Climate Action

COP28: Bridging the climate finance gap in Africa and beyond

Bridging the climate finance gap is not just a priority; it is an existential necessity.

Bridging the climate finance gap is not just a priority; it is an existential necessity. Image: Getty Images/iStockphot.o

Chido Munyati
Head of Regional Agenda, Africa, World Economic Forum
Landry Signé
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development Program, Brookings Institution
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  • The climate finance gap poses a significant threat to Africa's ability to adapt, mitigate, and build resilience against climate change.
  • The climate crisis demands a transformative and innovative approach – beyond the traditional avenues of financing.
  • We outline the role of African and global leaders in championing a multi-faceted strategy that requires commitment and decisive action.

As the world converges for COP28, Africa stands at a critical juncture in its fight against climate change. At COP27, the resounding call echoed across the continent and beyond: bridging the climate finance gap is not just a priority; it is an existential necessity. The figures are staggering: the Climate Policy Initiative projects need $2.8 trillion from 2020 to 2030. Given the limited climate finance flows to Africa, the continent is left with a gap between $200-400 billion dollars per year by 2030 according to ECPDM.

This climate finance gap poses an imminent threat to Africa's ability to adapt, mitigate, and build resilience against the adverse impacts of climate change. The urgency of the matter demands a transformative and innovative approach, one that goes beyond the traditional avenues of financing, and renewed global climate change action for fragile and developing countries. African and global leaders must champion a multi-faceted strategy that leverages innovative financial instruments, enhances the role of the private sector, harnesses emerging technologies, and secures substantial climate financial commitments from the world's largest polluters.


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Innovative financial instruments

Traditional financial instruments have played a role, but they fall woefully short of meeting the astronomical financing needs. To bridge the gap, African leaders must embrace innovation and disruption in their financial strategies. Effective greenhouse gas trading systems, green bonds, green loans, sustainability-linked bonds, sustainability-linked loans, efficient carbon markets, debt-for-climate swaps, and forward looking domestic resource mobilization instruments should be at the forefront of this financial revolution.

Greenhouse gas trading systems have proven successful in incentivizing emissions reductions. By establishing a market where entities can buy and sell emission allowances, African nations can stimulate a race to the top in environmental stewardship. This not only reduces emissions but also generates revenue that can be reinvested in climate resilience projects.

Green bonds and loans represent another avenue to raise funds sustainably. By earmarking these funds for environmentally friendly projects, African nations can attract socially responsible investors. These financial instruments align the interests of investors with the continent's climate goals, creating a win-win scenario for all stakeholders.

Sustainability-linked bonds and loans introduce an innovative twist, tying financial incentives to the achievement of predetermined sustainability targets. These instruments not only raise funds but also ensure accountability in the pursuit of climate objectives.

Efficient carbon markets, when properly designed, can provide a flexible and cost-effective approach to reducing emissions. African nations can explore the potential of carbon markets to incentivize emission reductions and attract investments in cleaner technologies. This year, United Arab Emirates investors committed acquiring $450 million of carbon credits from the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI), during the inaugural Africa Climate Summit organized by Kenyan President William Ruto.

Debt-for-climate swaps present an opportunity to restructure existing debts in exchange for climate action commitments. This novel approach allows African nations to alleviate debt burdens while channeling resources toward climate-resilient projects. Germany committed $65 million debt swap with Kenya during the inaugural Africa Climate Summit. As highlighted by Chetan Hebbale and Johannes Urpelainen (see Figure 2 below), many of the most climate vulnerable countries are also in high debt distress, and swapping can provide much needed resources to address climate challenges.

Forward looking domestic resource mobilization instruments tap into the continent’s internal financial capacities. By enhancing revenue generation through progressive taxation and other fiscal policies, African nations can supplement external financing and exert greater control over their climate finance destinies.

Role of the private sector

While traditional funding sources remain essential, the private sector represents an untapped reservoir of capital and expertise in Africa, only representing 14% compared to 96% for Canada (see Figure 10 below). Drastically expanding its role in climate finance is fundamental. Public-private partnerships, green investments, and sustainable business practices must become the norm.

Engaging the private sector in climate-resilient projects can unlock significant financial resources. By aligning financial incentives with sustainability goals, African nations can attract private enterprises to invest in projects that not only mitigate climate change but also foster economic growth.

Public-private partnerships, characterized by shared risks and rewards, can leverage the strengths of both sectors. These collaborations can fast-track the implementation of climate projects, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in resource utilization.

Sustainable business practices, driven by corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship, can further augment the private sector's role. African leaders must incentivize businesses to adopt green technologies, reduce emissions, and integrate climate considerations into their operations.

Capitalizing on emerging technologies

In the digital age, emerging technologies offer unparalleled opportunities to transform Africa and revolutionize climate finance. Fintech solutions, blockchain technology, and other innovations can enhance transparency, efficiency, and security in financial transactions related to climate projects.

Fintech solutions can streamline financial processes, reduce transaction costs, and increase the speed of fund disbursement. Mobile banking, digital wallets, and other fintech innovations can enhance financial inclusion, ensuring that climate finance reaches even the most remote communities.

Blockchain technology, with its decentralized and transparent nature, can provide a secure platform for tracking climate finance flows. Smart contracts on the blockchain can automate the verification and disbursement of funds based on predefined criteria, reducing the risk of fraud and mismanagement.

Incorporating these technologies into the climate finance landscape requires strategic partnerships between governments, financial institutions, and tech innovators. African leaders must foster an environment conducive to technological innovation, ensuring that the benefits of these advancements are harnessed for the continent's sustainable development.

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Securing climate financial commitments

The burden of financing climate action should not fall solely on the shoulders of African nations, but be a global responsibility. The world's largest polluters, especially advanced economies, must step up and fulfill their climate commitments. The multiplication and fortification of these commitments are essential to address the historical and ongoing contributions to global emissions.

African leaders must use COP28 as a platform to advocate for the securing and scaling up of climate financial commitments. Diplomatic efforts, international partnerships, and strategic alliances are crucial in holding the biggest polluters accountable for their fair share in financing climate resilience projects.

Additionally, global financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, must play a more active role in mobilizing resources and ensuring that climate finance is accessible to African nations on equitable terms. Reforms in these institutions should prioritize climate resilience and sustainable development, aligning their policies with the urgent needs of the continent.

Creating an enabling environment

To bring these strategies to fruition, a conducive enabling environment is paramount. Agile governance, characterized by flexibility, responsiveness, and a commitment to climate action, is essential for navigating the complexities of climate finance.

Effective multi-stakeholder collaboration is equally vital. Governments, the private sector, civil society, and international organizations must come together in a coordinated effort to address the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change. Transparency, inclusivity, and shared responsibility should be the guiding principles of this collaborative endeavour. For example, Rwanda created the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) in 2013 to mobilize resources for public and private green projects. As of today, over $247 million were raised and more than 176,000 green jobs created.

All in all, as Africa takes centre stage at COP28, the imperative to bridge the climate finance gap is not just a national or continental concern; it is a global responsibility. The innovative, disruptive, and collaborative strategies outlined are critical imperatives. The world must recognize that investing in Africa's climate resilience is an investment in the shared future of our planet. Africa's call is a call for global solidarity, and the response must be unwavering commitment and decisive action. COP28 presents an opportunity for the world to stand together, to act collectively, and to forge a sustainable path forward. The time to bridge the climate finance gap is now, and the world must rise to the occasion.

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