U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry pledged support for Africa's efforts to deal with the impact of climate change during a speech Thursday at a conference in Senegal. The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment brings together more than 50 ministers from across the continent to coordinate the fight against climate change.
Throughout his roughly 20-minute speech Kerry reiterated the importance of partnerships in the battle against the climate crisis. He said the private sector, civil society organizations, governments and indigenous groups must come together.
Kerry noted the devastating impacts of climate change in Africa, which is home to 17 of the world’s 20 most climate-vulnerable countries. He also noted the discrepancy between developed and developing nations — 20 countries, including the U.S., are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s emissions, compared to 48 of sub-Saharan African countries, which are responsible for just 0.55 percent.
“And is there a disparity in that? Yes, there is. Is there an unfairness built into that? Yes, there is,” Kerry said. “Mother Nature does not measure where the emissions come from. They don't have a label of one country or another on them. And it's important for all of us to now come together to figure out how we're going to compensate for that and deal with it.”
Kerry said the United States is committed to helping more than a half billion people in developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change this decade through initiatives that improve water storage capacity and climate-resilient agriculture and infrastructure.
The conference is taking place in the wake of major flooding and drought across the continent, which have aggravated food insecurity, damaged vital infrastructure and cost fragile economies billions of dollars.
Collins Nzovu, minister of green economy and environment in Zambia, said he’s thrilled the U.S. is back in the game of fighting the climate crisis after a four-year lapse.
“America's leadership is required at this critical time,” he said. “I think we want to urge America to come on board and come on board in a big way. The fact that John Kerry has been going around the world, preaching to everybody about the negative effects of climate change, and also marshaling support, particularly for African states and particularly for my country Zambia, I think is commendable.”
Kerry is on a two-nation tour of West Africa. He began his visit Monday in Nigeria, where he met with top government officials, including President Muhammadu Buhari, and pledged to support the country’s efforts to transition to green energy.
Leila Benali is the minister of energy transition and sustainable development for Morocco and the president of the U.N. Environment Assembly. She said she appreciated Kerry’s recognition of the unfair burden African countries carry when it comes to the impact of climate change.
“But I think the most important point that he mentioned was this issue of mobilizing co-financing from multilateral development banks, public and private sources, and putting that in front of bankable projects,” she said.
Benali said trillions of dollars are needed to help countries deal with biodiversity loss, drought and other impacts of the climate crisis.
Kerry said the U.S. would announce further commitments at a climate conference in Egypt in November.