Africa Climate Summit: Nairobi, September 2023

by Clive Donnley

Clive Donnley at the Africa Climate Week

Personal Reflection

As I reflect on this experience, I’m encouraged to see Africa growing its participation in climate discussions. During my one-week experience at the Africa Climate Summit and Africa Climate Week, I had the privilege of networking and  also attending incredible side events focused on climate adaptation, climate finance, and carbon markets to be specific. For example, I attended an event hosted by the African Union Commission on leveraging the potential of voluntary carbon credits for sustainable financing and the vast potential that the continent can leverage to enhance its resilience. I further did interviews with various correspondents giving my insights and shedding light on critical discussions.

Attending various side events did shed light on the pressing issues that Africa faces in these domains. However, I think it’s vital for the continent to prioritise its unique stance on climate change and address the challenges it faces, such as equitable access to climate finance and ensuring that carbon markets genuinely benefit its people and the environment in forging a more sustainable and climate-resilient future for Africa given that rules governing carbon markets still does not suit Africa to be involved competitively. Therefore the continent should not overly rely on carbon markets which might be a dangerous distraction on cutting emissions. 

One of the challenges that stood out during my time was the considerable difficulty in obtaining a badge, given the long queues and administrative hurdles. 

About the Africa Climate Summit

The recent Africa Climate Summit marked a significant milestone in the continent’s collective efforts to combat climate change. Held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4th to 6th of September alongside Africa Climate Week and the Africa Youth Climate Assembly, the summit brought together African leaders in an exclusive forum dedicated to addressing pressing climate issues [1]. The summit concluded with the adoption of the “Nairobi Declaration” [2] a pivotal document that is poised to shape Africa’s stance in the global climate change discourse. The inaugural summit convened for the exclusive purpose of engaging African leaders in meaningful discourse on climate-related matters.

The Nairobi Declaration

After rigorous negotiations during the Africa Climate Summit spanning three days, African leaders endorsed the Nairobi Declaration [2], a landmark accord to serve as the foundational framework for Africa’s collective stance within the global discourse on climate change.

Among its key demands was the establishment of an equitable multilateral development of a finance system, aimed at liberating Africa’s economies from burdensome debt and financial barriers. The summit also yielded significant outcomes, outlining a path towards a new global financial arrangement featuring impactful and tailored funding mechanisms. Additionally, substantial investment commitments were made across vital sectors like energy, nature, and water, with notable progress reported on ongoing African and global initiatives. Focusing on the $23 billion to support Africa’s sustainable development, leaders showed a unified voice urging the global community to fulfil their climate commitments, emphasising the urgent need to combat climate change in Africa and worldwide while addressing existential threats.

Unified voices

During the Summit, leaders emphatically acknowledged the inequitable structure of multilateral institutional frameworks. These frameworks consistently disadvantage African nations, burdening them with exorbitant financing that ensnares the continent’s economies in a cycle of debt. This, in turn, deprives Africa of necessary resources to effectively address the imminent climate change crisis, which poses a threat to both lives and livelihoods. African leaders confirmed that they have crafted a collective standpoint which encapsulates aspirations for both socioeconomic advancement and a robust climate action agenda. According to the leaders, this stance is firmly rooted in Africa’s potential to lead in the global endeavour to decarbonize economies, thereby laying the groundwork for widespread green industrialization on a global scale [5].

Flawed distractions and obstacles in the deliberations

Furthermore, the subsequent deliberations at the Africa climate summit centred on some dangerous distractions as viewed by experts, activists and stakeholder citing carbon markets as a distraction to address the real issue. Given that countries like the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America committed millions to Africa Carbon Markets Initiative, This Idea was faulted as a new form of colonialism. While Carbon Markets presents a potential approach to combat climate change, it faced criticism for several reasons. Firstly, it is seen as flawed in that it permits polluters to continue emitting greenhouse gases by purchasing credits elsewhere, effectively shifting responsibility rather than reducing emissions at the source.

The fear is that such markets may create perverse incentives for companies to continue polluting while relying on offsets, ultimately delaying the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy. This scepticism underscored the need for a more comprehensive and holistic approach to addressing climate change in Africa and globally. This approach doesn’t address the root cause of climate change in Africa, which is the unchecked release of greenhouse gases, primarily by developed nations.

Furthermore, critics argued that the initiative should prioritise adaptation strategies over carbon markets. Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, and crop failures. Thus, focusing on adaptation measures like resilient infrastructure, improved agricultural practices, and disaster preparedness is considered more urgent.While both loss and damage and adaptation are essential components of addressing climate change impacts, they serve different purposes and require different approaches. It was also critiqued on putting loss and damage and adaptation in one category. Separating them allows for more targeted and effective responses to the distinct challenges they represent, particularly for vulnerable regions like Africa.It was also noted that the ‘Africa Climate Summit should be established as a biennial event convened by the African Union and hosted by AU Member States, to set the continent’s new vision taking into consideration emerging global climate and development issues’.

Youthful inclusion

Kenyan President reiterated the need in recognizing youthful voices in climate deliberations as young people have a potential in scaling the continental commitment in mitigating climate change. Speaking during the pre-organize Africa Youth Assembly [3] and the Africa Climate summit, he said that it is impossible to imagine the future without the youth,” [4] Further the president added that young men and women, in every African country, are the primary stakeholders who will define and drive the African agenda for green transformation and sustainable opportunity.


Being the first summit of its kind in Africa and recognizing the tremendous opportunities that could be unlocked in Africa through scaling continental resilience from green jobs and investments, Africa’s position and interest in climate deliberations should not be watered down as it is urgent to fast track urgency in mitigating climate change and addressing diverse issued based on African context.

[1] Africa Climate Summit Commitments and Announcement Compilation Final Documents,  

[2] The Nairobi Declaration, DocumentCloud,

[3] Africa Youth Climate Assembly Declaration VTx4T8s/edit?pli=1  

[4] “Youth Must Be at Centre of Climate Change Conversation.” The Official Website of the President of the Republic of Kenya,

[5] Speech by President von der Leyen at the Africa Climate Summit,
Categories COP28

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