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Africa Climate Summit: Leaders leave 650 million children in limbo

Leaders must also work harder to push high-income countries and historical emitters to honour their financial commitments and allocate adequate funding to support communities across Africa

Leaders across Africa must do more to secure the futures of 650 million children across the continent, Save the Children said following the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi.

Children attended the summit to make their voices heard, and yet this has not been reflected in the African leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change, which is meant to serve as a basis for Africa’s common position at the COP28 global climate summit in the UAE later this year.

Save the Children said that leaders had failed to adequately ensure the unique needs and priorities of children are reflected in decisions around sustainable development, climate financing, and loss and damage.

Leaders must also work harder to push high-income countries and historical emitters to honour their financial commitments and allocate adequate funding to support communities across Africa, a continent that contributes the smallest share of greenhouse gas emissions of all the world’s regions.

A report from Save the Children earlier this week found that the total number of children across sub-Saharan Africa who were displaced within their home countries due to climate shocks nearly doubled last year from the year before, highlighting the increasingly severe conditions children and families are facing across the continent.

Ahmed*, 17, travelled from Garissa County in Kenya, to the summit in Nairobi, with the support of Save the Children. The county is among those greatly affected by the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in four decades. Last year Ahmed*and his family had to leave their home as all their livestock died.

He said: “A child has a right to be secure, a right to be educated and the right to be taught their rights but a lot of children do not have access to education and other areas because their parents do not have money because livestock have died. We are still suffering due to climate change, still suffering due to lack of resources and lack of money.”

Yvonne Arunga, Save the Children country director in Kenya said: “While it is commendable that the Summit provided space for children to participate and also present their declaration to leaders, tackling the climate crisis requires bold policy decisions. Making them is not a choice, it is a necessity and governments have particular obligations to act under the international human and child rights frameworks. Children such as Ahmed – who are living the reality of the climate crisis on a daily basis – are calling on governments to rise to the challenge.”

Kijala Shako, Head of Advocacy, Communications, Campaigns and Media for Save the Children’s East and Southern Africa Regional Office, said:

“The African Climate Summit missed a significant opportunity to adopt and implement national policies that address the climate crisis and its impacts including food insecurity, climate-induced conflicts, displacement and loss of lives across Africa – in turn pushing stable, healthy futures further out of reach for the 650 million children across the continent.

“It is disappointing that African governments did not prioritise wealth redistribution policies by taxing wealthier companies and members of society further to support and invest in children most affected by inequality and discrimination and who are at the sharp end of the impacts of the climate crisis. We also need to see children centred in decisions around issues such as climate financing.”

A recent report by Save the Children and other organisations found that just 2.4% of key global financing funds can be classified as supporting child-responsive activities.

Vishna Shah, Director of Advocacy, Communications, Campaigns and Media for Save the Children’s West and Central Africa Regional Office, said:

“It is crucial for such a gathering to prioritize child-responsive climate financing and enhance support for children, including through the reinforcement of social protection systems. By failing to seize this chance, we run the risk of further exacerbating the challenges faced by children and communities disproportionately affected by climate change.

“We urge African governments to recognize all children as key agents of change in addressing the climate crisis.”

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