Presidents of Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria have skipped an African climate summit which was held in Kenya. As 14 African presidents appeared at the KICC in Nairobi on September 4, 2023 for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS), Presidents Yoweri Museveni, Cyril Ramaphosa and Bola Tinubu were absent. According to three senior Kenyan foreign ministry officials, Uganda’s Museveni wrote to Kenya declining his invitation. He stated categorically that he could not sit and be lectured by United States climate envoy, John Kerry, who hails from a Global North country among the world’s biggest polluters.
In the last few years, there has been an increase in the focus on global warming and the climate crisis. According to the United Nations, global warming impacts everyone’s food and water security. The global agency states that climate change is a direct cause of soil degradation, which limits the amount of carbon the earth is able to contain. As a result, some 500 million people today live in areas affected by erosion, while up to 30 percent of food is lost or wasted.
Developed nations are the most polluters in the world.
Not all countries are equally responsible for the climate crisis. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), more than 30 gigatons of CO2 are released into the Earth’s atmosphere every year. This is the main source of greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. Most of these gasses come from the use of fossil fuels, non-renewable energy production and polluting human activities. The top ten polluters in the world have been recorded to be countries in North America, Europe and Asia.
China accounts for 10,065 billion metric tons (Mt) of CO2, the United States for 5,416 Mt, India for 2,654 Mt, Russia for 1,711 Mt, Japan for 1,162 Mt, Germany for 759 Mt, Iran for 720 Mt, South Korea for 659 Mt, Saudi Arabia for 621 Mt, and Indonesia for 615 Mt. On the other hand, the entire African continent accounts for only four percent of global carbon emissions despite being the continent suffering the most devastating effects of the climate crisis.
Museveni says being lectured by polluters very disrespectful.
According to the 1992 Rio Declaration, now known as the polluter pays principle, those who cause pollution should bear the costs of dealing with it to prevent damage to human health or the environment. The world agreed that the biggest polluters must take action to reduce their carbon emissions, but also to offset their carbon footprints by supporting environmental projects around the world. So, Museveni said that it was “very disrespectful” to sit in a room and be lectured on climate change by the very people who have plunged Africa and the global south into this devastating crisis.
Also, Ugandan president was also unwilling to engage and associate with a leader from the US, given that America protested and “punished” Uganda after he signed an anti-LGBTQ bill into law. The bill is considered the harshest in the world as it allows for the death penalty for homosexual acts. The law elicited an official statement from US President Joe Biden, who described it as a tragic violation of universal human rights – one that is unworthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects for critical economic growth for the entire country. In his letter declining to attend the ACS, President Museveni made it clear that Africa is not a slave to anyone and reserves the right to conduct its own affairs as it sees fit.
South Africa and Nigeria also reveal reasons for pulling out of the ACS.
Meanwhile, South Africa also formally withdrew because the government is protesting against pressure from some European partners to abandon coal and opt for renewables. Yet, 80 percent of energy in South Africa comes from coal. A Kenyan official said, “They simply did not want to be lectured to and be in the same room with European partners from the West who are the world leaders in pollution but who are planning to impose levies on certain carbon-intensive imports from South Africa at a time when they are struggling with load shedding.” Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, also wrote to Kenya, saying it did not want to come to the summit and become a bystander to be lectured by the worst emitters.