Climate change is “relentlessly eating away at” Africa’s economic progress, Kenya’s President William Ruto said on Tuesday (September 5th) as the first-ever Africa Climate Summit opened.
“And those who produce the waste are refusing to pay their bills,” he told an audience of EU President Ursula von der Leyen, senior Chinese officials and the US climate envoy. , John Kerry.
According to Ruto, the rapidly growing African continent, home to more than 1.3 billion people, “loses between five and 15 percent of its gross domestic product growth each year” due to the widespread impacts of climate change.
One of his main efforts this week was to combine a positive message about Africa’s potential with a call for an ambitious reform of the global financial architecture that would see African countries paying “five times more” than other countries to borrow money on the financial markets. .
This means that “31 of the 37 heavily indebted countries are in Africa,” Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Soipan Tuya, told delegates.
“Climate action can be one of the main drivers of African growth. But Africa needs massive investment, and Europe wants to be your partner,” von der Leyen told delegates, appearing to endorse African calls for reform. “We fully support the need for reform of multilateral development banks. »
She was supposed to discuss the subject further with Ruto, but she left before the panel could begin. “Due to delays in the program it was not possible for the President (von der Leyen) to participate,” Commission spokesman Tim McPhie told EUobserver, leaving open the question of how. the EU could support Africa’s attempt at reform.
Listing the EU’s priorities for a series of major meetings ahead, she cited carbon pricing and setting global climate targets – but did not mention the expansion of multilateral lending, led by Ruto.
Immediately after this weekend’s summit, G20 finance ministers are due to meet in Delhi to discuss tripling available lending from the world’s multilateral development banks. (MDBs) such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
“We think they can do better,” Ruto said Tuesday. But divisions among G20 members have so far blocked meaningful progress.
Von der Leyen promised to allocate “one billion dollars” (€930m) to “de-risk” private investment in emerging markets, which she said could help attract another €20 billion.
On the sidelines of the summit, von der Leyen and Ruto also launched the Kenya Green Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, aimed at reviving the hydrogen industry in the East African country.
This will be supported by the Global Gateway, the EU’s investment strategy which the Commission says will mobilize €300 billion in financial investment, including €150 billion for Africa, including €135 billion in euros should come from private investors.
The Global Gateway initiative was met with skepticism from the outset, including by many African leaders, due to the lack of new financial commitments from EU members and the prioritization of green energy by over gas reserves which they believe could help Africa develop.
“Africa must use its natural gas,” African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said on Tuesday. “It will only add 0.5 percent to global emissions. Give us space to grow. »
This has highlighted African disagreements over the role gas should play in the transition. Nigeria, Mozambique and Senegal (which hold large natural gas reserves) have lobbied hard to maintain European financial support for new gas projects in Africa.
Senegalese President Macky Sall has previously called the plan to end funding for gas exploration a “death blow” for emerging African economies.
Leaders from several of Africa’s biggest economies, including South Africa, Egypt and oil and gas-rich Nigeria, were absent from the summit.
Kenyan Ruto, a Ph.D. in plant ecology and author of several recent scientific papers on the subject, argued that Africa should and could move away from fossil fuels and go straight to green production methods – a strategy that he describes as a “technological leap”.
“We need robust industrialization, but we need to go green quickly before we industrialize and not the other way around as advanced countries have had the luxury of doing,” he told delegates.
Ruto was careful to project a positive image during the proceedings. “We have been described negatively, the continent of disease, of war, of poverty. But we step forward to say look, we are the continent of opportunity,” he said. “Until the lion learns to write, all stories glorify the hunter. We learned the art of writing. That’s why we’re going to write our own story. »
Despite the differences, Ruto called on African leaders to commit to concluding the summit with a unified African position on increasing affordable finance, financing mechanisms for climate adaptation support and increasing investment in climate change. renewable energies ahead of the 28th United Nations Climate Conference. conference to be held in Dubai in December.