Climate talks: Will leaders answer Africa’s call?


President William Ruto takes a group photo with delegates at KICC, Nairobi on September 4, 2023 during the Africa Climate Summit 2023. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Just two months after Kenya hosted the Africa Climate Summit, the continent’s climate ambitions face their first serious test. They will be under the spotlight at COP28, which begins in Dubai on November 30.

September’s gathering produced the Nairobi Declaration, the continent’s plan for a sustainable and equitable future. A major theme was the need to bring energy to more than 600 million people who living without it.

In Dubai, we will hear the response of wealthy nations and global finance institutions. Will they pledge the support needed? Africa has played its cards — now others must show their hand.

The Nairobi Declaration calls for global support to boost renewable energy generation by more than 500 percent — from 56 gigawatts to at least 300 gigawatts  — by 2030, as a means of beating energy poverty.

Boosting farm yields

Alongside this direct target, other goals in the declaration will be impossible without investment in energy access. Ambitions such as sustainably boosting farm yields, and creating stronger extreme weather warning systems.

How can these be realised? The declaration calls for global action on debt relief and the availability of finance. COP28 may deliver progress on these asks, if delegates grasp the central importance of clean energy to development and resilience in a warming world.

In particular, look out for fresh commitments on December 4 and 5, when finance, energy and the ‘just transition’ are official themes.

Marginalised people

More funding would help fulfil a broken promise by rich nations to supply $100 billion of climate funding every year to Global South nations. And it is essential more of this investment is channelled to frontline organisations — local businesses, social enterprises and community organisations. They are best placed to work with marginalised people, and ensure the energy transition brings benefits to all.

Their support helps smallholder farmers use solar-powered water pumps and refrigerators to become more productive, and lights up rural shops so they can trade into the evening. It powers schools and clinics, phones and televisions. And it tackles common barriers to energy access—such as when communities lack training and knowledge, or the finance to buy modern technologies.  

Frontline organisations have joined others in the energy access sector to back the Power Up campaign.  This calls on governments, development partners and financial institutions to increase investment in energy access – to boost development and help threatened communities withstand the climate crisis.

Long-term policies

Of course, reforms are also essential at the domestic level. So inside Kenya, Power Up’s recommendations include stable and long-term policies on energy access, as well as smart subsidies and incentives, technical assistance for businesses, and campaigns to build consumer confidence in clean energy products.

COP organisers have urged delegates to come to the summit with innovative solutions, policy incentives, and instruments to unleash the potential of the private sector.

Africa can meet this challenge – and, with 40 percent of the world’s renewable energy resources, become a true clean power pioneer.

Brian Omenyi, Co-ordinator, Sustainable Energy Access Forum Kenya