(Scroll down to listen to audio clips from Hardi Yakubu, movement coordinator, Africans Rising, and from Bhekumuzi Dean Bhebhe, co-facilitator of Don't Gas Africa Movement.)
As flood waters enveloped central Greece, fires continued to rage in North America, and the earth was recorded to have experienced the hottest 3 months on record, thousands of people poured into central Nairobi to attend the Africa Climate Summit (ACS), hosted by the African Union and the Kenyan government. The Summit’s title summed up succinctly what this gathering was about: “Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World."
Indeed, a quick glance around the signs on the rows of chairs in the main plenary revealed just who this summit was really for: financial entities like Rubicon Carbon Capital, philanthrocapitalists like Rockefeller and the Bezos Earth Fund, multilateral development banks, and government bodies like USAID, and the State Department of Petroleum.
The message on the Summit’s website was echoed time and again, from President Ruto to France’s Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou: that climate action required a shift in “the narrative away from a division between the Global North and the Global South.” Panel after panel echoed the need for investments into carbon markers on the continent, the importance of finance bodies and asset management companies, and the opportunities of investing in the so-called “blue economy” of the ocean, with the creation of blue carbon and blue bonds.
The message was that carbon markets are a “win-win” both for investors as well as for African countries. In the words of Bogolo Kenewendo, Africa Director of UN Climate Champions team, “capital is looking to invest and buyers are looking to buy carbon credits.”
The summit’s focus on doing away with North-South division and championing investment possibilities in carbon markets as beneficial for African countries is deeply ideological in favour of a neoliberal approach to the climate crisis. It undermines the very basic fact on which the reality of climate catastrophe stands: that the climate crisis, and its accompanying ecocide is grounded in the historic and colonial division between North and South; that the climate catastrophe was created by fossil-fuel burning and extractive companies of the North; that people in the South and in Africa are and will be disproportionately affected by the violent impacts of climate change; and that the North bears a responsibility in transforming its own economies to address the climate crisis.
By collapsing this division, the summit laid the groundwork for new opportunities to extract even more from the continent, in the form of carbon markets. One particular initiative that is being lauded both by governments and the private sector is the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI), Launched at the COP27 in Egypt in 2022, ACMI supports voluntary carbon markets across Africa and aims to generate 300 million carbon credits annually by 2030.
The summit’s support for “blue carbon” within a framework of the “blue economy” is an assault on marine ecosystems that are already suffering from acidification and other serious problems produced by absorbing much of the excess carbon dioxide emitted from polluting industries. Proposals for blue carbon markets are based on the deployment of risky and unproven marine geoengineering technologies, designed to force the ocean to absorb even more carbon. Polluting industries and financial speculators are prospecting on African coasts with the intention of invading the continent with these dangerous new technologies.
In response to the official summit, a people’s climate summit was set up by civil society organizations. The morning of the ACS’s opening, hundreds of people marched in downtown Nairobi, carrying placards with messages that said “the west is the monster of climate injustice,” and “stop the neo-colonial scramble for oil and gas in Africa.” Activists from the Stop East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline had a message for Total, which is building the pipeline: ”Total, We can’t Drink Oil! Go Burn Yourself, Not Our Planet.”
The alternative climate summit protested the involvement of Western based consultancy firmS, like McKinsey and Company, in ACS, and in a statement, pointed out that false solutions like carbon credits, and new technologies like geoengineering, were being marketed as African priorities when in fact “these approaches will embolden wealthy nations and large corporations to continue polluting the world, much to Africa’s detriment.”
In a report co-authored by a number of African groups, the African Carbon Markets initiative was described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” that would benefit fossil fuel companies and the financial brokers “who buy and sell the credits with huge markups.” Rather than reducing emissions, the ACMI growth target would allow big private companies to create even more carbon emissions in return for investing in carbon stored in biological systems.
The African People’s Climate and Development declaration stated that geoengineering “represents the ultimate dangerous distraction and must be firmly rejected.” Referring to a recent declaration of the African Environment Ministers conference that cautioned against solar geoengineering, they also reaffirmed support for a global Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering. Its deployment would pose an existential threat to Africa and to the whole planet, “while current attempts to present this sun-dimming technology as an escape route undermines the momentum for radical action/ transformative change to real solutions”.
Given the capture of African governments by the private sector, and the enormous investment in false solutions like carbon markers, as well as the potential deployment of new technologies like geoengineering, African civil society will have to take this fight even further in the leadup to the COP28 in the UAE at the end of this year.
The following quote is from the audio clips - by Hardi Yakuba and Dean Bhebhe that you can access below:
Hardi Yakubu on the capture of the ACS
“It is very obvious that the people we put in power, who are supposed to be our representatives, and our employees, and I want to repeat it, anybody who is representing the people in parliament, national assembly, presidency, as a minister, CS, or whatever, is an employee of the people. We must hold them as such. These are not our bosses, they are our employees. We pay them, they live on our taxes. So when there is an Africa climate summit, we expect them to speak the language that represents our interests. Not to sell out and give the summit to the people who are responsible for this climate crisis in the first place. And if you ask me, who are these people? You saw John Kerry, the Climate Envoy of the United States of America. There is nobody more responsible for the climate crisis than the USA. You saw the EU President. She had a full platform to speak. Nobody is more responsible for the climate crisis than the EU countries. You saw the banks that continue to fund the fossil fuel industry - and the think tanks that continue to manufacture evidence against the genuine experience of the people regarding the climate catastrophe - were given full platforms to speak. You saw Bill and Melinda Gates representatives. Bill and Melinda Gates are responsible for pushing GMOs which are going to completely destroy our farming systems. They are responsible for pushing farming in Africa on its way to dependency on chemicals. We must not be afraid to say to these people in their faces that they are responsible for this crisis. We have to pursue responsibility…because we think that we can no longer as Africans allow ourselves to be used for other people’s agenda. -- Hardi Yakubu, Movement Coordinator: Africans Rising