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8th Dec 2021

Kenyan activist lambasts world leaders at EU green summit

  • "I want to make it simple: our responsibility as adults is to make sure our childer are fed," Wahuti told financial leaders.
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"COP26 is coming up - that is 26 years of talking, talking, talking," Elizabeth Wahuti, climate activist and founder of the Kenyan NGO Green Generation Initiative, said at Thursday's (October 7) EU summit on sustainable finance.

Not enough has been done, and countries, especially in Africa, are running out of time.

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  • "Let us help Europe solve its lack of access to energy. We need jobs; you need energy. So let’s develop a common approach," ambassador Sacko said.

She implored wealthy countries to make good on their promise to invest at least €100bn annually to help poorer countries transition to a green economy.

"I want to make it simple: our responsibility as adults is to make sure our childer are fed," she told a panel of world leaders.

She then reminded everyone that 260,000 people, most of them children, died of a famine in Somalia not so many years ago.

"Climate change now threatens millions of farmers because of worsening droughts", she added. Kenya has experienced failed harvests in recent years.

"We are going into our fourth failed rain season in a row," she told top government officials and financial leaders.

With the UN Climate Conference (COP26) taking place in a month, the goal of 'the first EU annual Summit for Sustainable finance' was to offer a forum to create common ground between the multiple investment plans countries are currently developing.

Billionaires Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and Dutch Queen Maxima shared their vision for a financed global climate push.

Europe's green-deal chief Frans Timmermans and John Kerry, US special envoy for climate change, and top representatives from China and the African Union also discussed their plans for a green economy.

In a panel introduced by EU commissioner Valdis Dombrovkis, the question was asked how the EU's sustainable taxonomy, and €1 trillion 'green deal' investment plan, might also become a model for Africa.

Climate change ambassador and African Union (AU) commissioner for rural economy and agriculture Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko said while African nations supported the Green Deal, most African leaders "don't have much knowledge of the plan and don't understand what the advantage is for their country."

"So you will have to explain it better," she said, in a panel also attended by the European Central Bank's green chief Frank Elderson, the director of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, and capital markets commissioner Mairead McGuiness.

"We have asked in the past to include Africa in the negotiations and to give us more input, but this has not happened," Sacko said.

"Let us help Europe solve its lack of access to energy. We need jobs; you need energy. So let's develop a common approach," she added.

Different problems, different approach

Sacko also explained Africa needs different investments than Europe.

While the EU is investing heavily in mitigating climate change, African countries spend their money to adapt to the effects of climate change that are already there.

Sacko explained it is essential that the AU is included in European investment plans to make sure the money is invested where it is needed.

Italian minister for ecological transition Roberto Cingolani addressed the elephant in the room - that wealthier countries have not made good on a 20-year-old promise to invest €100bn a year to help poorer countries catch up economically.

"How can we think of a climate change resolution if we don't fix inequality?", he said.

"And even €100bn is nothing," he said, indicating that the governments are not solely responsible for the climate solution.

"This money needs to attract private investment worth up to one €1 trillion just to help cover global inequality," he said.

Responding to the question of what needed to be done, Wahuti said we first must "acknowledge the loss of the natural world that has already taken place, and then we must invest everything we have in restoring it."

"I will ask you: what will you do?", she then said, pointing the finger at the government representatives. "What will you do about it?", she said.

Laying bare a diversity of viewpoints, Yi Gang, governor of the People's Bank of China, responded by saying that "officials had worked hard to strengthen the green taxonomy," which will "mobilise private capital and provide a targeted market based and transparent tool for low-cost funds."

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