Liberia and the Climate Change Conference

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The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick, reporting from Le Bourget, France on Sunday, said negotiators from 196 countries adopted a landmark climate accord that seeks to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for the dangerous warming of the planet.

The agreement, reached after 13 days of hectic bargaining, urges nations to fundamentally change the way energy is produced and consumed, gradually reducing reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner forms of energy.

The deal, said Warrick, “was struck in a rare show of near-universal accord, as the poor and wealthy from across the political and geographical spectrum expressed support for measures that require all to take steps to battle climate change. The agreement binds together pledges by individual nations to cut or limit emissions from fossil-fuels within a framework of rules that provide for monitoring and verification as well as financial and technical assistance for developing countries.”

Fossil fuels are natural fuels, such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms of plants or animals. So carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are considered to be one of primary causes of global warming.

One of the most visible signs of global warming is climate change, such as we have seen in Liberia, where rainfall lasts longer than expected. In the greater Washington, D.C. area of the United States, too, December is supposed be one of the coldest months, but last week and throughout the weekend in many places the temperature has risen above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, enabling people to go outdoors in their T-shirts.

Another sign of global warming is the rising of the sea levels in many countries. Remember the tsunami that devastated Indonesia and other Asian and African nations in 2004? Up to five million people were affected. It destroyed thousands of lives, buildings and other properties.

We in Liberia, with 350 miles of Atlantic coastline, are vulnerable, too. See how close the Executive Mansion, Foreign Ministry and so many other homes and offices are to the Atlantic? And the ocean also washes so many capitals and towns in the various counties.

Another aspect of climate change concerns our forests. God has given us rich forests, which allow us great precipitation (rainfall). Cut down all our trees for the lumber or charcoal trades and expose Liberia to drought. See what is happening right now in Ethiopia, one of the continent’s most progressive countries? They are currently afflicted by a serious drought that has exposed hundreds of thousands of people—and animals—to famine. That is a warning for all Africa, including Liberia.

What is our response to the Paris Agreement? By the grace of God we still have the largest rainforest in West Africa, if not the whole of Africa. We should do everything possible to conserve and preserve our rainforests by seriously limiting commercial logging and charcoal production, which will definitely lead to deforestation.

How can we stop charcoal usage that has been destroying our trees for so long? We must accelerate our efforts to produce electricity through the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydro-electric Plant, and by making use of our many rivers by constructing mini hydros throughout the country. These mini hydros would give the rural people electricity by which they can cook and fulfill their other needs for hot water.

About a year ago Liberia entered an agreement with Norway for funding—US$15 million per year, we recall – in return for limiting lumber production and keeping our forests safe. What is the status of that agreement and what is happening to the money? The government has not told us how it is to be or being used. We could surely use some of it to construct the mini hydros.

In order to limit or eliminate the charcoal business and thereby save our trees, we need to introduce our people also to the use of cooking gas.

The GOL should challenge the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) to produce or import cooking gas and make it cheaply available to the public. This immediately tells us that LPRC needs to start planning the building of a new oil refinery now, such as we had before the war.

Finally, we need to engage our various universities, beginning with the University of Liberia and Cuttington, to start thinking and studying, in concert with the Liberian government, how our country can most effectively relate to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and bring the findings to the people.

All of us should be involved in this discussion, for all of us are affected, one way or another.

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