Climate Change has become one of the most challenging issues facing the world. Over the next decades, it is predicted that billions of people, particularly those in developing countries will face shortage of water and food and greater risks to health and life as a result of climate change. Concerted global action is needed to enable developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change that are happening now. Developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts because they have fewer resources to adapt-socially, financially and technologically. It has far reaching effects on the sustainable development of these countries including their ability to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
To help address issues of climate change in Sierra Leone, the Environment Protection Agency, Sierra Leone (EPA-SL), on Friday 21st July, organised a one-day forum to popularise the Policy on Climate Change which has been developed by the Climate Change Secretariat and to further sensitise the Private Sector on the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
The meeting was attended by various stakeholders, including those from the ministries of Fisheries, Energy, Lands Tourism, Education, Finance and Economic Development, Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, Metrological Department, Office of National Security and Environmental Forum for Action. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a financing mechanism established to support nations that are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (NNFCCC) to address risk and related changes.
In his opening statement, the Senior Regional Environmental Officer, EPA-SL, Momodu Justin Conteh said Sierra Leone is one of the most vulnerable countries impacted by climate change. The effects of climate change he said, has direct link to agriculture as they affect the productivity of natural resources including water.
He said it is as a result of this, EPA-SL was organising the meeting with other key stakeholders in the area of environmental protection. He encouraged participants to take matters relating to the environment seriously and help popularise the policy.
Making his presentation, the Head of Climate Change Adaptation, EPA-SL, Tamba Emanuel Nyaka, said climate change is real, and driven to a large extent by emissions of green house gases, linked to human activities and expressed government’s commitment to ensuring climate change becomes an integral part of national development policy and process.
He said the need for a National Climate Change Policy for Sierra Leone was identified as an urgent requirement during the preparation for the ratification of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change in 1977. Mr. Nyaka said the climate change policy was developed through participatory and interactive process followed by a diagnosis of the climate change risk situation in Sierra Leone.
On the vision and mission of the policy, he said the policy and response strategy will promote integration between the programmes of various government departments in order to maximise the benefits to the country, while minimising negative impacts, adding that it will also strengthen national initiatives to adopt and mitigate climate change in a participatory manner.
Comments were also heard from various representatives including Max Konneh from the Ministry of Fisheries who informed the gathering about his ministry’s ongoing, Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa Project (MESA) aimed at protecting fishing grounds and ensuring safety at sea, using Earth Observation Information and the need to fully engage the media on matters relating to the environment..
Recommendations were also proffered by various participants including a representative from the Ministry of Education, I.L.M. Sesay who stressed the need to capacitate students in various learning institutions with technological tools such as computers and internet facilities to enable them address contemporary issues on the environment.
A women’s representative, Isha Josiah expressed the need to fully engage women to ensure the policy is properly popularised and disseminated. The need to provide alternate livelihoods for communities prone to disasters and build the capacity of the media and other key stakeholders so as to enable them fully participate in the exercise was also recommended.