"The solutions do not lie with private capital and the age-old profit driven model," said one advocate.
The historic Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya this week marked the first time leaders from across the continent convened to focus on the climate crisis, but campaigners on Friday said the voices of the most vulnerable were largely silenced during the three-day summit while leaders drafted a declaration that critics say fell prey to "distracting false solutions."
While the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action was applauded by advocates for its call to boost Africa's renewable energy capacity to 300 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, critics said leaders across the continent showed they are still too eager to bend to the interests and desires of the fossil fuel industry and its financial backers.
The declaration's demands include:
- A global carbon tax on fossil fuels, maritime transport, and aviation;
- Financial reforms to help fund climate action in Africa and the end of a system in which African countries are forced to pay more to borrow climate funds, leading to recurrent debt crises; and
- Stronger regulations of the harvesting and processing of the continent's minerals.
But groups including the think tank Power Shift Africa (PSA) said the commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars by international governments and development banks for carbon markets initiatives were "essentially, a diversion, and even wastage, of money that could go into investment in real climate solutions."
PSA called the African Carbon Market Initiative "a wolf in sheep's clothing" in a report released this month, warning that "polluters and investors" have for decades promoted carbon markets—in which fossil fuel companies claim to "offset" emissions by investing in conservation initiatives or sustainability—but the system enables "the wealthy to continue polluting, while giving an illusion of commensurate carbon neutralization through questionable accounting methodologies."
As Al Jazeerareported, the continent earns less than $10 per ton of carbon removed from the atmosphere in its existing market initiatives, while other regions can receive over $100.
Joab Bwire Okanda, a senior adviser at Christian Aid, welcomed the declaration's call for a global carbon tax but told the BBC that "to make polluters really pay, false solutions like carbon credits that allow polluters a free ride without taking meaningful action need to be consigned to the dustbin."
350.org said the summit should have ended with a renewable energy commitment that was far greater than 300 GW by the end of the decade, calling for 11,000 GW—"the level required to limit global heating to 1.5°C" over preindustrial levels.
"This is a good starting point, but it falls short of expectations," said Charity Migwi, regional campaigner for 350Africa.org. "As Africans grapple with the debilitating impacts of the climate crisis, African leaders engage in rhetoric and false solutions such as fossil gas and carbon markets that seek to delay meaningful climate action and the much-needed just transition away from fossil fuels, that is central to the fight against the climate crisis. African nations must walk the talk in regards to limiting global warming by shunning fossil fuels."
Zaki Mamdoo, campaign coordinator for StopEACOP, which aims to end French oil company TotalEnergies' East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, said the Nairobi Declaration "says little about the need to halt the development of new fossil fuels on the continent," even after a Human Rights Watch report in July showed the project has threatened the homes of more than 100,000 people in Tanzania and Uganda, caused food insecurity, and pushed children to leave school while also likely having "devastating environmental effects."
"This summit has provided a platform for governments to flirt with big business while [advocacy groups], trade unions, [and] youth organizations are confined to the fringes with little influence on the outcome of high-level deliberations," said Mamdoo. "If we are to use the crisis of climate as an opportunity to simultaneously uplift our people out of poverty and ensure the well-being of all—then we need the interests of these groups to be at the forefront of decision-making. The solutions do not lie with private capital and the age-old profit driven model."
Others agreed that "local voices" of people who have been most impacted by the climate emergency were missing from the summit.
"Their stories of hope, perseverance, suffering, and disaster were glaringly absent, hidden away behind security barriers and military armament," said Yegeshni Moodley, climate and energy justice campaign lead for Friends of the Earth South Africa. "The use of top-down, technocratic false solutions negates the value of local knowledge and traditional practices that have sustained generations on their land. We must decry and lament the situation Africa has been placed into, where her lands and riches are once again being sold away to the distress and poverty of her people.”
People across the continent are facing the effects of the climate crisis, which has been blamed for a famine in Madagascar and has forced more than 1 million people in Somalia to leave their homes as a prolonged drought has overtaken the country.
Advocates say that Africa must be recognized as a key ally in providing solutions to the climate emergency rather than cast aside as a victim.
"Our leaders need to know that people across Africa are waking up to what needs to be done," said Essoklnam Pedessi of the Renewable Energy Coalition in Togo. "We are calling for less talk and more action. We need to break away from the failed approaches and distracting false solutions. Africa has abundant wind and solar to power up for 100% renewable energy."
"What it needs," she added, "is climate funding to unlock this potential."