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Africa’s green trade opportunities: policy insights for aligning trade and climate action

Written by Ambassador Amina Mohamed

Image credit:A woman picks flowers for export from a flower farm greenhouse in Naivasha, Kenya. Shutterstock/Miaron Billy

The Africa Climate Summit was a significant event that brought together policymakers, businesses, civil society, and experts to discuss the intersection of trade and climate action.

The importance of addressing climate change challenges in Africa underscores the need for inclusive and sustainable trade policies. Trade negotiations and investment have the potential to support social development by creating jobs, reducing poverty, and promoting sustainable livelihoods.

To achieve sustainable trade outcomes, policymakers, businesses, civil society, scholars, and experts need to collaborate effectively. This includes the need for dialogue and knowledge exchange amongst stakeholders. The Trade Negotiations and Investment Forum (TNIF) focuses on, by acting as a catalyst for exchange, learning, and collaboration on matters relating to trade, investment, and negotiations. By bringing together policymakers, businesses, civil society, scholars, and experts, TNIF aims to contribute to a more informed and fruitful discussion on trade negotiations and investment. It seeks to foster a deeper understanding of trade and investment issues; translating policy recommendations into actions that benefit all parties involved.

Africa faces the brunt of climate change effects while contributing the least to global greenhouse emissions. With a youthful and growing population, the continent faces the dual challenge of economic development and environmental sustainability. The Nairobi Declaration, following the Africa Climate Summit, emphasizes that Africa can industrialize and be part of the solution to the climate emergency by leveraging its vast resources and existing low carbon footprint.

While Africa possesses the potential for green trade, there are challenges to overcome. A lack of compliance infrastructure should not penalize African exports. There is a need for greater recognition of Africa's efforts and investments in renewable energy. Additionally, the need for the right international architecture and support measures is crucial to ensure a fair and just transition.

This year's COP28 includes the first Trade Day which is indicative of the growing focus on aligning trade and climate action. The discussions held will shape the global landscape of trade and investment in the coming years. It is essential to address pressing issues, such as the negative impacts of the transition to net-zero on African producers and workers. Efforts must be made to transform this "green squeeze" into seizing new green trade opportunities.

To achieve a successful global green transition, it is crucial to establish a balance between climate, trade, and finance. We need smarter trade policies that link the dots and ensure the participation of poorer producers in global markets. Adequate climate finance commitments are necessary to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts of developing countries.

It is also important to make sure that the financial burden is not borne by one part of the world - all countries are being equated. What has caused the climate crisis is unrelated to Africa’s pursuit of its developmental needs. Countries must keep in mind that green growth is not just an environmental imperative but also the next economic frontier providing multibillion-dollar economic opportunities that all countries, in unison, can capitalise on.

By leveraging Africa's resources and low carbon footprint, there is immense potential for the continent to lead in sustainable development. COP28’s focus on technology and energy supply presents an important opportunity to achieve outcomes that benefit Africa and the global community as a whole.