The Africa Climate Summit fell short on conflict
Last week’s Africa Climate Summit was a landmark opportunity for the continent. With thousands of delegates and dozens of heads of state in attendance, it could have been a game-changing moment for conflict-sensitive climate finance. Despite some progress being made, however, it ultimately fell short of these expectations.
The summit clearly highlighted the fact that Africa faces disproportionate burdens and risks from climate change. The continent is responsible for less than 3% of global carbon emissions, yet is paying an extraordinary price. African countries are facing droughts, floods and other extreme weather events, causing protracted humanitarian crises and negative health, economic and security outcomes.
The Nairobi Declaration, issued by African leaders to conclude the summit, expresses these disparities forcefully.
But despite the links between climate and conflict coming up in numerous discussions at and around the summit, the proposed solutions in the Nairobi Declaration focus almost entirely on the quantity rather than the quality of financial commitments. Different contexts, and particularly those affected by conflict, face highly specific challenges. Applying the same blueprints across the board will not work. We need smarter and contextually responsive climate finance.
Climate adaptation projects will only succeed by including and listening to local communities, especially those often left behind like young people and women who are too often still overlooked. Locally led, conflict-sensitive climate finance can tackle the climate crisis without causing or exacerbating conflict on the ground. The narrative around Africa has to change and positive stories of funders and communities working together constructively across identities and existing fractures need to be told. Experience has shown that local communities know what works in their contexts. Effective solutions are thus to be found within Africa, not to be presumed by international institutions and in-country elites.
While the summit pushed forward issues, like measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the transition to renewable energy sources and the need for climate resilient cities, it is calls for carbon taxes, debt restructures and changes to the global financial architecture that are dominating the headlines coming out of the summit. But these elements are needed in addition to, not instead of, conflict-sensitive climate finance. A just energy transition, increased climate finance and an operational loss and damage fund will not deliver resilience across the continent without a locally led gender- and conflict-sensitive approach.
The turnout at the summit did indeed distil a vision of hope. Participants and attendees from civil society are ready and calling for change. The challenge is for these discussions to be reflected by policy-makers and high-level representatives. Too many of the formal discussions repeated what we already know, rather than thinking about new ways of operating. Community representatives need to be put at the centre of these discussions rather than being told to wait outside.
Given the current levels of volatility across the continent, the summit is yet another missed opportunity for highlighting the role climate plays in conflict. Climate has long been recognised as a conflict multiplier and it is high time that this is reflected in climate action. A good start would be for global leaders to give far greater prominence to discussion of the interaction between climate and conflict at summits such as this one.
The Africa Climate Summit sets the continent’s priorities for COP28 in Dubai later this year and hasn’t provided enough, especially considering that for the first time ‘peace’ now has its own thematic day. Leaders need to demonstrate solidarity among nations and provide a holistic, collaborative, approach. Conflict-sensitive climate finance needs to move up the agenda.