01 October 2023

The African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action: A Legal Analysis


The inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS) held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4th to 6th September 2023, witnessed the adoption of a landmark document – “The African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action.” This article aims to provide a comprehensive legal analysis of the declaration, examining its context, key provisions, implications, and the potential impact on climate governance in Africa and the world.

Context and Background

The preamble of the Nairobi Declaration sets the stage by outlining the historical, scientific, and socio-economic context of the African leaders’ call to action on climate change. It references key decisions of the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report. These references underscore the urgency and necessity of the declaration, given the dire climate challenges facing the continent of Africa. It further underscores the essence of commitment to make Africa a safer continent in the context of climate change matters.

Key Provisions

Recognition of African Vulnerability

The preamble underscores Africa’s vulnerability to climate change, highlighting the disproportionate burden and risks African countries face due to unpredictable weather events as well as irregular weather patterns. It acknowledges that Africa is warming faster than the rest of the world, and unabated climate change could have severe adverse impacts on African economies and societies than most of the other parts of the world.

Commitment to Global Climate Goals

The Nairobi Declaration reaffirms Africa’s commitment to global climate goals, including the principles of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities, and respective capabilities enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. This commitment emphasizes Africa’s role in contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

Green Growth and Inclusive Economies

The declaration outlines a commitment to attract local, regional, and global investments in green growth and inclusive economies. It highlights the importance of fostering green production, renewable energy generation, sustainable agriculture, and nature conservation. These initiatives aim to propel Africa’s economic growth while limiting emissions.

Regional Collaboration

The declaration emphasizes the significance of continental collaboration, including regional grid interconnectivity and the operationalization of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). These measures are critical for advancing green growth and facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Adaptation and Resilience

The document underscores the need to prioritize adaptation and resilience in development policymaking and planning. It also advocates for the development of early warning systems, embracing indigenous knowledge, and supporting smallholder farmers and indigenous communities in climate adaptation efforts.

Mobilizing Capital for Climate Action and Development

The Nairobi Declaration calls for collective global action to mobilize capital for both climate action and development, addressing the dual challenge of climate change and development aspirations. It advocates for innovative solutions to debt management, revenue collection, and the reduction of the cost of capital for investment in Africa.

Renewable Energy and Industrialization

The declaration sets ambitious targets for increasing Africa’s renewable energy generation capacity and encourages shifting energy-intensive industries to the continent. It also calls for trade mechanisms that promote fair competition and measures to decarbonize the transport, industrial, and electricity sectors.

Global Tax Regime for Climate Finance

In a significant proposal, the declaration suggests the establishment of a global tax regime to finance climate action, including financial transactions taxes and emission levies. This proposal aims to crowd in and de-risk private capital for climate projects.

Implications and Impact

Legal Commitment and Accountability

The Nairobi Declaration represents a legal commitment by African leaders to address climate change and achieve sustainable development. It outlines specific policy measures, targets, and expectations that signatory states must work toward, reinforcing accountability.

Global Climate Diplomacy

The declaration aligns Africa’s common position on climate change for international negotiations, notably for COP 28 and beyond. It enhances Africa’s role in global climate diplomacy, emphasizing the continent’s unique vulnerabilities and contributions.

Investment and Economic Transformation

By promoting green growth and renewable energy, the declaration aims to attract investments that can transform Africa’s economy. It encourages a shift toward sustainable industries and infrastructure, potentially catalyzing economic development.

Debt Relief and Global Taxation

The proposal for debt relief and a global tax regime reflects Africa’s call for a fair and equitable distribution of the financial burden of climate action. These measures could alleviate fiscal constraints and mobilize resources for climate and development projects.


“The African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action” is a pivotal legal document that reflects Africa’s determination to address climate change while advancing its development goals. It not only sets forth a comprehensive framework but also emphasizes the urgent need for global cooperation and financial support to achieve these objectives. The declaration holds the potential to influence climate governance and economic transformation in Africa and contribute significantly to global efforts to combat Climate Change.

Authored by:

Joshua Kimani ACIArb

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