By Amin Kef Sesay
In October 2019, over 90 Mayors of the world’s biggest cities signed a Global Green New Deal in Copenhagen, among who was Freetown’s Mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer.
The deal was to recognize a climate emergency and commitment to inclusive climate action and staying below the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement.
Africa is more vulnerable than any other region to the world’s changing weather patterns. Generally, given what we have seen in recent times in South Africa with a mix of extreme drought and extreme rainfalls leading to flooding, Africa will be hardest hit by climate change, even though it has contributed the least to its causes.
The African continent will be hardest hit by climate change for two main reasons. Even a little less rainfall in the future could endanger the forest and its massive carbon store:
- African society is very closely coupled with the climate system; hundreds of millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food.
- The capacity for adaptation to climate change is low; poverty equates to reduced choice at the individual level while governance generally fails to prioritize and act on climate change.
We know remarkably little about that climate system – it is scarcely even monitored. For example, there are more reporting rain gauges in the UK county of Oxfordshire than the entire Congo Basin. The impacts of climate change are very real and present, with very little that is systematic and consistently being done by government and communities to adopt and implement on a sustainable basis, durable policies and strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change in the country.
The former Executive Chairperson of EPA SL, Haddijatou Jallow, warned that Sierra Leone is already suffering from the impacts of climate change and that it might adversely affect the country’s drive towards prosperity.
“Mudslides, flash floods, changing rainfall patterns with terrible impact on farmers, resulting in poor food production, is already here.” She said, adding that “Coastal communities around the country are feeling the strain too, with increased coastal erosion that is seriously affecting these communities.”
UN Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director, Sudipto Mukerjee said: “Climate change is a reality that we all have to face and we have little time left. There is alarming evidence that tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and our global climate system, may already have been reached or passed.”
Mr. Mukerjee called for “Hydrocarbon-based energy systems and economies to be transformed and appropriate adaptation measures put in place.”
According to analysis done in 2012 for the development of Sierra Leone’s Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, climate change will lead to severe consequences in Sierra Leone including:
- Decreased agricultural productivity,
- Degradation of the coastline and damage to coastal structures,
- A shift from tropical rain forest to dry forest, food and nutrition insecurity,
- Water stress and severe economic impacts that will undermine decades of development gains
To ensure we play our part in not going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, we are going to create carbon sinks: we are committed to planting 1 million trees in 2020 and increasing our vegetation cover by 50% by 2022.
Urgently needed concerted mitigation interventions against climate change by the newly created Ministry of Environment working in strong partnership with EPA-SL, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Lands, Local Government, all the Local Councils and all the country’s paramount chiefs and traditional leaders, before it is too late, must include massive nationwide economic tree planting to replace lost forests and bushes to reduce deforestation by the logging and charcoal industries, strengthening the resilience of the water sector, protecting the coastal lines from excessive economic exploitation and increase capacity for climate information and early warning.