Foreign Minister, Dee Maxwell Kemayah, has indicated that Liberia remains steadfast and unwavering in its commitment to the global environmental agenda, including the Paris Agreement and the upcoming Stockholm conference, which are geared towards rescuing the planet from the grasps of the menacing effects of climate change.
“Liberia is fully committed to the COP 26 and other protocols and conventions on climate action, and will work with other stakeholders to efficiently manage our natural resources to meet the targets of the sustainable development goals,” Minister Kemayah said when he officially launched the Stockholm +50 National Consultations in Monrovia on Monday.
The minister also pledged the country’s commitment to conserving its forest resources for international climate finance that can propel the nation towards green and inclusive growth. He then called for inclusive participation of all stakeholders across the country in order to ensure that the final documents reflect the will and aspirations of the Liberian people in the governance of their resources and the protection of the environment.
“Ours is a commitment, and a responsibility to enable our current generation and posterity to benefit from the natural resources of Liberia,” he noted.
The launch of the national consultations comes ahead of the upcoming Stockholm +50 conference to be held on 2-3 June in Stockholm, Sweden — the 50th anniversary since the first United Nations Conference on the Environment, held in Stockholm. It was at that event that the inextricable linkage between the environment and poverty was established, laying the foundation for sustainable development, climate experts say.
Giving historical impacts of climate change on the foundation of the Liberian state, Minister Kemayah noted: “A reflection of the history of migration of the early people to these shores point to the direction that such was caused by a significant shift in climate conditions.
“They migrated here in phases due to different factors; in relation to climate conditions. We can then say that climate change significantly contributed to the people of what is now Liberia. Indeed, it is not an error that a national consultation on climate action is convened in a nation whose foundation has a connection to climate change,” he stated.
Stakeholders at the launch of the national consultation (Photo credit: William Q. Harmon)
The Stockholm +50 conference is co-sponsored by the government of Sweden and has been investing millions towards protecting the environment. Liberia continues to be a humble beneficiary of Sweden’s development funds.
The mid-year conference, themed “a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity”, comes at a critical time when countries worldwide are grappling with the Earth’s triple crises – the climate emergency, unprecedented socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 that have wiped off-key development gains, and continued degradation of natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
“Liberia was there 50 years ago in Stockholm when the cornerstone for rallying support to save the planet from the negative impact of climate was initiated,” Kemayah noted. “We are proud to have been at the beginning, and even more proud to still be in partnership, collaboration, cooperation, and taking measures to save our planet. We reaffirm Liberia’s commitment to the principles and objectives of the Stockholm Convention, which is the protection of human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants."
Swedish State Secretary Jenny Ohlsson, who is in Liberia, representing her country at the launch, stated that the global community is facing a climate and natural crisis — “this is not speculation; it is science and evidence. We also know that environmental multilateralism works — to fight challenges that cross national borders, we must adopt approaches that are fit for purpose. Global partnerships and collaboration for the planet are more urgent than ever.”
Immediate action for the climate and the environment, the Swedish diplomat added, “will contribute a better future for all of us on a healthier planet. Preventing pollution, tackling climate change, restoring ecosystems, and reversing biodiversity loss are opportunities to improve the quality of life for billions of people and to safeguard our common heritage and the wellbeing of coming generations.”
She disclosed that the desired outcome of Stockholm+50 Consultations is to help countries advance integrated solutions across national climate biodiversity, green recovery, sectoral, and SDG policy frameworks. The whole-society- and whole-of-government national consultations, Ms Ohlsson noted, will inform the Stockholm+50 dialogues, and will help accelerate national action towards green recovery, green and just transition, and SDG implementation.
“National consultations are sought to deliver forward-looking action-oriented recommendations and commitments to secure long-lasting impact well beyond the Stockholm +50 international meeting,” she said.
Liberia is home to a huge portion of the Upper Guinea Rainforest, one of three of the vast rainforests known as the lungs of the planet. As such, it holds a special place within the comity of nations due to its strategic roles in the global fight against climate change. The other two are the Amazon in Brazil and the Congo Basin Forests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). These rainforests, which generally draw in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, are the most biodiverse region on earth, providing shelter to millions of species of plants and animals.
With such a status, Liberia is a net carbon sink, with approximately 6.6 million hectares of forest, which represents 69% of its landmass with a commitment by the government to put 30% of this under protection.
“These efforts represent a significant commitment for a least developed country like ours; with almost zero contribution to global emissions,” the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh said.
Re-echoing President George Weah’s statement at COP 26 Summit, Tarpeh rallied for concerted and accelerated global actions to speed up progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).”
“I, therefore, appeal to all stakeholders, including the public and private sectors, development partners, residents and the entire citizenry, to support Liberia's agenda and strategic vision for addressing issues; in relation to the environment, climate change and related sectors,” he said
United States Ambassador, Michael McCarthy, congratulated Liberia for the ambition of its revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to fight the adverse effects of climate change.
“Liberia’s impressive list of commitments will challenge all of us because the price is not cheap — nearly US$500 million — and Liberia alone will not be able to meet that cost,” he said.
The Ambassador, however, indicated that the international community will have to meet its own ambitious commitments and the United States has pledged to do the same.
“We commend Liberia for adding three new sectors to its revised Nationally Determined Contributions: Fisheries, the Coastal Zone, and Industry. These are sectors of vital importance to Liberia's future, and devoted effort will be needed to adapt to and mitigate climate threats to these and other sectors,” he said.
Liberia recently released its state of the Environment Report, which noted that the country remains vulnerable to climate change, and a range of hazards, such as floods, sea erosion and windstorm; causing protracted losses to livelihood; as well as a threat to economic development. Plastic waste pollution, water pollution, and climate-induced food insecurity present challenges by undermining the country's efforts to deliver on commitments to important initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals.
Despite these challenges, Liberia remains a committed party and partner to the global cause for protecting the planet, the government has consistently said.
The country is currently a party to at least Ten (10) multilateral environmental agreements, which include the Three Rio Conventions; namely: The Convention on Biological Diversity; The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Liberia took another bold step when it submitted its revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with an ambition to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 64% below the projected business of 2030.
Meanwhile, dignitaries who also graced the occasion were: UN Resident Coordinator, Neils Scott; Minister of Agriculture, Jennie Cooper; UNDP Resident Coordinator, Stephen Rodrigues, and EU Ambassador, Laurent Delahousse, among others.