African leaders show strength of subnational governments at international Climate Chance Summit in Accra

The annual Climate Chance Summit in Accra, Ghana brought together thousands of subnational actors to discuss innovative ways to tackle climate change and create thriving, sustainable cities on the African continent. The event showcased and encouraged local government climate action on the ground and financing mechanisms to support these efforts.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that 47% of Africa’s GDP is at risk from climate change by 2023. The continent is also under threat that severe weather events such as droughts and floods worsening extreme poverty and violent conflict will increase significantly.

The Climate Chance Summit emphasized local governments’ role in driving climate action. The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo opened the event with this sentiment. “We need to take proactive steps to curb human activities endangering the planet. Climate change presents us a global challenge, but cities offer us the solutions,” he said.

Other ministers agreed. Ghana’s Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama, said during the Summit that the next time Ghana develops its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to fight climate change, the process should start at the local level before moving to the national level.

The local government representatives present at the conference and those who followed it were able to benefit from the insights shared on how climate change can be tackled, for example, by improved communications with national governments and with tools for unlocking finance for climate change.

African cities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Two out of every three cities in Sub-Saharan Africa are considered to be “at extreme risk” of the impacts of climate change, which threaten vital local infrastructure and systems.

Over two thousand stakeholders attended the Summit from a variety of sectors, including government, business, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, farmers, women and youth organizations, as well as researchers.

“Stakeholder engagement is a prerequisite to ensure that we meet our objectives together. All sectors of society are important and critical to the fight against climate change,” said Mohammed Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra.

Capacity building for African cities

The Climate Chance Summit enabled local leaders to access networks that will enhance their knowledge and capacity to drive climate change projects that can change the lives of their people.

Organizations like ICLEI and initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA) advocate for the importance of local climate change action and create the connections that build the necessary capacity to deliver this action.

“I was unaware of the full extent of the impacts of climate change before ICLEI. Through our association, we have seen that it is critical to build passion within the local network of people that can work hand-in-hand with the community to mitigate the climate challenge,” said Mayor Vincent de Paul Kayanja of Entebbe in Uganda.

CoM SSA is driving a continental movement of local level champions driving climate change action via the development of Sustainable Energy Access and Climate Action Plans (SEACAPs), supporting local governments in accessing climate finance, and enabling city-to-city learning.

Grappling with how climate finance can flow to Africa

A key focus of the summit was to mobilize climate finance for African cities. Currently, only three percent of global climate finance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa, despite the fact that large portions of its population are extremely vulnerable to climate change. African countries will need some $3 trillion by 2030 to implement national climate actions committed to under the Paris Agreement, with current funding levels far below this goal.

“We know that innovative and context specific ideas that can enable a step change towards sustainability exist on the continent. Where our city stakeholders need support is in translating these ideas into bankable projects that will attract finance at scale,” said Dr. Meggan Spires from ICLEI Africa during one of the finance-focused sessions.

Through the Transformative Action Program (TAP) and support of the CoM SSA, ICLEI is building the capacity of cities to understand the finance landscape, prepare robust climate and energy projects and partner with funders and financiers to implement them.

At the closing plenary of the Summit, ICLEI’s Tara Caetano announced that ICLEI Africa will open an office in West Africa to better serve the region.

10 African cities commit to become CitiesWithNature

A delegation of eight ICLEI Africa staff members presented and facilitated more than 20 sessions over the three days, with topics ranging beyond climate finance to include water, green buildings, circular economy and gender. International awareness about nature’s role in combating climate change is at an all-time high.

“We need to revolutionize the way we plan our cities. We need to bring in our youth and empower city officials, building their confidence to innovate. We cannot have sustainable African cities that will take us into the future without nature,” said ICLEI Africa’s Timothy Blatch in a session on mainstreaming nature in cities.

No fewer than 10 African cities committed to valuing nature in their cities by signing up to CitiesWithNature during Climate Chance. CitiesWithNature is a partnership initiative between ICLEI, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Cities and regions that sign up to CitiesWithNature commit to conserving and restoring nature to build thriving communities, and showcase their work to a growing global audience. Cities around the world are invited to join this initiative, which has been endorsed by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) as the official vehicle through which cities and subnational governments can report on their biodiversity commitments and ambitions towards the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.