Climate Action

The Nairobi Declaration: This is how African nations want to fight climate change

African leaders have passed the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change.

African leaders have passed the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change. Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/E_0kbeQbyV0

Chido Munyati
Head of Regional Agenda, Africa, World Economic Forum
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  • African leaders have passed the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change.
  • The declaration calls for reforms to international financial institutions and a range of new global taxes to fund climate action.
  • The Global Risks Report 2023 highlights the risks of failing to mitigate climate change.

African leaders have proposed a range of new global taxes to fund climate change action.

The Nairobi Declaration was delivered at the close of a three-day Africa Climate Summit in Kenya, on 4-6 September. The event was dominated by discussions about how to mobilize financing to adapt to increasingly extreme weather, conserve natural resources and develop renewable energy.

The declaration will form the basis of Africa’s negotiating position at December's COP28 climate summit.

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Africa wants major polluters to pay for climate action

The Nairobi Declaration is heavy on demands that major polluters commit more resources to help poorer nations. It urged world leaders "to rally behind the proposal for a global carbon taxation regime including a carbon tax on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport and aviation, that may also be augmented by a global financial transaction tax".

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Implementing such measures at a global level would ensure large-scale financing for climate-related investments and insulate the issue of tax raises from geopolitical and domestic political pressures, it said.

On a global scale, Africa has contributed only a fraction of all historic CO2 emissions. Analysis from Our World in Data shows emissions from the United States, Europe, China and India are all larger than Africa’s emissions over centuries.

Graph showing the cumulative emissions produced from fossil fuels and industry since 1750.
Africa’s historical CO2 emissions are much smaller than those of other regions. Image: Our World in Data

Despite its relatively low emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reports Africa is suffering some of the worst impacts of climate change, including multi-year droughts, flooding and lower crop yields. The IPCC also predicts more life-threatening heatwaves, stating: “Children born in Africa in 2020 are likely to be exposed to four to eight times more heat waves compared to people born in 1960.”

As the impact of climate change accelerates across the continent, Africa is only receiving about 12% of the financing it needs to cope, according to researchers at the Climate Policy Initiative. African countries say their borrowing costs are five to eight times higher than those of wealthy countries, creating further debt that prevents them from investing more in climate change mitigation, Reuters reports.

A new financial focus on climate change

The Nairobi Declaration calls on multilateral development banks to increase concessional lending to poorer countries and for the "better deployment" of the IMF's special drawing rights mechanism, which issued $650 billion as part of the Fund's COVID-19 response.

Other proposals included measures to help indebted countries avoid default, such as instruments that can grant 10-year grace periods.

According to Reuters, governments and private investors committed hundreds of millions of dollars during the summit to green investments – including a $4.5 billion pledge by the United Arab Emirates towards renewable energy projects – but African leaders say meeting the continent's needs will require funding increases of an entirely different order.

In Africa, we can be a green industrial hub that helps other regions achieve their net zero strategies by 2050," said Kenyan President William Ruto, who hosted the summit. "Unlocking the renewable energy resources that we have in our continent is not only good for Africa, it is good for the rest of the world."

African institutions and countries have already made significant progress on advancing green energy. The African Development Bank has pledged $25 billion towards climate finance for 2020-25 and this is supporting a $10 billion “Desert to Power” initiative to install 10 gigawatts of solar power across the Sahel region.

The first part of the project is rolling out in Burkina Faso, and the complete project would be the world's largest solar development, providing electricity for 250 million people.

Nigeria is seen as a future renewables powerhouse. It has "vast natural renewable energy resources" spanning solar, wind and hydro, and renewables could cover nearly 60% of Nigeria's energy needs by 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency says.

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The risk of inaction on climate change

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 points to the consequences of failing to act on climate change, either through a lack of funding or political will. “A failure to mitigate climate change is ranked as one of the most severe threats in the short term but is the global risk we are seen to be the least prepared for, with 70% of GRPS [Global Risks Perception Survey] respondents rating existing measures to prevent or prepare for climate change as ‘ineffective’ or ‘highly ineffective’,” the report states.

As the chart below shows, a failure to deliver effective action will see climate-related risks intensify and dominate the list of the most severe threats 10 years from now.

List of top ten risks.
Risks related to climate change will intensify unless nations act to mitigate threats. Image: World Economic Forum
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Climate ActionGeographies in DepthNature and Biodiversity
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