Collaborate for the Climate
Taking the pulse of climate action in the region, key stakeholders gather in Gabon for Africa Climate Week 2022 to collaborate on a sustainable future
Writer: Jack Salter
On the west coast of Central Africa, Gabon is where forest, ocean and equator meet.
Tropical forests cover a staggering 88 percent of the country, making it the second-most forested nation on Earth, and form part of the great Congo Basin rainforest.
Blessed with some of the planet’s most biodiverse fauna and flora, as well as important natural resources, Gabon not only plays a vital role in the preservation of Africa’s largest rainforest, second only in size to the Amazon rainforest, but it is also a key ecological player in the global fight against climate change.
Indeed, thanks to these vast forests, Gabon is one of very few countries in the world to absorb more carbon (over 100 million tonnes per year) than it emits, and last year became the first country in Africa to receive payments for reducing carbon emissions by protecting its forests.
With a robust, science-based approach to forest management, Gabon is leading the way in maintaining its status as a High Forest, Low Deforestation (HFLD) country, and reducing its CO2 emissions even further despite historically low rates of deforestation and forest degradation.
Gabon has also published its second Nationally Determined Contribution, committing to carbon neutrality up to 2050 and beyond, and has passed legislation to pave the way for the country to trade in carbon credits.
All things considered, Gabon was therefore the natural choice to host the 2022 edition of Africa Climate Week (ACW), held from 29th August – 2nd September in the country’s capital and largest city, Libreville.
Climate change action
The transition towards a green economy is a priority for Africa, despite the fact it contributes less than four percent of the world’s energy-related emissions.
Yet, in what can only be described as a climate injustice, the lives of African people are under serious threat as a result of climate change, with biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, and loss of life an increasingly devastating reality on the continent.
Likewise, droughts induced by climate change coupled with the cost-of-living crisis have left millions of people in regions such as the Horn of Africa to contend with hunger and famine.
Despite Africa contributing the least to the climate emergency, ACW 2022 was an important moment for climate action that showcased the continent’s contributions to the global movement, and highlighted its immense potential for enacting change.
ACW 2022 provided a platform that engaged and empowered more than 1,000 key stakeholders, from governments and private sector leaders to financial institutions and civil society, to drive climate change action across countries, communities, and economies.
It was organised by UNFCCC, the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change, in collaboration with the UN Development Programme, UN Environment Programme, World Bank Group, as well as regional partners including the Africa Union, African Development Bank (AfDB), and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
The event was kicked off by African ministers, who convened to explore and discuss the shared threats and opportunities associated with climate change, such as resilience against climate risks, the transition to a low-emission economy, and partnerships to solve pressing challenges.
With the window to take decisive action closing, a key objective of ACW 2022 was to slow the fast-hitting effects of climate change, by quickly rolling out innovative solutions and forging strengthened partnerships.
ACW 2022 marked a crucial step on the road to COP27, coming just a couple of months before Africa hosts this November’s United Nations climate change conference in Egypt.
The event was an important milestone, mobilising all actors on the continent around the climate agenda ahead of the so-called “Africa COP” in Sharm el-Sheikh.
COP27 will significantly shape the future, and as one of the last major climate events before the conference, ACW 2022 provided the opportunity for stakeholders to work on innovative, concrete and sustainable solutions, giving all African nations the means to successfully combat climate change.
Regional Climate Weeks (RCWs) such as ACW are now recognised and strongly endorsed in the Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed at last year’s COP26 conference in Scotland, as a stage for governments and stakeholders to strengthen credible and durable responses to climate change.
Regional collaboration has emerged as a driver of global progress, with the likes of ACW opening opportunities and acting as a catalyst to advance climate action, address social inequality, and invest in development that is good for both people and planet.
ACW 2022 is the third instalment of this year’s RCW series, following the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Climate Weeks in Dubai and the Dominican Republic respectively, and marked a return to in-person RCWs in the region following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bringing together a diverse range of public and private sector stakeholders, the primary aim of this year’s RCWs is simple: address climate change.