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From Nairobi to Net Zero: Africa’s Call for Climate Justice


Africa is not poor: Africa is rich in  resources that can be used to mitigate climate change. African leaders, led by Kenyan President William Ruto, sent a powerful message to the world at the inaugural Africa Climate Summit, held in Nairobi. 24 journalists from across Africa reported from the historic event as part of a Danida-funded learning programme on climate journalism.

By Vibeke Quaade

At the opening of the Africa Climate Summit 4 – 6 September, the first ever to be held on the continent, President Ruto boldly asserted, “Africa is not poor: Africa is rich in resources.”

How the summit was reported in media across Africa

This statement shattered the prevalent narrative that Africa is solely a victim of climate change despite contributing only 4% of global emissions, and ignited hope for a more equitable and sustainable future where Africa’s assets are recognized, valued, and fairly compensated. The summit marked a pivotal moment where Africa claimed its position as a vital player in the fight against climate change and called for equitable compensation.

Africa’s underestimated mitigation resources
According to the 17 African heads of states present at the summit, one of Africa’s often underestimated strengths lies in its abundant natural carbon sinks, including the Congo forest, peatlands, savannah grasslands, mangroves, swamps, coral reefs, and marine reserves. These ecosystems absorb millions of tons of CO2 annually, making Africa a crucial part of the solution to the global climate crisis. Yet, Africa has not received adequate recognition or compensation for its role as a carbon sink, despite the economic potential it holds.

Furthermore, Africa possesses vast renewable energy resources, including hydro, wind, and solar power, surpassing those of any other continent. More importantly, it holds over 30% of the world’s critical transition minerals such as copper, nickel, aluminum, cobalt, and lithium, essential for achieving global net-zero targets. Coupled with its youthful population eager for change, Africa presents itself as a continent full of solutions for addressing the most pressing global challenges posed by climate change.

The keys to solving the global climate crisis are in Africa
The summit, marked by President Ruto’s leadership in collaboration with the African Union, emphasized that Africa is not just a recipient of aid but is a provider of solutions. It called upon Western leaders and financial institutions to invest in Africa as a central part of the global climate change mitigation strategy. The message was clear: Africa holds the keys to resolving the world’s climate crisis.

Crucially, the summit underscored the interdependence of climate resilience and socio-economic transformation. It highlighted that climate change and the pursuit of climate justice, are integral to Africa’s development. Africa’s vast assets, including land for sustainable agriculture and forests for carbon sequestration, align with its renewable energy potential and rich mineral resources, setting the stage for green economic growth.

Impressive line up of heads of state and civil society
With approximately 30,000 delegates in attendance, including 17 African heads of state, the summit issued the 12-page Nairobi Declaration, calling for an accurate valuation of Africa’s natural carbon sequestration assets, a massive $600 billion investment in renewable energy production, and a plea for wealthy nations to fulfill their commitments to emissions reduction and adaptation funding. However, amid these aspirations, the summit faced controversy and protests with more than 500 civil society organizations voicing concerns about the promotion of “false solutions” like carbon markets and carbon sequestration.

Pledges of 26 billion USD
In addition to the African heads of state, present at the summit were also Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Union, John Kerry, USA’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and ministers from across the globe. The EU countries were particularly well represented, including Denmark, whose Minister of Development and Global Climate Policy, Dan Jørgensen, attended. The World Bank, the African Development Bank, Bezos Earth Fund, The Global Climate Fund and Rockefeller Foundation were there too. The combined commitments made by these public and private sector bodies, and by other multilateral development banks, philanthropic foundations, and development partners, came to nearly 26 billion USD. See the list of pledges here.

Paving the way for evidence-based climate news and feature stories
The 24 journalists from 13 African countries participating in Danida Fellowship Centre’s learning programme Reporting from the African Frontline of the Global Climate Crisis reported directly from the sessions. Before the Nairobi summit, the group had worked with climate researchers and attended several online sessions and a week-long training seminar in science reporting, constructive journalism, and climate campaigning. The aim of the programme is to pave the way for evidence-based climate news and feature stories that are relevant to African audiences.

To guarantee an outlet for their outputs, one of the conditions for taking part in the programme was that the journalists’ own media would get them accredited to the Africa Climate Summit. Another condition was that each journalist should deliver three mandatory outputs making use of the journalistic tools provided by the programme.

With more than 100 pieces  – and more to come  – on different aspects of the climate crisis already having been taken up by prominent media outlets across the continent, the output of the 24 journalists has exceeded all expectations and reached hundreds of thousands of people. See the journalists’ stories here

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