December 17, 2015 Author: Momodu Lamin Deen Rogers
Almost two weeks in the French capital, Paris, took me beyond the ordinary knowledge about the most topical global debate of our time – Climate Change. As a member of the government official delegation, my stay in Paris unveiled to me in so many ways the harsh realities of Climate Change and the consensus of opinion on the issue as highlighted by all parties. An international agreement which would be crucial for the future of our planet was the overarching objective of the Paris Conference.
Indeed, mankind’s action and inaction overtime had contributed to the deplorable or worrying state of mother earth.
On the margins of Conference of the Parties commonly referred to as COP 21, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the French Parliament gathered Members of Parliament from over 154 countries globally to discuss and develop a plan of action on Climate Change for Parliamentarians all over the world. This was the only official parliamentary activity held in line with the COP 21. The parliamentary meeting was tailored to provide parliamentarians with firsthand information on the teething issues of COP 21, interact with state parties (negotiators) directly involved in decision-making process and to discuss ways of ensuring robust parliamentary involvement in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Eventually, memory lane served as an impetus to the IPU and the French Parliament. From the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, through the walls of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 to the Copenhagen Accord of 2009, beyond the eyes of Durban and Doha 2011 and 2012 respectively – parliamentary presence and the possible role of Parliaments were a near neglect.
However, the Paris Conference endeavoured to shift the paradigm from the usual and therefore COP21 took the enviable nomenclature “the game changer”.
At a national front, Sierra Leone went to the Conference from the unenviable position as the world’s third most vulnerable country to climate change after Bangladesh and Guinea Bissau – courtesy – The Fifth Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As a country, the impact of Climate Change might be more devastating than the recent Ebola Virus Disease. The evidence on the above is very recent. As a people and as a government, we need to mainstream our efforts and resources towards the fight against Climate Change at local, national and global levels.
At local level, Members of Parliament should raise awareness on the devastating impact of Climate Change. They should engage their constituents and local stakeholders. Environmental by-laws and regulations should be instituted to discourage deforestation, land degradation, encroachment and other activities which have negative impacts on the environment.
At national level, Parliament must accelerate legislative oversight, enforce and strengthen the already existing environmental laws, provoke national debate on Climate Change and perhaps most importantly, hold government accountable. In addition, Parliament should pilot or promulgate good laws to protect the environment.
At global level, Parliament must engage at sub-regional, regional and inter-continental forums. The engagement at this level could be both bilateral and multilateral in nature. MPs should foster collaboration and cooperation among member international parliamentary groupings (MRU, ECOWAS, PAP, CPA, ACP-EU, IPU and so on).
Parliament should, therefore, articulate the vulnerability of Sierra Leone and galvanize global response to fight climate change at all levels.
Indeed, this was manifested by Hon. Rosaline J. Smith who doubles as Head of the Parliamentary Delegation to the Paris Conference and also Chairperson of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on the Environment.
As a keynote speaker in the assembly of Parliamentary Leaders and MPs from over 154 countries, she articulated the vulnerability of Sierra Leone and showcased the impact of Climate Change on vulnerable groups in developing countries.
At the same platform, the UN Secretary General in a show of support to Parliamentary Action on Climate Change had this to say:
“Members of Parliament have been at the heart of the fight against Climate Change. Parliamentarians have a key role to play in supporting an effective national and global response to climate change. Your national climate targets are expressions of your efforts and aspirations. For that, we need parliamentary leadership on climate change in every country.”
The Paris Agreement is here and posterity will judge us in the coming years whether it was genuinely a big step toward global climate policy or it was a phenomenal piece of policy and a phenomenal piece of diplomacy.
Notwithstanding either of the nuances, the Paris Agreement is spiced by “goodwill” in which Parliaments all over the world are expected to hold governments accountable in the implementation process.
Going forward in the post COP21 era however, we await those actions as our Parliament takes its rightful place in working to mitigate and adapt the effects of Climate Change in Sierra Leone.