Why COP27 matters to Sierra Leone

Babatunde Ahonsi: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 November 2022:

Sierra Leone is among the 10 per cent of countries in the world that are most vulnerable to the adverse consequences of climate change, and presently one of the least able to cope with the effects.

Unpredictable weather patterns, severe flooding, mudslides, and associated crop failures are becoming more frequent, even as the country is witnessing trees being cut down at a faster rate than being planted.

Climate scientists tell us that if the world does not achieve a sharp drop in global warming in the next eight years, the natural calamities that we have seen in recent times around the world will be child’s play compared to what is to come.

COP27, the 27th Conference of the Parties taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, is the annual gathering by the United Nations of governments, scientists, and other key stakeholders from all over the world to review progress in the efforts to avert environmental catastrophe, against commitments contained in global climate action agreements.

Africa, the global region which has contributed the least to the ongoing climate crisis, has experienced some of the worst losses and damages attributable to human-induced climate change. So, as the continent hosts this year’s COP, the key preoccupation will be generating a roadmap for the implementation of unfulfilled promises from previous COPs.

This is especially in relation to the pending financial pledges made by rich countries to support developing countries like Sierra Leone to lessen the impact of and adapt to climate change.

The point must be made that the issue of fulfilling climate finance obligations of high-income countries to developing countries is far less a matter of aid dependency than of climate justice.

There must be a shift in policy mindset towards integrated approaches that simultaneously address two or more issues related to livelihoods, employment generation, human capital development, public health, environmental protection, gender equality, food security, and energy access.

There will justifiably be a significant push for increased funding for adaptation and resilience projects in low- and lower-middle-income countries to generate positive impacts towards economic growth, social progress, and enhanced resilience to climate change.

A specific demand will be for wealthier countries to make good on their $100 billion annual climate finance commitment and on the doubling of adaptation support to $40 billion by 2025 as agreed to in Glasgow last year during COP26.

Among the other concrete proposals to be strongly canvassed at COP27 is the establishment and activation within the next five years of an early warning system for climate emergencies that would cover the whole world.

Another is a pipeline of bankable climate-smart projects (around 400) in areas such as agriculture, energy, transportation, digital technologies and platforms, and organic products.

There will also be much attention to decisions and actions, especially financing, to address ‘loss and damage’ that are beyond countries’ abilities to cope with.

Sierra Leone, like many developing countries, is today beset by a multi-faceted crisis of food insecurity, near-debt distress, galloping cost of living, and energy deficit which may be limiting attention to the clear and present danger posed by the climate crisis to humanity.

The point must be made that the issue of fulfilling climate finance obligations of high-income countries to developing countries is far less a matter of aid dependency than of climate justice.

But, given that the prevailing challenges cannot be addressed with presently available development finance and the usual way of doing things, now is the time for the country to maximally exploit opportunities to benefit from innovative climate finance and sustainability solutions.

There must be a shift in policy mindset towards integrated approaches that simultaneously address two or more issues related to livelihoods, employment generation, human capital development, public health, environmental protection, gender equality, food security, and energy access.

One simple example is solar energy interventions that directly link with improved agro-processing operations, potable water sources, health care delivery, and Internet connectivity for secondary schools in targeted districts.

Even more innovative and ambitious nature-positive examples of integrated sustainable development solutions will be highlighted, discussed, and promoted at COP27.

To enhance participation of the high-level delegation from Sierra Leone in COP27, the Government of Sierra Leone joined the United Nations, the UK High Commission, the EU delegation and other stakeholders from across the society for a Climate Action Dialogue in October 2022.

The meeting focused on concrete ways that Sierra Leone could leverage its impressive natural assets (forests, agricultural assets, water resources, biodiversity, and solar endowment) to access significant climate finance and nature-based solutions for driving its economic recovery and long-term development.

So, as the continent hosts this year’s COP, the key preoccupation will be generating a roadmap for the implementation of unfulfilled promises from previous COPs. This is especially in relation to the pending financial pledges made by rich countries to support developing countries like Sierra Leone to lessen the impact of and adapt to climate change.

