Speech by President von der Leyen at the Africa Climate Summit

Thank you very much, dear President Ruto, for hosting this Africa Climate Summit and thank you very much for your leadership on climate action ever since you took office. I very much welcome Kenya’s ‘Climate Change Act 2023′ that was launched during this Summit and that puts strong emphasis on carbon markets. We fully support you on this important topic.

I am deeply honoured to participate in this discussion. This Summit is a crucial step to prepare the upcoming COP28 meeting and to make sure that Africa’s voice resonates around the world and that Africa’s priorities – as a continent that is most affected by climate change – are duly taken on board. Today I am here not only to listen to you but also to bring Europe’s offer to be your ally at COP28, and to work together on all issues on the agenda. Because however different our two continents may look, we share the same interests when it comes to climate action.

We hear you, President Ruto and dear friends, when you say that Africa’s first priority is to grow your economy, yes, and lift as many people as possible out of poverty. Climate action is part of the solution. You are part of the solution: With your huge potential for renewable energy and clean hydrogen, your critical raw materials, your incredible nature and biodiversity, and your young workforce, you can help clean up global energy systems and supply chains, while creating good jobs here and economic opportunities that your people demand rightly so. This is a win-win partnership which benefits Africa and the world. For instance, the benefits of expanding Africa’s clean energy sector would be massive. By speeding up the transition to solar and wind power, energy sector jobs in Africa could double in a few years. And Africa could produce enough clean energy not only to power up your continent but also to export abroad. Climate action can be one of the main drivers of Africa’s growth.

But for this, Africa needs massive investment. And Europe wants to be your partner in closing this investment gap. First of all, we fully support the need for multilateral development bank reform. It is time to move from words to action – absolutely. Secondly, investment has to come. This is why EUR 150 billion in our investment plan are designated for Africa, we call it Global Gateway. These EUR 150 billion are aimed at the African continent. Global Gateway supports investments ranging from hydropower plants in the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, to the EUR 1 billion Initiative on Climate Adaptation and Resilience in Africa, which we announced at COP27.

And Global Gateway is unique in the global investment landscape. We are not only interested in extracting resources. We want to partner with you to create local value chains, to create good jobs here in Africa. We want to share European technology with you. We want to invest in skills for local workers. This is crucial for the young people. Because the stronger you are as suppliers, the more Europe will diversify supply chains towards Africa, and the more we will both de-risk our economies. It is a clear win-win. Namibia, for instance, is now building a new hydrogen industry, as well as a raw materials value chains, in partnership with Europe. And later this morning, President Ruto and I will conclude a new Hydrogen Partnership between Kenya and the European Union with the objective to further develop the green hydrogen economy, and with the full support of Team Europe. This is good news for Africa and for Europe alike. So we should work very closely as partners.

Yet public money from major economies, however crucial, is not enough. This is why we need to bring the conversation on climate financing to the global stage, at COP28. Let me briefly share three specific points that will be discussed here in Nairobi to pave the way towards COP28.

First, on attracting private investment to Africa. Second, on carbon pricing and carbon credits. And third, on setting global targets for the energy transition. On the first point: the green transition will require an unprecedented scale of private investment. Public finance will not suffice. This is true for Europe, but this is also true for emerging markets and developing economies. Private capital will need to be mobilised at scale. And here, green bonds are widely recognised as providing part of the solution.

This is why we just put forward a new proposal to attract private investment. It is called the Global Green Bond Initiative. We know that emerging economies can face hurdles to access capital markets. But we can change that together. Europe has the biggest and most advanced green bond market in the world. We are ready to share our expertise with your teams on how to develop your own green bond markets. And at the same time, we will push on the investors’ side. Together with the European Investment Bank and our Member States, we are allocating EUR 1 billion to de-risk private investments in emerging markets. This could help attract up to EUR 20 billion in sustainable investment. So let us work together on that to build and grow Africa’s green bond markets. And let us bring together this crucial point to COP28.

There is another solution that would unlock huge resources for climate action in Africa. That is carbon pricing and true carbon credits – and this is my second point. I believe – as you do, President Ruto – that setting a price on carbon emissions is one of the most efficient and one of the most effective tools in our hands. Because it fosters innovation by the private sector – that is crucial. Because it makes heavy polluters pay a fair price – that is necessary. And because it creates revenues that can support the clean transition in developing countries – that is what we need. And this also means including the carbon sinks that have been mentioned – and you are rich in carbon sinks here – and to reward this contribution. We have to get there. So, let us work together to bring a proposal for global carbon pricing and true carbon credits at COP28.

Finally, on global energy goals. If we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we have to speed up the global energy transition. That means, if we want to match our goals, we need to triple renewable energy capacity and we need to double energy efficiency by 2030. This sounds bold, but this is doable. If we step up global investment in renewables, this would make clean energy more affordable for all countries, including here in Africa. This is why COP28 President, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, and I champion an initiative for global targets for the energy transition to be achieved collectively. Because only what gets measured gets done. So, the global goals will provide a benchmark to track progress and attract even more private investment. So I look forward to working with you on this and much more. I hope that Africa and Europe will join forces to reach a global agreement at COP28.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These three proposals may look bold. They may look impossible to achieve. But in the beautiful words of Nelson Mandela: ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’. We have a huge responsibility to fight climate change for the good of our children, for the good of our grandchildren. And I wrote down these beautiful words of the African youth today: ‘Our countries are burning and drowning. As you are not here to save us, we have to trust you now.’ So my friends, let us reward the trust of these young people and show responsibility. Let us join forces for COP28.

Many thanks. I feel so honoured for being invited.