African countries contribute only about 3% of global carbon emissions, according to U.N. figures, but are increasingly exposed to the impact of extreme weather linked to climate change, including the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades.
A report last year by the non-profit Climate Policy Initiative found Africa has received only 12% of the finance it needs to cope with climate impacts.
“We aim to start changing the conversation from Africa the victim of hunger, famine and floods,” said Kenyan Environment Minister Soipan Tuya ahead of the summit beginning on Monday in Nairobi.
“The new narrative … should be an Africa that is willing and ready to attract capital that is timely, equitable and at scale to lead the world in tackling climate change.”
The thousands of delegates are expected to debate solutions ahead of a U.N. climate summit next month in New York in September and the COP28 U.N. summit in the United Arab Emirates from the end of November.
The summit’s organisers also say they expect deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars to be concluded in Nairobi.
Market-based financing instruments such as carbon credits that allow polluters to offset emissions by funding activities including tree-planting and renewable energy production are high on the list of funding options.
Governments have also shown interest in debt-for-nature swaps. Gabon earlier this month completed Africa’s first such deal by buying back a nominal $500 million of its international debt and issuing an eco-friendly amortising bond of equal size.
The transaction is meant to yield savings that can be used to fund conservation.
But the summit’s approach to climate finance has drawn criticism from civic groups, with more than 500 of them accusing organisers in an open letter of advancing Western priorities at Africa’s expense.
“These approaches will embolden wealthy nations and large corporations to continue polluting the world, much to Africa’s detriment,” the groups said in the letter.
Amos Wemanya, a senior adviser at Power Shift Africa, one of the signatories, said financing should come from richer countries meeting the commitments they have previously made to poorer ones but so far have only met in part.
Host Kenya, which says it accounts for a quarter of the carbon credits traded in Africa, hopes to be a model for Africa’s ambitions in the market and has introduced legislation to try to attract investment.
In June, it hosted an auction where companies from Saudi Arabia bought more than 2.2 million tonnes of carbon credits.
One of the projects generating those credits is Kenya-based BURN Manufacturing’s production of clean cooking stoves to replace heavily polluting wood and charcoal-based fires.
The income from the carbon credits allows BURN to sell its stoves to poor Kenyans at a subsidised rate of $12 per unit, instead of the production cost of $40-50, said Chris McKinney, BURN’s chief commercial officer.
The company has sold more than 3.6 million stoves.
“We have still barely scratched the surface. The scale of the problem is massive,” he said.
One of the highlights of next week’s summit, according to a published agenda, will be a deal involving the United Arab Emirates and the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI).
The ACMI was launched at the COP27 summit in Egypt last year with the aim of boosting Africa’s carbon credit production from 16 million in 2020 to 300 million by 2030 and 1.5 billion by 2050.
Responding to criticism of carbon credits, Joseph Ng’ang’a, chief executive of the summit’s secretariat, said they were an important tool to fight climate change but only one piece of the puzzle.
African nations will also continue to demand more funding from rich-world governments and seek additional recognition for the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest tropical forest, as a major carbon sink, summit organisers said.
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Additional reporting by Christophe Van Der Perre; Editing by Aaron Ross and Barbara Lewis)