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Kenyan Activist at Africa Climate Summit: Fund Green Transition on Continent & Phase Out Fossil Fuels

StorySeptember 06, 2023
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As the Africa Climate Summit wraps up in Nairobi, we get an update from Kenyan climate justice organizer Eric Njuguna. He says the focus by Western leaders and multinational companies on establishing carbon markets in Africa amounts to a “ticket to pollute” without directly addressing the need to phase out fossil fuels. Njuguna says a key demand from activists is to create access to climate financing without new debt burdens on the continent’s governments. “Africa is bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and people are dying,” says Njuguna.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show in Nairobi, Kenya, where the first Africa Climate Summit opened Monday. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry pushed for the establishment of a carbon market, but many African climate justice activists pushed back against the idea. Ahead of the summit, Oxfam slammed wealthy nations for delivering a “pittance,” they said, to help East Africa confront the climate crisis. According to Oxfam, over 31 million people are currently facing acute hunger across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan, due in part to the climate crisis, which has disproportionately impacted the region.

For more, we’re joined by Eric Njuguna, a Kenyan climate justice organizer who’s at the summit and also helped organize the Peoples’ Alternative Summit, which just wrapped.

Thanks so much for being with us and for going to an internet cafe to find some good connection for us. It means so much. Eric, talk about the significance of the summit, and the alternative summit that you helped organize.

ERIC NJUGUNA: So, this is the first time there is an African Climate Summit, which is being held here in Nairobi. But there has been a huge push by Western governments and Western consultancy firms, like McKinsey & Company, who have been pushing for carbon markets. And this doesn’t represent Africa’s interests, because carbon markets is basically giving corporates and Global North countries a ticket to co-pollute, whilst they’re offsetting emissions in lands owned by local communities and Indigenous communities, who have been kicked out of their lands in the name of carbon markets. And that is why, after we realized this, we organized an African Peoples’ Alternative Summit, which is running parallel to the Nairobi summit, the African Climate Summit, to center, to really give an opportunity and a platform for African people to share their own demands and their own interests in the alternative summit.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Eric, could you talk about this issue of the carbon markets that the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was pushing, that many corporations, multinational corporations around the world are trying to focus on in Africa, and some people have called it the wolf in sheep’s clothing?

ERIC NJUGUNA: Yes. There has been a report by Power Shift Africa, which gives — exposes the reality of carbon markets on the African continent. People have been kicked out of their lands in their own carbon market in the — people have been kicked out of their own lands in the name of carbon markets. Yet John Kerry is here in Nairobi for the Africa Climate Summit pushing for this very carbon markets, and no commitments from the U.S. to actually cut down on emissions.

And this just shows the conflict of interest, because, on one hand, he is pushing for carbon markets, and when he is asked about finance for loss and damage, he says, “No, the U.S. cannot pay.” Yet Africa is bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, and people are dying. People are losing their own livelihoods as a result of the climate crisis. And people desperately need this finance for loss and damage, but also for adaptation and mitigation. And the commitments have not yet been made. So, John Kerry, while he is here, does not have Africa’s interests at heart.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this is what — part of what the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said in his speech at the African Climate Summit yesterday.

JOHN KERRY: President Biden has now launched a program called PREPARE, the President’s Emergency Program for Adaptation. And he has committed that we are going to help at least a half a billion people in developing countries, especially in Africa, to be able to adapt to the worst impacts of this crisis. He has committed the United States to work alongside African nations to lead the way in adapting to and managing the impacts of the climate crisis. And as part of PREPARE, he is providing or will fight with the Congress and guarantee that we will provide $3 billion annually for adaptation for the $12 billion program that he believes is essential in order to be able to do our part to adapt to this challenge.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry addressing the climate summit in Kenya. Eric Njuguna is with us at an internet cafe in Nairobi right now, a Kenyan climate justice organizer. Can you respond to what he has just promised, Eric? And also talk about how multinationals have benefited from mining across the African continent, particularly the cobalt mining, most notoriously in Congo, and what you are calling for.

ERIC NJUGUNA: OK. So, the first thing is that John Kerry has promised finance for adaptation and mitigation. But the reality of all climate finance that has been given, it has been in debt-creating points, meaning that Global South countries, including African countries, have to pay back to Global North countries for a crisis they had the least role in causing. And that is why here at the African Climate Summit climate justice organizers are calling for non-debt-creating finance, because climate justice is — climate finance is reparations for the most affected people who had the least role in causing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Eric, could you talk about how you got involved in the climate movement in your youth after a severe drought in Kenya?

ERIC NJUGUNA: Yes. So, I became a climate justice organizer, not because I wanted to, but because I don’t have any other choice but to be a climate justice organizer. Kenya is bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. And back then, when I became a climate justice organizer, Nairobi was facing lots of water shortages as a result of low water levels in the Ndakaini Dam, which is the largest source of water for Nairobi residents. And as a result of that, having seen the impacts of lack of water, especially on young children — I was around 16 at the time, and having seen the impacts of lack of water on my own peers, that pushed me to take action. And that is why I became a climate justice organizer.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you respond to your own president, to William Ruto, who said the African continent is losing 5% to 15% of its gross domestic product growth every year to the widespread impacts of climate change, and what you think needs to be done on the African continent by Africans, though you are not the ones who have created the catastrophe of the climate today?

ERIC NJUGUNA: Yes, our president is right that African countries are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, and that even translates to us using a huge percent of our GDP. And one thing that Africans need to focus on — and that is my message to African leaders here at the African Climate Summit — is to focus on phasing out all fossil fuels whilst massively investing in publicly led renewable energy, so that energy is offered to Africans as a common good and not a commodity. Through the just energy transition programs that have been signed between Global North countrie and South Africa, Senegal, Indonesia, they have been pushing for a lot of privatization, and African civil society have been pushing against this.

The second thing is calling for climate finance. We need non-debt-creating climate finance to support Global South countries in adaptation and mitigation, but also a separate loss and damage finance facility to support those who have lost their own lives and livelihoods as result of the climate crisis.

And then, the second thing — the third thing is that Africa has huge access to minerals that are necessary to power the just transition into a renewable energy future, yet we don’t want to follow the same pattern where multinationals and Global North countries have been benefiting from our own minerals. And that is why we need to stand strong and develop frameworks that can provide — can make sure that countries like the DRC, where cobalt is being mined, are benefiting from these resources, but also stopping child labor in the supply chain of these minerals. UNICEF estimates that around 40,000 children are involved in the mining of cobalt in the DRC, and we need to put an end to this.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Eric, can you talk, as well, not just about the role of the Western multinationals and the United States, but also of China, the world’s largest trading partner, also the current largest emitter of heat-trapping gases, though historically not? China’s role, especially on the African continent?

ERIC NJUGUNA: Yes. Multiple Global North countries especially — multiple Global North countries and multinationals here at the African Climate Summit — wait. Sorry. Could you repeat the question?

AMY GOODMAN: The role of China in Africa when it comes to the climate crisis?

ERIC NJUGUNA: Yes. So, China is one of the largest emitters, but they have also been investing in renewable energy in the continent, in the continent but also in China, which is one of the leaders in developing solar panels and also technology to power renewable energy.

But what we want as African countries is also technology transfer. And that is something that Africa — China has been working in collaboration with African countries to ensure that there is technology transfer. And these technologies are not only being developed, and they maintain the patents and — the patents and the rights to the use of these technologies.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eric Njuguna, we want to thank you so much for being with us and even being able to hear us in the internet cafe you’re in, in Nairobi, Kenya. Eric Njuguna is a Kenyan climate justice organizer and campaigner. That does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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