Liberia: Pres. Weah Commits His Government to Ensuring Climate Sensitive Initiatives

MONROVIA – President George Weah has committed to ensuring that his government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) is aligned with initiatives that are sensitive to issues of environment and climate change.

“Building climate-resilient infrastructure and environmentally-smart projects must be the centerpiece of our national development program, the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD),” President Weah said.

He made the commitment on Wednesday at the opening of the National Environmental Conference in Monrovia organized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Conference, which runs from June 2-5, is being held under the theme: “Ecosystem Restoration: A Pathway Towards A Greener And Sustainable Environment”.

The conference was designed for adopting and signing of the Monrovia Declaration for Environment and Climate Action as well as a Signing of an MOU between line ministries and agencies for effective collaboration in the implementation of Liberia’s revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Speaking at the opening President Weah recalled that Liberia signed the Paris Agreement since 2015, but had not ratified it up to the time that he assumed Office in 2018.

He said, the speedy ratification of the Agreement demonstrates the seriousness and urgency which his government attaches to the issues of climate change and the environment. 

“Let me assure you that Liberia will continue to meet its obligations and responsibilities to the Paris Agreement as well as other conventions and protocols on climate change and the environment,” Pres. Weah said.

Pres. Weah disclosed that as part of the country’s commitment to ensuring the protection of the climate, Liberia revised its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) despite the disruption COVID-19 caused human activities.

“Liberia’s revised NDC’s take into consideration all the key sectors across the entire spectrum of climate change and the environment, namely: Agriculture, Energy, Fisheries, Forestry, Green Corridor, Health, Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, Transport, Waste, Gender and Youth, amongst others,” he said.

The Liberian President stated that his administration is making critical interventions to reclaim land from the ocean through coastal defense projects.

President Weah: “The D. Tweah High School and the Redemption Hospital, both in the Borough of New Kru Town in Monrovia, were recently saved from sea erosion.

Additionally, we are now embarking on a similar project for West Point, called The Monrovia Metropolitan Climate Resilient Project. The total cost of the project is US$25 Million, and US$17.2 Million is being funded by a grant from the Green Climate Fund, while another grant of US$10 Million has been approved for a similar project in Greenville, Sinoe County.”

President Weah further disclosed that Liberia for the first time in almost 30 years has conducted a national forest inventory that would enable the country know the approximate value of its forests. This, he said, would give national planning. He applauded the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the support in this regard.

“The inventory revealed that Liberia is still a forested nation that is endowed with many unique plant and animal species.  I can attest to this because, during my recent County Tours, I witnessed and deeply appreciated the greenery of our Country, and its vast and impressive forests,” he said.

Speaking earlier, the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh said, President Weah has moved the issue of environment and climate change up on the national radar.

According to Prof. Tarpeh, “It demonstrates the interest and concern of the Government of Liberia to mainstream Climate Change and environment concern in our national development policies, program and activities. We are glad that this conference is being relayed across the nation to those that are not here but listening live through radio broadcast and watching through other social media platforms. I must commend you for being supportive of and in solidarity with the EPA Family in ensuring that we keep the environment safe, clean and healthy and at the same time addressing the most challenging problem of our time, Climate Change.”

He said the conference comes at a time when the world is experiencing enormous environment and Climate Challenge ranging from degradation of our wetland, perennial flooding of water bodies and beaches, indiscriminate dumping of wastes, wanton killing of wildlife, and the erratic weather pattern which is the consequence of climate change.

These Challenges, he said, are also undermining Liberia’s effort in accomplishing the objective of the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular the Pro Poor Agenda For Prosperity And Development (P.A.P.D).

Prof. Tarpeh spoke of Liberia’s enviable position in the world – preserving up to 43 percent of the Upper Guinean Forest.

The Guinean Forest Hotspot contains impressive levels of biodiversity and endemism. Approximately 9,000 species of vascular plants occur in the hotspot, including significant assemblages of endemic plant species. A data released in 2005 following a global hotspots reanalysis indicates that there are 785 species of birds, and more than 200 reptile species and nearly 225 amphibian species, although knowledge of the herpetological fauna is regarded as inadequate. Mammal diversity is exceptional, with nearly a quarter of the mammals that are native to continental Africa represented. Sixty are endemic to the hotspot. With regard to primates, the hotspot is one of the world’s top priorities for primate conservation – five species are Critically Endangered, and another 21 are considered Endangered; 92 percent of the hotspot’s primates are endemic.

In remarks, the British Ambassador to Liberia, Neil Bradley, called on all countries attending this year’s COP 26 in Glasgow in the United Kingdom, to come up with ambitious NDCs and long-term strategies to reach zero carbon emission as soon as possible. He also wants participating countries to set up and help societies and economies adapt to climate change, particularly the most vulnerable.

He said the United Kingdom will use the power of fair and inclusive COP26 presidency to bring governments, business and civil society together to accelerate progress in five key areas including: Adaptation and resilience, nature, energy, transport, and finance.

Amb. Bradley challenged developed countries to lead on climate action and that major economies must play their part.

“Developed nations should imagine what it is like for communities on the frontline of climate change, struggling to deal with a crisis they did next to nothing create,” he said.

 “To feel what it is like to see developed countries invest trillions overnight to address the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst the $100 billion a year that we have promised to support developing countries to respond to the climate crisis remain uncertain,” he lamented.

He disclosed that the UK is doubling her international climate finance to 11.6 billion Pounds Sterling over five years.

Amb. Bradley challenged donor countries to keep their obligations and deliver on the US$100 billion to tackle the task ahead.

The Ambassador of Sweden to Liberia, Ingrid Wetterqvist, in her remarks said, in December 2020, her government approved and adopted Sweden’s new development cooperation strategy in Liberia from 2021-2025. The new strategy, she said, is valued at SEK 1.8 billion (estimated at US$212 million), a 40 percent increment from the previous strategy.

According to Amb. Wetterqvist, one key pillar of the new strategy is environment, climate change, and sustainable use of natural resources, which are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 13, 14, and 15.

She said her government will also support building community’s resilience through climate change mitigation and adaptation, conduct environment, climate change and biodiversity scoping study to understand gaps and embassy strategic engagement, sustainable natural resources and management as a precondition for an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development.

Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Ren Yinsheng admonished countries not to return to the old high-pollution and high-emission path of development after the covid-19 pandemic.

He said, it would be prudent for countries to seek a win-win approach of economic development and ecological and environmental protection, grasp new opportunities to achieve high-quality development.

“The international community should help each other and work together to ensure that development and green transformation go hand-in-hand, reinforce each other and facilities the upgrading of the quality of development. Also, the international community should pay great attention to the concerns and appeals of developing countries and increase technological, financial and capacity support to help them achieve a green and low-carbon transformation,” said Amb. Ren.

Stephen Rodriques, the United Nations Development Program Representative in Liberia, said the UNDP has supported policy formulation and dialogue; development of knowledge products; logistical, human and technical capacity building for the EPA.

He said, the Climate Early Warning System, Global Environment Facility small grant projects, graduate program in environmental studies and climate change, solar for health, energy efficient products for rural communities, the first state of the environment report and ratification of the Paris Agreement are among some of the key dividends derived through the UNDP Support.

“UNDP fully recognizes the strategic importance of Liberia and its environment, forest and biodiversity endowments, which can be leveraged to mobilized environment and climate financing to support the attainment of key SDG goals and targets. This is demonstrated from our recent efforts in mobilizing grants including US$17.2 million for the Monrovia Metropolitan Coastal Resilience Project and US$8.9 million from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Global Environmental Facility (GEF),” he said.

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