It was clear from this dialogue that Sierra Leone’s rich natural resources could be better used to leverage the finance and technologies the country needs for inclusive, green, and sustainable economic growth, rather than merely exporting key resources cheaply as primary products.

It is our hope that Sierra Leone’s participation in COP27 will help to fast-track implementation of the crucial next steps agreed at the dialogue related to climate finance models and prompt the rapid scaling up of ongoing climate-smart projects around the country in forest conservation, solar and hydro energy generation and distribution, fisheries and coastal management, and agriculture and agro-processing. It should also strengthen commitment to deliver on the promise the country has made to end deforestation by 2030.

As with the rest of the world, climate change is affecting every aspect of the Sierra Leonean economy and society. COP27 will therefore also serve to underline for everyone the fact that urgent climate action is not the responsibility of government alone.

So, we encourage delegates to COP27, not only from government, but also from civil society organizations, the private sector, mass media, international development agencies, and higher educational institutions, to return to the country with renewed commitment and ambition to join hands to pursue urgent climate actions and engage fully on climate finance.

Only in this way, can the country truly address the climate crisis in a manner that safeguards national environmental resources, builds resilience to climate-related shocks, and advances sustainable development that leaves no one behind.

About the author

Mr. Babatunde Ahonsi is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone.

1 Comment

  1. Climate change matters . It matters not only for our country but the whole world . We need to tackle climate change or else humanity is heading for the cliffhanger . Once again our President Bio promised us to be a “Green President” by planting trees , to replace the fallen ones ,but under his watch the deforestation of our rain forest continues unabated with no checks or enforcement . The cow boy traders of the rain forest have never had it so easy .And some of them are even crossing the Liberian and Guinean borders to carry out their iligal activities . I doubt if Sierra Leoeans living near the Mona river borders have the guts to do the same to Liberia in the Gola forest or Forekariah in Guinea .And we are already living through the consequences of that .How many more people have to die in flash flooding ,before this do nothing goverment of Bio sits up and take actions to mitigate the climate crisis facing us ? Tackling the climate emergency facing us matters because some of our communities up and down the country are living it , breathing it and experiencing it . Is no good offering prayers to the dead if you can prevent those deaths by taking robust government poilces to tackle the problem .Like most developing countries in the Southern hemisphere both developed and developing countries are experiencing the same effects of our carbon foot print .There has been many speeches made by leaders and climate activities in the COP 27 climate conference in Egypt .Just like the previous the COP26 climate Conference held last year in Glasgow, Scotland in which the rich nations of the world pledged to fund poorer nations like ours to implement environmental friendly policies that will able to help us to transition from the use of fossil fuel to clean energy , and most importantly implement practical polices , like planting of trees , stopping deforestation , building flood defences to low lying regions like the Freetown peninsula ,that will help mitigate the flash flooding disaster we’ve been experiencing .It doesn’t takes a genius to work out governments and all stakeholders should work together to enforce some of these agreements made not just on words and paper but practical solutions to the climate emergency facing us. Majority of the victims of the climate emergency facing us is found in the Southern hemisphere .Yet we produce the least amount of carbon foot prints that causes the climate emergency facing us. Although rich Western nations the main culprit of pollutants nations on earth together with China and India promised to set up a $100 billion dollar climate found in which vulnerable nations like ours , together with Pacific Islands nations , and Caribbean Island can tap into or draw the funding required it all depends on the political leadership of nations states affected to demand the funding it needs that meet urgent requiments to mitigate against climate change .Each country is different .For example Nigeria ,Mozambique and Sierra Leone has over the past years suffered from flash flooding which has put enormous strains to their governments budgets.As a results many people have lost their lives and communities displaced .At the same time in the Horn of Africa , Somalia , South Sudan , Ethopia , Kenya , and Zimbabwe they share the same experiences of draught and famine .So in other words the Climate emergency facing us is not a one size fit all. That is why the Bio government should work with our Mayor Akin Swayer , the spoke person for environmental issues for climate change in the Southern hemisphere to demand for compensation both for the loss of human lives and livelihood so even if we don’t eliminate the threat we can come up with ways to live with it , with out huge loss of lives and creating wave of environmental refugees in our own countries .From the rual to the urban .

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