African Climate Summit Links ‘Unfair’ Debt Burden to Calls to Make Continent’s Green Assets Profitable

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Climate change is “relentlessly eating away” at Africa’s economic progress and it’s time for a global conversation about a carbon tax on polluters, Kenya’s president said Tuesday as the first African Climate Summit set off.

“Those who produce the waste refuse to pay their bills,” summit host President William Ruto told an audience of senior officials from China, the United States and the European Union, some of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. gases.

The fast-growing African continent, home to more than 1.3 billion people, loses between 5 and 15 percent of its gross domestic product growth each year due to the widespread impacts of climate change, according to Ruto. This is a source of deep frustration in this resource-rich region that contributes by far the least to global warming.

He and other leaders called for reforms to global financial structures that forced African countries to pay about five times more to borrow money than others. worsen the debt crisis for many. Africa is home to more than 30 of the world’s most indebted countries, Kenyan Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya said.

The US government’s climate envoy, John Kerry, recognized the “acute and unjust debt”. He also said that 17 of the 20 countries most affected by climate change are in Africa – while the world’s 20 richest countries, including his own, produce 80% of global carbon emissions that cause of climate change.

Asked about the Kenyan president’s call for a discussion on carbon tax, Kerry said President Joe Biden has “yet to adopt a particular carbon pricing mechanism.”

Ruto said Africa’s 54 countries “need to go green quickly before industrializing and not the other way around, unlike richer countries that have the luxury to do so.” Transforming Africa’s economy onto a green trajectory “is the most feasible, fair and effective way to achieve a net zero emissions world by 2050”, he said.

Climate finance is essential, speakers said. A commitment from the richest countries The provision of $100 billion a year to help developing countries meet their climate goals remains unfulfilled, and Ruto said the summit declaration will “strongly encourage” everyone to deliver on their pledges.

The United Arab Emirates, which will host the next United Nations climate meeting later this year, has announced plans to invest $4.5 billion in Africa’s “clean energy potential.”

The African continent has 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets and more than 30% of the minerals essential for renewable and low-carbon technologies. One of the objectives of the summit is to transform the story across the continent, from victim to rich and assertive partner.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to explain to our people, especially our youth, the contradiction: a resource-rich continent and poor people,” said Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde.

Africa’s GDP should be reassessed based on its strengths, which include the world’s second largest rainforest and biodiversity, said African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina.

“Africa cannot be nature rich and cash poor,” he said.

But divisions are evident around an issue little mentioned in the opening speeches and yet at the heart of the difficult discussions to come: fossil fuels.

Africa must use its natural gas resources – growing demand interest of Europe – as well as renewable energy sources, Adesina said. “Give us space to grow,” he said.

Ruto, however, criticized “dependence” on fossil fuels. His country now gets more than 90% of its energy from renewable sources.

“We don’t need to do what developed countries have done to propel their industries. It will be more difficult to use renewable energy exclusively, but it is possible,” said Martha Lusweti, a local summit participant.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told summit participants it was time for the world to “break our dependence on fossil fuels”. Global spending on fossil fuel subsidies has reached $7 trillion in 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said African countries could produce enough clean energy to power the continent and export abroad, “but for that, Africa needs massive investment “.

Some of Africa’s largest economies rely on fossil fuels. South Africa’s coal-fired power plants are in trouble. Parts of Nigeria’s Niger Delta are covered in oil slicks. Some African cities have the worst air pollution in the world. A TotalEnergies gas pipeline project in Uganda and Tanzania is being called into question.

The leaders of a number of Africa’s largest economies, including South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, as well as forest-rich Congo, were absent from the summit.

Among the main speakers, China was also missing, the largest emitter in the world heat transfer gases, Africa’s largest trading partner and one of its largest creditors.

Some African leaders have passionately described the consequences of climate change.

“The seas that once cradled us now warn us of rising tides,” said Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio. “It’s an African story, and I dare say it’s also a global story.”

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Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/climate-and-environment and from Africa to https://apnews.com/hub/africa

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