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The Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change: Some Take-home Message for Tanzania

The Summit was set to turn the climate crisis in Africa into an economic, if not a business opportunity.

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African Heads of State and Government convened in Nairobi, Kenya, from September 4 to 6, 2023, for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS). Among other accomplishments of the summit was the adoption of the ‘Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action.’

In this piece, I highlight the key issues raised in the declaration and make some reflections based on the Tanzanian climate governance experience.

The Heads of State and Government have acknowledged that the world, especially Africa, is not on track to keep the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C through emissions-cutting by 45 per cent by 2030.

They emphasised that Africa is now warming faster than the rest of the world and warned that this will worsen the adverse socio-economic impacts. Therefore, the leaders demanded immediate and rigorous efforts to lower emissions and reduce carbon dioxide concentrations.

Together, they expressed concern for the rapid urbanisation alongside rising poverty levels in African cities and urban areas. This threatens to increase vulnerability to climate hazards among the poor residing in these areas.

READ MORE: Africa Climate Summit 2023: Will Africa Have One Voice?

Notably, African leaders at the Summit expressed concern for the massive untapped renewable energy potential and natural assets that can be used for climate mitigation.

Overall, African leaders at the Summit committed to pushing for climate-positive investments to drive the continent’s goal of achieving middle-income status by 2050. In other words, the Summit was set to turn the climate crisis in Africa into an economic, if not a business opportunity.

To realise this, African countries must ensure they put in place favourable policies and regulatory frameworks to attract investments in green growth.

How is Tanzania faring so far?

Regarding climate change mitigation, Tanzania has in place the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), which specify the emissions reduction target ranging between 30 – 35 per cent by 2030, relative to the Business-As-Usual (BAU) scenario. 

This will reduce about 138 – 153 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) gross emissions. Priority mitigation sectors are energy, transport, forestry, and waste management.

READ MORE: Tanzania’s Coffee Sector Faces Severe Effects of Climate Change

In the energy sector, for example, Tanzania aims to use more natural gas and harness renewable energy sources. There are an estimated 57 trillion cubic feet of discovered reserves, of which, to date, over 100 million cubic feet have been exploited to produce 527 MW of electricity.

Tanzania has prepared the National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) to last five years, from 2021-2026, on climate change adaptation and resilience. It outlines strategic interventions and action plans to address climate change in each respective sector around adaptation.

The priority adaptation strategies cover sectors of freshwater resources, water sanitation and hygiene, coastal marine environment, forest and beekeeping, wildlife, agriculture, human health, tourism, energy, industry, livestock, fisheries, infrastructure, human settlements, and land use.

Disaster preparedness and management has also received attention in Tanzania. Just last year, the country enacted the Disaster Management Act No. 06 of 2022, which provides for, among other things, a National Disaster Management Strategy.

Also, the country has a Disaster Management Department within the Prime Minister’s Office, whose main objective is to rescue the nation from disasters and emergencies.

Some specific plans to manage climate disasters in urban areas are outlined in the National Environmental Master Plan. These constitute urban flooding management in the country’s business capital of Dar es Salaam, the political capital of Dodoma, Tanga city and Mtwara and Kigoma towns.

READ MORE: Reflecting COP26 Outcomes: The UN Climate Change Conference Falls Short – Again

For instance, the Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Development Project-Msimbazi Basin Basin Development is underway in Dar es Salaam city. The World Bank bankrolls the project, and it aims to strengthen flood resilience and integrated urban development in an economically important and flood-prone area of Dar es Salaam.

Can Tanzania foot the bill?

So, the big question is whether Tanzania can meet the financial requirements to realise a carbon-free economy touted in the Nairobi Declaration. The country has already put in place a robust policy and legal framework for climate change mitigation.

For example, the newly enacted carbon trading regulation and guidelines place Tanzania among Africa’s leading countries to regulate carbon trading. This positions the country favourably in attracting carbon credit development investments and trading.

So far, Tanzania is set to receive carbon offsetting investments worth over US$20 billion from more than 20 companies that have expressed interest in investing in the country’s voluntary carbon market. 

The country plans to channel the proceeds from carbon trading to finance the plans to reduce emissions by 30-35 per cent come 2030.

In another development, Tanzania entered a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) project agreement with Equinor, Shell and Exxon last May. The investment is costed at US$ 42billion. If the plan goes swiftly, the parties will reach a final decision in 2028.

Ten per cent of the LNG is expected to be used locally to run industries. LNG is the cleanest of all fossil fuels, producing 40 per cent and 30 per cent less carbon dioxide than coal and oil, respectively. 

READ MORE: Tanzanian Ladislaus Chang’a Among Three Newly Elected IPCC’s Co-Chairs

This will have a direct impact on Tanzania’s emission reduction targets. But more importantly, the country can use the expected revenues to transition to a carbon-free energy sector.

But climate mitigation is just the tip of the iceberg. There are far more pressing matters when considering Africa’s climate crisis. 

At the core of this are millions of Africans who are already succumbing to serious losses and damages from the unfolding crisis. This is not to mention the extremely low adaptive capacities of these people.

Business or people’s welfare?

Undoubtedly, the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change is largely a business proposal to attract capital into Africa, this time for some people to profiteer from the climate crisis. 

At least we know how such endeavours end: profit-making by the few rich and deprivation of the masses.

READ MORE: What is Magufuli’s Legacy on Conservation?

It is not difficult to tell where Africa falls in this equation. Worse is the likelihood of greenwashing, which can blemish the climate mitigation agenda, particularly carbon trading in Africa. This runs the risk of being used by big emitters to keep doing so. 

Moreover, where this capital comes from will largely drive the African climate agenda.

Therefore, African countries need to seriously consider how to come up with their source of capital by tapping on domestic natural and human resources to sustain climate crisis governance rather than relying on western-sourced capital and handouts.

This does not mean closing the door on the rich North but rather giving Africa an upper hand and one voice in global climate governance.

When Africa oversees its affairs, it will have the power to direct the resources where they are needed most: building Africa’s adaptive capacities and resilience and repairing losses and damages caused by climate calamities.

Dr Ronald B. Ndesanjo is a climate, environment and sustainability consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He is available at ronald.ndesanjo@gmail.com. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com for further inquiries.

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