Climate change is the most important challenge facing future generations, but it is already a daily reality in East Africa despite the region bearing almost none of the historic responsibility for global emissions.
Over the past year alone, East Africa has seen drought in Somalia, landslides in Uganda, locust swarms destroying crops in Kenya and Ethiopia and floods across the region, including in Rwanda.
This is a critical year for collective action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In November, the UK will host the UN climate change conference COP26, in Glasgow with our partners, Italy. This will provide an opportunity for the world to come together and commit to urgent action.
As COP26 President the UK will bring expertise, influence and ambition to our partnerships with African nations, prioritising the most vulnerable to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, build resilience against climate disasters and drive clean growth while working collectively to keep within reach the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
We want to accelerate global progress to tackle these challenges.
In January, the UK and partners launched the Adaptation Action Coalition to accelerate global action on adaption and achieve a climate resilient world by 2030. The Coalition will drive practical action and share best practice – with an initial focus on health, infrastructure and water.
Last month we hosted a Climate and Development Ministerial, attended by Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, to identify urgent ways to increase financial support for countries most vulnerable to climate change.
The international community has previously committed to provide US$100 billion a year to help countries to tackle climate change. Ministers stressed the importance of meeting this commitment in the coming months and of making full use of important events to do so, such as the US Summit on 22 April, and G7 and G20 meetings.
We are working with partners to make it easier for countries to access climate finance to implement their adaptation plans. And we are urging the IMF and World Bank to provide more concessional finance for the most vulnerable countries.
The UK has already committed to doubling our International Climate Finance commitment to £11.6 billion and this includes spending at least 50% on adaptation activity and £3 billion for nature-based solutions. We are strongly urging other donor countries and multilateral development banks to increase their commitments in the lead up to COP26. We cannot afford to miss the $100 billion target.
East African countries are coming forward with ambitious plans for tackling climate change and the UK will continue to support their efforts through funding and technical assistance. We are building on successful experience, such as our £24.5 million commitment, which helped establish the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA).
Through this funding FONERWA have delivered projects that have built community resilience, supplied renewable energy to more than 57,500 households, supported new low-carbon technologies and facilitated nature-based solutions, creating more than 137,500 green jobs.
What’s more, FONERWA investments have resulted in emission reduction of an equivalence of 18,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
We are at a turning point for our planet.
The world has been struck by the greatest health crisis of our lifetimes, but working with African governments, institutions and civil society, together we can build back better from COVID-19 with a clean, resilient recovery.
To facilitate this shift in Africa, the UK supports the African Union Green Recovery Action Plan, which will galvanize efforts across Africa to support a green and resilient recovery. It will do so by focusing on five priority areas: mobilisation of climate finance, support for renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes, promotion of nature-based solutions, increasing resilient agriculture practices and the creation of green and resilient cities.
East Africa is a major player with the ability to contribute positively to the climate agenda on the continent and beyond. The region will have the opportunity to be centre stage for international action on climate change when the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) takes place in Kigali in June.
CHOGM is an opportunity to demonstrate the shared commitment of the Commonwealth to protect our planet and highlight the need to do more in the lead up to the critically important COP26 conference at the end of the year. Tackling climate change matters not just to millions of people in East Africa, but to billions of people around the world.
This is not a problem that can be solved overnight. But if we act with urgency, ambition and in a spirit of inclusion, we can do it. The UK is committed to working with Rwanda and all East African countries to implement their plans to tackle climate change and protect lives and livelihoods for generations to come.
The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on. 1 – 12 November 2021. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Sir Nicholas Kay is UK’s COP26 Regional Ambassador for Africa.