Millions of dollars have been pledged to support African carbon credit initiatives.

A major initiative to significantly increase Africa’s carbon credit production by 19 times by 2030 received substantial financial commitments during the opening of Africa’s first climate summit, presided over by Kenyan President William Ruto.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made a substantial pledge by committing to purchase $450 million worth of carbon credits from the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI), which was launched at Egypt’s COP27 summit the previous year. African leaders are emphasizing market-based financing mechanisms like carbon credits to allow polluters to offset emissions by investing in initiatives like tree planting or renewable energy projects.

The summit’s organizers aim to portray Africa as an attractive destination for climate investments rather than just a region suffering from climate-related disasters like floods, droughts, and famine.

African governments view carbon credits and other market-based financing instruments as essential to mobilizing funds that have been slow to materialize from wealthier donors. According to a report from the non-profit Climate Policy Initiative, Africa has received only about 12% of the required funding to address climate impacts.

President Ruto emphasized the potential economic opportunities presented by green growth, not just as a climate imperative but as a source of multi-billion dollar economic prospects for Africa and the world.

Despite these commitments, several summit speakers expressed concerns about the pace of climate financing. Many investors still view the continent as too risky for investments in climate initiatives.

Kevin Kariuki, a vice president at the African Development Bank, welcomed the announced deals but noted that they fell short of filling the climate financing gap. He mentioned that African states would advocate for expanding special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund during COP28, which could unlock $500 billion in climate finance, leveraged up to five times.

Over 20 presidents and heads of government are expected to attend the summit, where they plan to issue a declaration outlining Africa’s stance ahead of a U.N. climate conference and COP28.

The UAE, an oil-producing nation, has been positioning itself as a climate financing leader in Africa, with its company Blue Carbon in discussions with Liberia and Tanzania for carbon credit trading related to natural resource conservation.

Despite these pledges, some African campaigners have protested against the summit’s approach to climate finance. They argue that carbon credits serve as a pretext for continued pollution by wealthier countries and corporations and advocate for direct compensation and debt relief as a means of addressing climate debt.

Sultan Al Jaber, president of COP28, acknowledged the importance of carbon markets in mobilizing the necessary funds to combat climate change but also recognized the challenges they face due to a lack of a commonly agreed standard, which diminishes their value.

A working paper from the Debt Relief for Green and Inclusive Recovery Project found that sub-Saharan African countries face annual debt servicing costs nearly equal to their climate finance needs.