 2023 is held in Nairobi, Kenya, between 4 and 8 September. It could not have come to a better place than Kenya, which lives daily with the impacts of the climate crisis and where the president has been leading the demand for a radical change in climate financial architecture. During the Summit for a new Global Financing Pact this year, President Ruto spoke unequivocally about a global financial transaction tax where all pay, saying “we do not want anything for free”, emphasising that all should contribute commensurate to their economies. The president was also unequivocal in his submission that such resources be controlled by an institution of equals where all have a right to decide because they all pay. It’s important that this is followed through with practical steps to deliver this aspiration.
An emerging idea called ‘Global Public Investment’ that aligns with this thinking has been developing for the last few years and is gaining significant traction. It is premised on three principles; all contribute according to their means, all benefit according to their needs, and all decide on how it is invested. As well as being the only concrete proposal at the moment, it holds real promise for bringing the radical change in approach to international public financing needed for us to rise to the increasing and deadly threat of our climate changing. Of course, as these ideas are put on the table, they must not ignore historical responsibilities and engage with existing social movements such as those working on debt relief or curbing illicit financial flows. These are thorny and controversial issues, but they are the elephant in the room and will be the most important conversations to navigate successfully if we are to deliver the truly global and collective action we need to tackle the biggest threat facing our world.
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