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1st Africa Climate Summit opens as hard-hit continent of 1.3 billion demands more say and financing

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NAIROBI, Sep 4: The first African Climate Summit is opening as heads of state and others assert a
stronger voice on a global issue that affects the continent of 1.3 billion people the most, even as
they contribute to it the least.
Kenyan President William Ruto’s government and the African Union launched the ministerial session
on Monday while more than a dozen heads of state begin to arrive determined to wield more global
influence and bring in far more financing and support. The first speakers included youth, who
demanded a bigger voice in the process.
“For a very long time we have looked at this as a problem. There are immense opportunities as
well,” Ruto said of the climate crisis, speaking of multibillion-dollar economic possibilities, new
financial structures, Africa’s huge mineral wealth and the ideal of shared prosperity. “We are not
here to catalog grievances.”
And yet there is some frustration on the continent about being asked to develop in cleaner ways
than the world’s richest countries, which have long produced most of the emissions that endanger
climate, and to do it while much of the support that has been pledged hasn’t appeared.
“This is our time,” Mithika Mwenda with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance told the gathering,
asserting that the annual flow of climate assistance to the continent is about USD 16 billion, a tenth
or less of what is needed and a “fraction” of the budget of some polluting companies.
“We need to immediately see the delivery of the USD 100 billion pledged (by rich countries annually
to developing ones in climate finance),” said Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change.
More than USD 83 billion in climate financing was given to poorer countries in 2020, a 4 per cent
increase from the previous year but still short of the goal set in 2009.
“We have an abundance of clean, renewable energy and it’s vital that we use this to power our
future prosperity. But to unlock it, Africa needs funding from countries that have got rich off our
suffering,” Mohamed Adow with the Power Shift Africa said ahead of the summit.
Outside attendees to the summit include the US government’s climate envoy, John Kerry, and United
Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has said he will address finance as one of “the
burning injustices of the climate crisis.”
Ruto’s video welcome released before the summit was heavy on tree-planting but didn’t mention his
administration’s decision this year to lift a yearslong ban on commercial logging, which alarmed
environmental watchdogs. The decision has been challenged in court, while the government says
only mature trees in state-run plantations would be harvested.
“When a country is holding a conference like we are, we should be leading by example,” said Isaac
Kalua, a local environmentalist.
Kenya derives 93 per cent of its power from renewables and has banned single-use plastic bags, but
it struggles with some other climate-friendly adaptations. Trees were chopped down to make way
for the expressway that some summit attendees travelled from the airport, and bags of informally
made charcoal are found on some Nairobi street corners.
Ruto made his way to Monday’s events in a small electric car, a contrast to the usual government
convoys, on streets cleared of the sometimes poorly maintained buses and vans belching smoke.
Elsewhere, nearly 600 million Africans lack access to electricity despite the vast potential for solar
and other renewable power.
Other challenges for the African continent include simply being able to forecast and monitor the
weather in order to avert thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damages that, like climate
change itself, have effects far beyond the continent.
“When the apocalypse happens, it will happen for all of us,” Ruto warned. (AP)

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