Pres. Weah: “Time for Concerted, Decisive Action” on Climate Change

In a virtual speech to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, the Liberian leader reminded world leaders about the ongoing catastrophic impact of Climate Change.

“For far too long, we state actors... have been guilty of window-dressing climate issues with rhetoric and passive declarations,” he told the UNGA.

President George Weah has challenged his fellow world leaders to step up efforts to fight global climate change, as the world races against time to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C  (2.7F) above pre-industrial levels.

In a virtual speech to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, the Liberian leader reminded world leaders about the ongoing catastrophic impact of Climate Change in Africa and the rest of the world, which indicates that the world needs to act with urgency to mitigate the destructive effect of climate change.

He then warned his counterparts of the extension of deserts and recurrent droughts in Eastern and Southern Africa; and the increasing intensity and frequency of storms and floods in Africa, as well as the alarming rise in the levels of the world’s oceans due to the meltdown of the Arctic; which threaten human survival as inhabitants of “this precious earth.”

“The reality of climate change facing our planet demands the urgent attention and collective action of all national and international actors now,” President Weah warned. “For far too long, we state actors, including those on my own continent who have faced the harshest extremes of weather and climate, have been guilty of window-dressing climate issues with rhetoric and passive declarations.

“Liberia humbly submits to this august body that now is the time for concerted and decisive action. And the impending United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) will provide yet another opportunity to generate more ambitious climate actions and commitments,” President Weah said.

‘Warning Comes’

President Weah's warning comes days after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told global leaders to “grow up” and tackle climate change in a speech at the UNGA. At the UNGA, the British PM used his time in New York to press on governments for action against climate change and commit money to pay for it amid dire warnings from scientists that global warming would be dangerously close to going out of control.

Johnson then compared humanity to an impetuous 16-year-old – “just old enough to get ourselves into serious trouble”.

However, before his speech earlier, PM Johnson had warned that the UN Climate Change Conference -- known as COP26, expected to take place in Glasgow in November, is a “turning point for humanity,” as it is already "too late" to stop the rise in global temperatures, but the world can still "restrain that growth" to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But the UNGA’s biggest commitments came from Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden. In his remark, President Xi announced that his country would no longer fund coal-fired power plants abroad, while his US counterpart Joe Biden announced a plan to double financial aid for green growth to poorer nations to $11.4bn by 2024.

The commitment from the world’s two powerful polluters and that of President Weah’s warning came after the World Meteorological Organization predicted that the world now has a roughly 40% chance of reaching that level -- even if temporarily -- within the next five years.

And a recent UN report disclosed that current pledges from world leaders to cut down carbon emissions put the world on a path towards 2.7C (4.9F) of warming since the pre-industrial era with global emissions would be 16 percent higher in 2030 than they were in 2010 – far off the 45 percent reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to stave off disastrous climate change.

‘America’

Meanwhile, President Weah hailed the recent re-entry into the Paris Accord by the United States of America as a decision that manifests and demonstrates the critical leadership needed to mobilize globally coordinated action.

President Weah then informed his counterparts that the recently completed national forest inventory carried out with the support of the World Bank and the Kingdom of Norway, revealed that Liberia is endowed with nearly 7 million hectares of forest, representing nearly half of the entire remaining Upper Guinea forest in the West Africa region.

“If you add to this our 1.9 million hectares of agro-forestry and coastal mangroves, it becomes obvious that close to ninety (90%) percent of our landmass sequesters carbon,” President Weah disclosed. “Our forests are the last remaining untouched tracts of forested land in this region and contain some of the highest above-ground carbon stocks of any forest in the world, even higher than the carbon stocks in the great Amazonian Forest.  As one of the last reserves of such high carbon stocks, Liberia’s forests must be maintained in the future. My government reiterates its commitment to do so.”

However, President Weah said that many of the highest carbon stock forests in Liberia contain essential natural capital and ecosystem service benefits; benefits that have so far eluded Liberia as a developing nation. He added Liberia has a youthful population and faces enormous pressures for rapid development that provides decent jobs and livelihoods, especially “in our productive sectors of agriculture and mining.”

“Our economy needs to develop, and we want to do so sustainably. We want to continue to maintain our forest and ecosystem endowments, and our incredible biodiversity, as we embrace climate-smart approaches to agriculture and mining, which are our economic mainstays,” President added, requesting help.

But he said that to do so, Liberia needs meaningful partnerships on the journey of sustainable development; to allow the country to leave its forests intact because of the “extraordinary capacity to capture carbon for the benefit of the industrial world.”