Africa is calling for a fair financial system that treats all nations equally, according to Kenya’s President William Ruto, who also chairs the Heads of State Committee on Climate Change.
Speaking on the second day of the Africa Climate Summit, President Ruto said it was not too much to ask as many African nations were facing debt distress due to climate change.
“This is the continent with the highest investment potential. We are only limited by two things: high interest rates for development capital,” President Ruto said, adding that nine countries in Africa are already in debt distress, 13 are at high risk and 17 are at medium risk.
He argued that the suffering was global but the African continent was bearing the brunt and that the financial architecture is such that African nations are seen as risky borrowers.
“How do we get Africa to pay five times more?” The president wondered. “We are not asking to be favoured [or] treated differently… We need a conversation.”
“Climate change was destroying the economies of African nations and forcing affected countries to divert their budgets and resources meant for economic growth to dealing with the effects of climate change,” Dr Ruto said.
“Africa had lost 2.5 million head of livestock, among other things, due to climate change,” he said.
He said the summit was both Africa’s climate summit and a global pre-COp28 meeting where Africa would speak, and the world would listen.
“The ACS is an orientation to familiarise us with our journey into the future, driven by African solutions,” he explained. “We have gathered here to consult, deliberate, collaborate and share the future of climate action globally and for Africa. This summit is about turning ideas into action and forging transformative partnerships to bring our planet back from the brink of climate change.”
Acknowledging that there was still a long way to go to achieve Africa’s aspirations, he urged all stakeholders to keep their promises, even in difficult times.
Nevertheless, he said, there was a need to move fast because climate change was an emergency that required a commitment to climate action and green growth.
“This African moment is a global moment, we are there in word and deed. I urge everyone at this summit to show bold leadership in support of African aspirations. We have a long way to go and no time to lose. We have the permission of our ancestors to innovate a way, not only to go fast, but to go together,” said Dr Ruto.
Even in the face of adversity, the summit host said, there is opportunity. Climate change and the crisis it brings is Africa’s opportunity to unlock the vast resources we have for a green energy transition, he said.
President Ruto said Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to turn away from the well-trodden unsustainable path.
Speaking at the Youth Summit on Sunday, President Ruto said the world had witnessed the immense potential that African youth could unleash.
He added that this underscored the importance of the Youth Commission. Potential and opportunity are all futuristic.
African countries face unique, disproportionate and structural disadvantages that can help them achieve prosperity. And the tragedy of climate change is “relentlessly eating away at this progress”, President Ruto lamented, while declaring that the continent will use its capacity to limit its own emissions as a clear pathway to net zero by 2050.
“Furthermore, to achieve green growth, Africa has committed to move quickly to develop the necessary instruments and institutions, with Kenya, as an outcome of the summit, offering to host the Global Centre for Adaptation (GCA),” President Ruto said.
“We have been negatively profiled, the continent of disease, war and poverty, but we are stepping out to say that Africa is home to 60 percent of the world’s renewable energy assets,” he said.
Standing in for US President Joe Biden, US special climate envoy John Kerry said, “My sense is that after this speech, we have no choice but to act.”
“Africa has the greatest opportunity in the world to win this (climate change) dialogue,” he added.
“I feel that Africa at this moment offers an enormous opportunity. This problem that we face is man-made. Humanity is being threatened by humanity. We need the Loss and Damage Fund in one year, this year, in Dubai. We can win this battle, but we can only win it if we make fundamental choices,” he further said.