Drone photo of a biomass plot photographed on June 10, 2023 in the Mucheni conservancy in Binga, Zimbabwe. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP via Getty Images

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An initiative at Africa’s first climate summit to boost production of the continent’s carbon credit program by nearly 20 times by 2030 brought pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) investors pledged to purchase $450 million worth of Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) credits. ACMI was launched at COP27 in Egypt last year.

“We must see in green growth, not just a climate imperative but also a fountain of multi-billion dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the world is primed to capitalise,” said President of Kenya William Ruto, as Reuters reported.

Market-based financing mechanisms like carbon offsets are being encouraged by leaders in Africa. Carbon credits can be created by projects in developing countries that help keep emissions in check like transitioning to green energy or tree planting. The “credits” are then purchased by companies to help them meet their climate goals. One credit equals one ton of carbon dioxide saved.

Environmental groups denounced the focus on carbon credits at the Africa Climate Summit (ACS) in Nairobi, Kenya, which was attended by almost 25,000 delegates and more than 30 heads of state.

“[I]t is regrettable that the Africa Climate Summit is becoming a bazaar for carbon credit speculators and propagandists that serve to greenwash rather than reduce harmful emissions,” said Thandile Chinyavanhu, Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner, as Climate Home News reported. “They are risky diversions from real climate and biodiversity action that requires ending fossil fuel expansion and industrial destruction of our ecosystems.”

Governments in Africa view carbon credits and the like as essential ways to obtain hard-to-come-by funding from wealthy donors, reported Reuters.

“There hasn’t been any success for an African country in attracting climate finance,” said Bogolo Kenewendo, a United Nations climate adviser, as Reuters reported.

In 2021, the carbon offset market was worth about $2 billion and has been projected to climb to from $10 to $40 billion by 2030.

In addition to the $450 million from the UAE Carbon Alliance, an investment pledge of $200 million for ACMI credit projects was made by Climate Asset Management, a partnership between climate change advisory and investment firm Pollination and HSBC Asset Management.

Britain also planned to announce $62 million in UK-backed projects, and a $64 million debt swap was announced by Germany with Kenya that would make money available for renewables.

African Development Bank Vice President Kevin Kariuki told Reuters that African countries would advocate for the expansion of International Monetary Fund special drawing rights at COP28 in Dubai later this year. The drawing rights could make $500 billion in climate financing available, which could also be leveraged as many as five times.

“The private sector really remains an untapped opportunity that now must be seized,” said Commonwealth of Nations Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, as reported by Reuters.

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