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Climate crisis: Solutions by, for and on African terms, Vanessa Nakate advocates

Activist Vanessa Nakate of Uganda takes part in climate protest, in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023.   -  
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Brian Inganga/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


Africa is a continent with solutions for the world that is faced with the climate crisis. That is a core belief of Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate.

The first Africa Climate summit ending on Wednesday (Sep. 06) in Nairobi aims to unlock financing to deliver prosperity for Africa's growing population without pushing the world deeper into climate disaster.

"I think the world needs to see us beyond us being victims or vulnerable to the climate crisis," Nakate said.

"It's true the African continent is on the frontlines of climate change, but it's also true that different people on the African continent are on the frontlines of the fight for climate justice. Many times, we are referred to as missing voices, but we are not missing, we've never been missing - we've been speaking."

Although Africa contributes only 2-3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it disproportionately suffers from climate change, battling drought and flooding, according to UN figures.

Countries in Africa are hamstrung by mounting debt costs and a dearth of finance, and despite an abundance of natural resources just three percent of energy investments worldwide are made in the continent.

The three-day summit in Kenya is billed as bringing together leaders from the 54-nation continent to define a shared vision of Africa's green development. 

"Delivering prosperity and wellbeing for Africa's growing population without pushing the world deeper into climate disaster is not an abstract proposition, or mere wishful thinking. It is a real possibility, proven by science," President William Ruto said in his opening address.

"The overarching theme... is the unparalleled opportunity that climate action represents for Africa," he said.

'No business on a dead planet'

Ruto has said that the international community must help unblock financing for the continent of 1.4 billion people and ease the mounting debt burden on African countries.

A clean energy transition across the world's developing nations will be crucial in order to keep alive the Paris Agreement goal of capping global warming "well below" two degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, and 1.5C if possible.

To make that happen, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says investment will need to surge to $2 trillion a year within a decade -- an eight-fold increase.

International investment must be "massively scaled up to enable commitments to be turned into actions across the continent", said Ruto, COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber, and AU Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat on Monday (Sep. 04) in a joint statement.

Globally, wealthy nations have yet to meet their pledge to provide, by 2020, $100 billion a year in climate finance to poorer nations.

"My shirt says, 'There is no music on a dead planet,' there's also no business on a dead planet, there is no survival on a dead planet," Vanessa Nakate explains.

"So we need our leaders at the Africa climate summit to really stand with African people and the needs of African people. We want solutions that are led by African people, for African people, on African terms."

Nakate was among the hundreds of young African figures who demonstrated Monday, opposing what they called the "deeply compromised agenda" and focus on rich-nation interests of the summit.

Hundreds of protesters, flanked by a marching band, held a demonstration near the conference against what they called its "deeply compromised agenda" and focus on rich-nation interests.

The inaugural Africa Climate Summit comes ahead of diplomatic meetings leading to the November-December COP28 international climate summit in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, which will likely be dominated by clashing visions for the world's energy future.

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