Liberia may still be enduring the brunt of the devastating civil war coupled with a calamitous epidemic that took away thousands of lives and derided a striving economy. And although she is not one of the multi-million dollar donors to climate financing, she is, however, contributing to the fight against this global phenomenon in a very unique way.
Apart from committing to global instruments such as the Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol and others that are geared toward finding sustainable solutions to the issue of climate change, Liberia has committed to this global effort by setting aside 20 percent of its national forest as a protected area that would help in the absorption of greenhouse gases as well as the preservation of endangered species.
Speaking at the High Level segment of the ongoing 22nd Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Tuesday night, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said climate change poses enormous threats to humankind and nature, and the world must rally against this global threat.
“We have the time to act, and we must act now,” she said.
She noted that Liberia is also suffering the devastating effects of climate change with severe impacts due to erratic rainfall, flooding and sea erosion that is threatening coastal settlements. The country, she said, is in a little way contributing in that direction, with Liberia positioning herself both on the mitigation and adaptation fronts.
In terms of mitigation, she said, “We have set aside almost 20 percent of our national forest as protected area. This serves as a hub for carbon sequestration and protection of our biodiversity which includes threatened and endangered species.”
She said Liberia, through its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), will increase the share of renewable energy through hydroelectricity and solar power, adding, “More still need to be done to address Goals One and Two of the SDGs.”
Liberia became the 12th out of the 15 West African member states to ratify the Paris Agreement, which seeks to reduce global emission below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It has been ratified by 110 states from 197 countries that are members of the UNFCCC.
“If nothing is done to mitigate the negative impact and its vulnerability, the gains made by mankind could be seriously undermined,” she said.
She told world leaders that more than 70 percent of Liberia’s population rely on agriculture for subsistence livelihood while the sector also contributes almost 39 percent to the country’s GDP.
Recent predictions indicate that the sector will be heavily impacted thus posing a risk to the economy and livelihood of the population, she said, stressing that Liberia needs adequate support to strengthen its response system.
Coastal erosion represents a significant threat to Liberia’s shoreline, with serious risks to coastal cities such as Buchanan, Harper, Greenville and Robertsport, with populated communities such as West Point and New Kru Town now disappearing – leading to the displacement of populations and loss of major economic assets.
But she added that despite these challenges, her government has made progress in combating climate change. She indicated that at the national level, her government’s efforts are manifested through a draft Climate Change Policy which intends to strengthen national institutions, communities and initiatives that have a strong capacity for adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk reduction.
As Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority, she said the region has established a Climate Change Unit within the Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources Department to oversee the implementation of a robust Climate Change Action Program, which aims at reducing vulnerability and the adaptation to climate change in the sub-region.
She said studies show that large parts of West Africa will be seriously affected by the negative impact of climate change with a strong variability of rainfall, the disappearance of animal and tree species, and the recurrence of calamities such as flood, storms and droughts.
“The key priority of our sub-region is the strengthening of capacities to mobilize the much needed resources to implement member states’ commitments to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)” she said.
She added that it was pleasing to note that one year after the signing of the Paris Agreement, 12 states have ratified the Agreement.
President Sirleaf observed that pledges made so far under the Paris Agreement are insufficient to achieve targets for reducing the global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, adding: “We therefore call for speedy action to implement the Paris Agreement to address global environmental challenges to support developing countries in the formulation and implementation of national adaptation plans, the development of gender action plans in the agriculture sector, and the acquisition of climate change technology.”