Can Africa take the lead in fighting climate change?

Taida Nando for Distilled Post

Given the growing concerns over climate change, there has never been a better time to recognise Africa's potential in leading the development of creative and effective sustainability solutions.

An untapped potential

Africa is the ideal location to develop solutions to the issues we are having with carbon removal due to its rich diversity and distinctive geographical features. According to the African Carbon Asset Development initiative, the continent holds nearly 17% of the world’s forest cover, making it a perfect carbon sink.

Carbon removal projects have already been recognised to have the potential to deliver a permanent net-zero emissions outcome. Climate finance for the African continent got a boost at the 2022 COP27 conference, with the launching of the African Carbon Markets Initiative. The initiative aspires to provide access to renewable energy and climate finance for African nations while promoting sustainable economic growth. The programme has already received commitments from Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Togo.

Kenya’s climate leadership

Kenya is one of the African countries expected to benefit the most from the initiative-with the country being among the beneficiaries of a $350 million kitty to tackle climate change.

Often referred to as the ‘Silicon Savannah’, the country has emerged as a frontrunner in climate leadership within Africa. Although the country contributes less than 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, measures have been put in place to pursue a low-carbon and resilient development pathway to help achieve its 2030 vision: transforming Kenya into an industrialised, middle-income country.

Among other things, Kenya’s geothermal energy sector stands out, providing a reliable and sustainable source of power to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. In 2019, Kenya-based Milele Energy secured a capital investment, allowing it to bid a stake in the 310MW Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. The wind farm, the largest in Africa, supplies renewable energy to Kenya’s national grid.

Kenya’s leadership role also extends beyond energy. The government has implemented robust climate adaptation strategies, including climate-smart agriculture and water management initiatives. Earlier this year, the Kenya Smart Climate Agriculture project (KCSAP) scaled up efforts to address food security concerns by empowering small-scale farmers in villages within Kericho county. The finger millet farming by the group of farmers is environmentally friendly since they do not use harmful fertilisers in planting, and they plant in a way that prevents soil erosion. Right now, Kenya's achievements serve as a model for other nations aiming to build climate resilience. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that for most nations, securing political and economic stability comes before focusing on building climate resilience.


Nature-based solutions and carbon dioxide removal

Whilst there is a need to adopt innovative approaches towards fighting climate change, nature-based solutions can play a crucial role in Africa’s carbon removal efforts. With some areas in East Africa already battling with water sources rapidly disappearing, and wild food sources becoming harder to find, there is an immediate need to restore the degrading landscapes and adopt sustainable land management practices.

The number of fish in the deep lakes of the Rift Valley is decreasing as the global mean air temperature rises. Mangroves and seagrass beds are two examples of coastal habitats being protected and restored by NGOs in West Africa, such as Seafields.

Alongside this, African initiatives such as the African Carbon Credit Exchange are working to bring transparency to carbon markets. The initiatives can empower local populations, promote sustainable development, and encourage carbon removal initiatives that result in lasting improvements.

The importance of international partnerships and funding

While we can concentrate on the adjustments being made by the most severely impacted African nations, it is equally important to establish international funding and collaborations to accelerate Africa's carbon removal efforts.=

The Paris Agreement serves as a foundation for international cooperation. Under the agreement, key players such as the UK and the USA have committed to providing financial support to developing nations to aid their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The amount of climate funding available in Africa is insufficient to support the continent's adoption of sustainable practices. Global North-South Partnerships are already having an impact on the ground, particularly with the creation of the Green Climate Fund, which is very important in directing funding for climate-related projects in African nations. However, for the time being, the focus must be on releasing money that has been set aside for debt reduction.

African countries can transition to clean and sustainable energy sources, reduce fossil fuel dependency, and support global carbon reduction targets through adequate financing for sustainable projects and international cooperation. To build new partnerships, it is also necessary to acknowledge the disproportionately negative impact that many African nations are experiencing.

The truth is that no amount of money will be able to prevent climate change from having a severe and unpredictable impact on African countries. However, we might be able to envision life in a less bleak future if a new agreement between high- and low-income countries is formed-and one that genuinely supports low-income countries' efforts to tackle climate change.