Investable climate projects will deliver sustainable growth in Africa – World Bank official

By: COLLINS MWAI, courtesy of

Last week, at the African Carbon Forum convened in Kigali, African countries committed to achieve climate change resilience and to make the Paris Agreement on climate change a reality.
The carbon forum attracted more than 500 climate change experts, carbon market players, policy makers and project developers from across Africa to discuss the continent’s roadmap to sustainable development and shared prosperity and how to turn climate challenges into opportunities
The New Times’ Collins Mwai, interviewed James Close, the Director of Climate Change Group at the World Bank about insights on a range of aspects on climate change carbon credit, including Rwanda’s performance over the

Close speaks at the meeting in Kigali recently. (Timothy Kisambira)

What were your broad expectations from the Carbon Forum in relation to the Paris Agreement on climate change?

The expectations that were created in April out of the Paris Agreement and I think the level of ambition is enormous and the funding can bring opportunities for change. Africa is an extremely vulnerable continent to climate change. The responsibility is on us as the development community to respond to Africa’s needs and find a way to make sure climate finance flows upscale as quickly as possible to the continent.

That requires two things, the availability of finance; of which there is quite a lot and the flexibility which can be used as well as the availability of African countries and African businesses to create really good investable climate projects. Those are the things that will drive climate action.

How do you rate the level of commitment of countries to implement the Paris Agreement?

The level of ambition is what it needs to be. Climate change doesn’t happen in isolation. It needs to be linked to the sustainable development goals and as we look at sustainable development goals and how it’s going to be implemented, we need to look at the context of climate change.

It is also an opportunity to build a path way for African countries prosperity as well and we need to think about long term and be ambitious to make sure we can protect the most vulnerable and move them out of poverty.

Though I cannot speak generally as each country has its own level of commitment I can highlight a few examples. Ethiopia has shown leadership in green growth, the Prime Minister took a very strong position on climate change on carbon pricing in Paris. We also have Ivory Coast asking for help in carbon pricing as well.

If we come to Rwanda, you can see a high degree of political commitment to addressing climate change. There is FONERWA Fund that was created of $100m, which is the kind of fund which will be used to address climate change in the country and leverage other funding to support the private sector development.

Across Africa, the level of private sector involvement in climate change is relatively low with some citing limited opportunities. What can be done to increase their involvement?

I will use the example of Zambia where we have been advising the government on running an auction for solar capacity. We have not provided direct lending. The private sector has funded the project and there were guarantees that enabled them to manage certain risks. Bids that were very competitive came up.


Residents of Rubavu District plant trees during a past Umuganda community work exercise. (File)

That is an example of how you can create the right kind of policy framework and market mechanism through auction and the right kind of instruments that enables that kind of investment to come forward.

Speaking of the right environment and framework for private sector involvement, what are the characteristics of such ideal conditions?

The first is a policy environment which is helpful to investors which is required for all kinds of foreign direct investment.

Specifically for the energy transition which countries are looking to make, getting the price right is very important and the two aspects to that, the price on carbon and fossil fuel subsidy reforms which prices alternative fuels at the right level.

The third is the intended national contribution, which is the plan that the country has put to Paris which act as the investment plan for the country. Private investors look at what the plans are for the country to make the transition to low carbon growth and the comparative advantage and how they can create projects aligned to that.

There is a line of thought that climate change consciousness and economic development rarely take place together, one is at the expense of the other. Is that true?

We now screen all our international development lending which is our most concessional form of lending for climate change. We did that for a road project in Mozambique which identified the climate risks associated with that project which enabled the project to be designed to be more resilient and to be a better long term asset for that economy. That is a good thing to do. What has been extraordinary is how the Mozambique government picked up that model and decided to apply it to all projects.

The concessional funding that we are providing is building the methodology to be used by Mozambique to build all future roads which gives them a better chance to be more resilient. If those roads are more resilient, they are going to be functional for a longer term.

That is an example of how development and economic growth can go together partly because they take a long term view around this.

What ways would you recommend to effectively mobilise the general population to be active participants in climate change?

The role of citizens is critical and creates a positive environment for climate change to be addressed and citizens in Africa are on the front line of climate change as they see it every day. Specific example and model is the work we do on forests. To avoid deforestation we draw in the local community and indigenous people and we make them part of the readiness plans that enable them apply for carbon financing when they have avoided de-forestation. This is very much a community participatory approach and also works well in land rights.

Are the technical capacities on the continent adequate for the work ahead?

The people I have met at the conference demonstrate a deep understanding and knowledge of climate change and the environment. There is a lot of capability here, of course we need to deepen and broaden it and countries have a role in addressing that.

Our role is to provide technical assistance and help build institutions that enable countries face these challenges with a high degree of expertise.

The other thing is that we have an example of great projects disseminated and used across the whole continent. Rwanda has taken a leadership position in that and the more Rwanda does to demonstrate the position, the more others will follow.

How do you rate Rwanda’s efforts in matters pertaining to climate change and green growth?

I have been impressed with what I have seen and heard. The green growth commitment was established a long time ago along with the plan 2020 which is a very good initiative. Things on the ground are impressive such as the distribution of over 800,000 low energy light bulbs. Rwanda has done a lot and continues to be a leader but of course there is still a lot to be done as well.

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