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Climate change is a threat to national development – EU Ambassador

March 2, 2021

Ambassador Tom Vens speaks to journalist                             

The European Union Ambassador in Sierra Leone, Tom Vens has said that climate change is posing serious threat to Sierra Leone’s sustainable development trajectory and called on the media to focus more attention on environmental reporting in order to educate the public about the environmental hazards and its socio-economic impact on local communities.

Ambassador Vens made the above statement on Friday, 26th February, during the closing ceremony of the European Union funded Training on Climate Change and Environmental reporting for 15 journalists hosted at the New Brookfields Hotel in Freetown.

The five days specialised hands-on training which was launched on 22nd February 2021, as part of EU’s climate diplomacy that is aimed at not only building the capacity of journalists to understanding the science of climate change but to also stimulate their interest to regularly focus on reporting environmental issues to protect the country’s flora and fauna from its current state of depletion.

Speaking during the training, Ambassador Vens noted that Sierra Leone has been identified as the third most vulnerable country to face the severe impacts of climate change which are induced by humans and also natural causes adding that EU recognizes the critical role of the media in disseminating information for the wider public to take appropriate measures, particularly on climate change and environmental issues.

“The media does not only have a responsibility to report disasters but also to improve transparency and accountability around environmental issues, and help ensure that policies are implemented to guaranty the protection of our people their livelihoods and the safety of our environment,” Vens said.

He noted that the negative effect of Climate Change has impacted mainly the environment and its rich biodiversity including agriculture, fisheries, tourism, energy and water sectors and therefore implored the media to follow crucially on unfolding events on the environment and climate change.

He said journalists continue to provide factual and credible information to the public and policy makers about Sierra Leone preparedness to salvage related issues of Climate Change which the country will unfortunately likely to continue to face.

Minister of the Environment, Prof. Foday M. Jaward said President Bio inaugurated the inter-ministerial committee that is charged with the exceptional mandate to look into the affairs of the country’s dwelling forest, encroachment upon water catchments and the depletion of mangroves in view of the alarming problems in the sector.

He thanked the EU Ambassador for their invaluable support to the Economic Forum for conducting the training which he said is in line with EU’s policy to combat Climate Change and a manifestation to global fight in regaining the ecological functionality of ecosystems in Sierra Leone.

 In 2020, Sierra Leone ranked below the regional average on the Environmental Performance Index (177/180). The country’s biodiversity, forests and fish stocks have seen significant deterioration over the past decade, and the impact on environmentally sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries threatens the basis of 60% of the economy and the livelihood of 70% of people, thereby increasing conflict risks. Furthermore, it appears that the habitat destruction correlates with zoonotic diseases such as the 2014/15 Ebola Virus disease, which renders the fragmentation of Sierra Leone’s forests a global public health issue.

 The EU endeavours to support the essential role that media channels play in providing the public with accurate and factual information on domestic environmental issues including on government policy and response as regards climate change and environmental degradation.

 President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Sahid Nasrallasaidthanked EU for the initiative  and maintained that SLAJ views the training as an effort towards helping journalists develop interest and acquire the knowledge to be able to report, comment, analyze, and influence policy decisions on the environment and climate change issues. And we thank the EU for that”.

 It was five days of intense work – where the trainees learnt the science of Climate Change and its attendant challenges and impacts on Sierra Leone’s overall ecological health and also the European Union’s actions in supporting government efforts to mitigate these problems.  

The field trips also exposed journalists to the stark realities of environmental degradation and the current challenges of biodiversity conservation particularly in the Western Area Peninsula National Park – with its diverse flora and fauna – serving as the main water catchment source for Freetown and its environs. Also, the vast coastline along the peninsular – famous for its pristine beaches and wetlands is similarly under severe threats due to sand mining, deforestation and other unregulated social activities. These issues were largely observed and captured in the pitched articles and stories presented by the print and electronic media practitioners on the last day of the training.

Ambassador Vens encouraged the journalists to use the networking opportunities created at the training to support the entire group and also urged them to become environmental advocates in their various communities.

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