A new initiative to boost carbon trade in Africa is being touted as a critical ingredient to foster the continent’s economic growth.
Launched November 8 at the ongoing climate talks in Charm El Sheikh, Egypt, the new Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) aims to grow the continent’s voluntary carbon markets with the aim to produce 300 million carbon credits; unlock $6 billion in revenue by 2030 and over $120 billion by 2050. In addition, it will support upwards of 30 million jobs by 2030 and over 110 million jobs by 2050.
The initiative was jointly launched by the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, Sustainable Energy for All, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, with backing from the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions.
Promoters say the initiative will bring the world together in an ambitious drive towards climate action and expand Africa’s voluntary participation in carbon markets.
In essence, participating governments will put caps on the maximum levels of emissions to incentivize firms to cut down on their carbon emissions.
Permits or allowances will then be created for each unit of emissions allowed under the cap.
Companies that emit beyond the allocated caps would then have to buy more units.
During the launch of the initiative, several African countries, including Nigeria, Kenya and Togo signalled their commitment to scaling voluntary carbon markets.
Nigeria’s vice President, Yemi Osinbajo said his country was committed to carbon credits because the sector would soon become a major industry that generates community resources.
“Nigeria is putting the groundwork in place now for future benefits,” he said.
“I take this opportunity to express Kenya’s strong interest in a strong partnership with the initiative, motivated by its desire to unleash the full potential of carbon markets as a means of supporting climate action across Africa,” said Kenyan President, William Ruto.
He cited the worsening drought in East Africa, expressing worries that it could become even more devastating should the current trends in global warming continue.
The region has witnessed the worst drought in 40 years. According to the United Nations, at least 50 million people in East Africa will face acute food insecurity this year.
Atsu Andre Agbogan, the Eastern Africa Regional Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) told Timescape Magazine that climate change and conflict are driving the crises.
“Prolonged drought and persistent instability leave people risking famine,” he said.
As of May 2022, East Africa counted 58.2 million people with insufficient food for consumption, according to official figures.
The US Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned that two out of every 10,000 inhabitants will die from hunger every day in the region. More than 250,000 people died across the region during the 2011-2012 famine, half of them children.
These grim statistics make the case for carbon trade even more compelling, with experts on the field believing it could unlock billions of dollars that would flow to communities.
But the civil society isn’t buying into that narrative. In Sharm El Sheikh, they have described it as “a false solution” to the problem of climate change.
Nigeria’s climate activist, Rita Uwaka accuses oil companies of driving false solutions at the COP.
“The so many corporations taking over the climate space are hijacking and manipulating the negotiation process and we feel that these criminals fueling climate crises need to be kicked out,” she told Timescape Magazine.
“It’s high time that there is sanity in COP. And the only way we can get sanity and justice is to make sure that these polluters pay but also be kicked out of the climate negotiations.”
She said the idea of carbon markets was ill-advised because it fails to address the problem from its roots.
“There are a lot of false solutions. Take carbon credits for instance. It means you have to keep polluting in the developed countries, and then you come to Africa to plant trees to absorb the carbon, but you are not stopping pollution at the source. That is a false solution, and we reject it,” she told Timescape Magazine.
She complained that agro-commodities companies “are in the negotiation space; they are fueling a lot of land grabs in Africa-taking over forests, cutting them down and replacing them with plantations. And this increase in deforestation is a result of agro commodities expansion. But here, they are putting it as a solution.”
“We don’t want false solutions,” she said, explaining that the right approach for Africa and other developing countries should be led by communities, where accessible and affordable renewable energy would be encouraged.
“We want solutions like agroecology where you put food production in the hands of the people. We want community forest management methods that put the management of our forests in the hands of communities.”
This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.