The ten-day countdown to the climate summit starts
If we told you Africa is beating Europe on clean energy, would you believe us? We explain the data. Plus, Africa's long (and sometimes forgotten) history at the forefront of the environmental movement
Hello! For our new subscribers, Green Rising aims to deliver concise and useful reporting on the continent’s green economy ahead of the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi. We start high-level, then get into the nitty-gritty.
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⏳ Today’s reading time: 4 mins
1. 🚁 Heli view: How Africa leads on climate
Some history can be helpful to understand Africa’s global climate leadership.
The evolution of the continent's modern green economy started in Nairobi with the 1972 creation of UNEP. The first African to lead the UN’s environment programme was Mostafa Kamal Tolba (see above) three years later.
Why it matters: At the time, Africa claimed the global mantle of the emerging environmental movement with support from others in the Global South:
Mexico City, New Delhi and Cairo scrapped their applications to support a sub-Saharan location
Countries in the Global North had preferred Geneva but folded
The future: In the decade that followed, disease and food insecurity were rarely attributed to global factors. But that changed at the turn of the century.
A serious warning on Africa’s vulnerability came from Al Gore in 2006
He said global warming could lead to malaria in higher altitudes such as Nairobi
The threat: Even if that was incorrect, climate changes soon hit Africa:
Unprecedented floods have killed thousands in the past two decades
Droughts undermined small-scale farming
Harvests are predicted to fall by as much as 30%
A realisation: Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change.
It has 95% of rain-fed agriculture globally
7 of the 10 countries most vulnerable are in Africa
No fault: The continent has contributed little to climate change (<3% of global emissions). That has long put it in a passive position, while solutions focused on the Global North.
Evolving landscape: Debates changed with the acceleration of the climate crisis since Covid. The continent no longer stood by at COP 27 in Egypt last year.
Incident reporting gave way to a focus on technical solutions
A search for philanthropy was trumped by a quest for green investment
Bottom line: Five decades after UNEP’s founding, Africa’s private sector is in the lead and focused on funding for “climate-positive growth”
2. Is Africa beating Europe on renewables?
Clean electricity in Africa v Europe | Source: Mo Ibrahim Foundation
This chart shows the promise of renewable energy in Africa… and hints at a major challenge for the climate summit.
It highlights not only progress vis-a-vis Europe but also underscores the urgency of addressing key economic and social issues
What the chart says: Mains electricity in Africa is cleaner than in Europe. The 10 African countries with the greenest grids beat the top 10 European equivalents. Fact.
Data can be deceptive: What’s missing from the chart is even more important.
Electricity access is near-universal in Europe, while only a minority of African households have it. Plugging in the rest may not be as clean.
Mains electricity is only one part of a country’s energy mix; African transport, households and industry look much less favourable in comparison to Europe.
The background: At the Africa Climate Summit (Sept 4-8), the African Union will make an argument for connecting climate action and economic prosperity. Renewable electricity is one of the reasons.
3. Q&A: Climate leaders with answers
Ezekiel Nyanfor is the founder and executive director of Liberian Youth for Climate Action (LYCA). He will be at the Africa Climate Summit as part of a delegation of 20 young leaders sponsored by the Nature4Climate. They will advocate for nature taking a key role in climate mitigation actions.
Q: What’s the best climate book you would recommend to others? A: “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference” by Greta Thunberg.
Q: Which African country has impressed the most for its green agenda? A: Liberia is the world’s third lung, after the Congo basin and the Amazon rainforest. The potential here is huge.
Q: What’s your earliest personal memory of the climate crisis? A: In April 2020 we had the most enormous thunderstorm. People were forced to sleep outside in trees.
Q: What’s the most recent step you’ve taken to help the climate crisis? A: I set up and lead the LYCA. I am very proud of that.
The summit’s Green Growth Agenda aims to ensure that African households and the rest of the planet pull in the same direction.
Without giving Africa full access to clean energy, global climate action will struggle.
4. Media monitoring
Don’t have time to read 100+ media sources daily? We’ve done it for you:
Climate Summit: Questions are asked long before the first panel: Will Africa become “uninhabitable”? Are we entertaining “false and foolish solutions”? Are the concerns of non-state actors taken seriously?
Solar-powered irrigation: It may be a game-changer in farming and a more attractive investment opportunity than previously thought.
Green hydrogen: The numbers keep getting bigger. Apparently, North Africa will have a hydrogen market worth $1.4 trillion annually by 2050.
Green industrialisation: Building work has started on Africa’s first dedicated gigawatt battery factory.
The Guardian: This will raise eyebrows… “Carbon credit speculators could lose billions as offsets deemed worthless”
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