SOAS University of London

SOAS hosts inaugural Climate Summit in partnership with Standard Bank

6 October 2021

Earlier this week SOAS hosted its inaugural Climate Summit in partnership with Standard Bank. The two-day summit took place under the important and topical theme of Africa’s transition to net-zero.

As Africa’s largest banking group by assets, Standard Bank is committed to driving sustainable and inclusive growth across the continent, additionally, Standard Bank is driven by the belief that the financial services sector should play its part in addressing what is arguably the greatest challenge facing our generation.

“We want to do the right thing for our communities, for our continent, and for the generations to come. An important part of doing the right thing, we think, is listening to and learning from experts such as yourselves,” said Standard Bank Group CEO, Sim Tshabalala in his welcoming remarks.

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Barbara Creecy, delivered the opening keynote address in which she emphasized the urgency of the now and reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to realising a low-carbon economy and a climate resilient society by 2050.

“In recognising the magnitude of the climate crisis we face, it is important to note that government does not have all the answers and it is imperative for us to recognise that we all have a role to play in addressing the challenges we face and implementing the solutions and opportunities posed. Government, business and civil society need to come together in partnership and collaboration to jointly address climate change,” said Creecy.

Platforms such as this are vital in bringing role players together in an atmosphere of collective engagement and learning. It’s a timely conversation, informed by a world that is rapidly changing around us and Africa must not be left behind.

While Africa’s contribution to global emissions is marginal (3%), the continent is set to be disproportionately affected by climate change. Africa has no choice but to join the global drive toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions, however this action must be considered within the context of Africa’s just transition toward a low-carbon economy.

This includes facilitating a just transition for the communities and individual workers who currently depend on coal and other fossil fuels for their livelihoods, and in a manner that recognises the deep energy poverty across African markets. 

Delivering the closing keynote address for the summit, Professor Adam Habib, Director of the SOAS, outlined a path toward an equitable just transition for Africa while also highlighting the need for enabling institutional environments and collaboration among governments, industry and civil society toward positive outcomes.

“We are in desperate need of concrete actions by government, business, scientists, academics, and civil society under the collective of the human community. This is what is required. This is what our summit announces, and this is what needs to be heard in Glasgow. We as Africans, in particular, need to be heard like at no other time,” said Prof. Habib.

As the world’s attention turns to the COP26 conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland next month, Africa has the potential to be a key player in the low-carbon economy. However, the deployment of climate change mitigation solutions requires significant funding and initial capital. 

It is projected that emerging markets require an estimated US$3-4 trillion annually in low-carbon investments over the next 15 years. Therefore, Africa needs to prioritise securing finance, technology and capacity building support from developed countries.

“Our speakers and panelists have provided a really comprehensive overview of what is at stake and what Africa needs to prioritise on its journey to net-zero emissions. I would like to extend my thanks to all our speakers and panelists, and in particular, Prof. Habib and SOAS, without whom this summit would not have been possible,” said Tshabalala.

Watch panels from the conference and Professor Adam Habib's closing keynote speech online now.