First African Climate Summit opens as hard-hit continent of 1.3 billion demands more voices and funding

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The first African Climate Summit The conference opened Monday with heads of state and others asserting a louder voice on a global issue that affects their continent most, even though its 1.3 billion people contribute the least to warming climatic.

The government of Kenyan President William Ruto and the African Union kicked off a ministerial session as more than a dozen heads of state began arriving, determined to exert greater global influence and bring in significantly more funding and support. Among the first speakers were young people, who demanded a greater voice in the process.

“We have seen this as a problem for a very long time. There are also huge opportunities,” Ruto said of the climate crisis, speaking of multi-trillion dollar economic opportunities, new financial structures, Africa’s enormous mineral wealth and the ideal of shared prosperity.

“We are not here to list grievances,” he said.

And yet there is some frustration on the continent that it must develop cleaner than the world’s richest countries – which have long produced most of the climate-endangering emissions – and do so while much of the promised support has been obtained. He didn’t appear.

“This is our moment,” said Mithika Mwenda of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, saying the annual flow of climate aid to the continent is a tenth or less of what is needed and a “fraction” of the budget of certain countries. polluting companies.

“We must immediately see the delivery of the 100 billion dollars » of climate finance promised each year by rich countries to developing countries, said Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. More than $83 billion in climate finance was provided to the poorest countries in 2020, an increase of 4% from the previous year, but still short of the target set in 2009.

Kenya alone needs $62 billion to implement its plan to reduce domestic emissions that contribute to global warming, the president said.

“We have an abundance of clean, renewable energy and it is essential that we use it to power our future prosperity. But to unlock it, Africa needs funding from countries that have become rich thanks to our suffering,” said Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa before the summit.

External participants at the summit include US government climate envoy John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said he would address finance as one of the “burning injustices of the climate crisis”.

“Of the 20 countries most affected by the climate crisis, 17 are here in Africa,” Kerry said.

As Kenya’s president spoke, hundreds of people joined a “people’s march” on climate in Nairobi, holding signs demanding the targeting of fossil fuels. “Stop the neocolonial rush for oil and gas in Africa,” it reads. Ruto has said in the past that “addiction” to fossil fuels must end.

One of the disputed projects is the 897-mile (1,443-kilometer) project financed by TotalEnergies. East African crude oil pipeline in Uganda and Tanzania.

“We know that fossil fuel companies benefit from a lot of subsidies,” said Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate. We therefore need more subsidies for solar energy to massively develop renewable sources.

The UN estimates that losses and damages from climate change in Africa are expected to be between $290 billion and $440 billion between 2020 and 2030, depending on the degree of warming.

Ruto’s welcome video released before the summit focused heavily on tree planting, but did not mention his administration’s decision this year to lift a years-old ban on commercial logging, which alarmed environmental monitoring bodies. The decision was challenged in court, while the government said only mature trees from state-managed plantations would be harvested.

“When a country holds a conference like ours, we should lead by example,” said Isaac Kalua, a local environmentalist.

Kenya gets 93% of its electricity from renewable sources and has banned single-use plastic bags, but it has struggled to adapt to other climate-friendly measures. Trees have been cut down to make way for the highway that some summit participants used to take from the airport, and bags of charcoal made from local trees, mostly in small kilns, can be found at some street corners of Nairobi.

Ruto traveled to Monday’s events in a small electric car, unlike the usual government convoys, on streets cleared of sometimes poorly maintained buses and vans that spew smoke.

Elsewhere, nearly 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity despite the vast potential of solar and other renewable energies.

Other challenges for the African continent are simply being able to predict and monitor the weather in order to avoid thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damage which, like climate change itself, has effects far beyond the continent.

“When the apocalypse happens, it will happen for all of us,” Ruto warned.

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Associated Press writer Desmond Tiro contributed to this report.

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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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