NOVEMBER 21, 2014 By George Ganda (Programme Manager, CSSL)

The world recognized and celebrated Tuesday, 23rd September 2014, as World Climate Change Day. On this day an unprecedented number of world leaders, including 100 Heads of State and Government, joined by more than 800 leaders from business, finance and civil society, attended the summit at the UN Head Office. At this summit, they challenged themselves to focus on a global vision for low-carbon economic growth, and agreed that actions to tackle Climate Change (CC) should advance on five fronts: Cutting emissions; Mobilizing money; Markets pricing carbons; Strengthening resilience and; Mobilizing new coalitions.

The Executive Director of Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL), Dr. Sama Monde said, “CSSL is motivated by the comprehensive and unified global vision that emerged from this summit. This vision is setting the challenge to tackle Climate Change head on in order to prevent the devastation it will cause all over the world if it is allowed to go unchecked while also  setting the pace for the universal new agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP-21, 2015 in Paris next year.

“We the members of the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone wish to add our voices in support of the outcomes of this Climate Change Summit and wish to underscore the urgent need for action. CSSL is proud to publicize the existence of their Climate Change Group who maintains focus on combating the challenge and is committed to encourage our large membership of the Society and the rest of the nation to join in the action,” Dr. Monde said.

CSSL’s efforts to take the problem will include the following:
•    To increase awareness about Climate Change nationwide. It is real and, is happening currently and it is so imperative that it characterizes our time.
•    We will continue to provide an understanding of the issues, to encourage total involvement and to articulate the disastrous consequences of inaction.
•    Our arguments and suggestions of solutions will be evidence based while our involvement will be action driven

•    Climate Change can be tackled effectively by reducing the emission of gases implicated in the destruction of the ozone layer. CSSL will continue to provide guidance and direction towards achieving an amelioration of this phenomenon.
•    We recognize that our country is one of extreme poverty and that being the case, our efforts to challenge CC will be predicated on the eradication of extreme poverty, promotion of sustainable development in which mitigation, adaptation and building resilience are prime factors.

•    CSSL recognizes that tackling climate change issues is expensive, but we also know that it will become far more expensive if actions are delayed or postponed.
•    We commend the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their brilliant radio announcement which hopefully is increasing awareness of the problem. Climate Change is here now and the effects are already being felt
•    We further commend the effort of the EPA and the National Secretariat for Climate Change in the strides they are making to develop policies.

However, while policies are being developed there are some simple practical steps which we can already embark on:

•    Generally, it is believed that combating Climate Change is very expensive.  However, it is encouraging to recognise the existence of more affordable and deliverable solutions that can reduce emissions and reproduce a cleaner atmosphere, strengthen climate resilience and provide mitigation. These measures, through their effects on climate change, can go a long way to introduce resilience into our biodiversity, our vulnerable farming systems and our economies.
We in Sierra Leone can “begin to put our house in order” if we take these actions while policies are being developed. It will be a positive step in the right direction if we for example:

•   Make more use of energy-saving bulbs in the homes and in the offices
•   We advocate for more use solar energy to light up or homes and offices. We applaud the effort of Government to light up the streets, some towns and institutions using solar power. It will be a laudable venture to extend this to offices too.

•    Turn off all lights and equipment that are not needed and not being used at that point in time in our homes.

•    Leave only the security lights (and the few others that may be necessary) on in the offices at night.

•    Avoid unnecessary journeys especially to meetings. In that respect we recommend Teleconferencing or Videoconferencing. It is a rewarding investment that is well worth undertaking. Most offices have internet access and it should be possible to make more officially productive use of Skype and similar applications.
•   Use less air-conditioning in the offices and vehicles.

•  A lot of fuel will be saved if we share vehicles when we are travelling to the same destination or in the same direction especially to meetings.
•  We will advocate and are committed to work with the policy makers, in this case the EPA and the Climate change Secretariat, the line ministries of Government, the National Revenue Authority and the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority to devise a system in which the cost of clearing the vehicles when they arrive at the port and the licensing fee both reflect the amount of fuel the vehicle consumes. In effect the importation of gas guzzlers which are now being dumped on developing countries should be discouraged.

•    Our efforts at increasing the momentum for these changes (for the already converted) and mobilizing others into positive action for Climate Change will not be complete if we do not include forest destruction which is progressing at such an unprecedented rate.  Forest cover for Sierra Leone has been reduced drastically over the years due to various reasons. It is clear that some of these are human activities which have got to go on as part of development and others as a means of earning a livelihood. We are therefore completely committed to working with communities, civil societies, the EPA, the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), the line ministries, other functionally related Non-Governmental Organizations and the people who depend on these activities for their livelihoods to seek alternative livelihoods. Even so, we are committed to advocate that:

•    The Government and those with the relevant responsibilities enforce the regulations which in most cases are known to exist. These regulations should also be publicized.

•    The Government through its ministries and agencies concerned should, as soon as possible, make available land use plans especially for areas close to and including our forests and protected areas, which are the areas under such high destructive pressure.

Most people can attest to the serene and picturesque beauty of well-manicured green scenery particularly when punctuated with flowers, shrubs and trees. This brings to mind the reconstructed Wilkinson Road, Spur Road and the Hill Station that is still under construction. You do not need to be rocket scientist to imagine the difference it would have made if flowers, shrubs and trees had been used instead of the massive concretization put on show there. It would also have served to reduce the often blinding reflection drivers are exposed to from vehicles in the approaching lane at night. Few other places in the world would have allowed that. So what about our Environmental Impact Assessment which allowed such a construction? And the monstrosity of Roundabouts! Removing every green plant material shows no regard to climate change and beautification of our Freetown.

CSSL is quite concerned about these small issues. Small issues they may be, but when they keep re-occurring their effect on Climate Change begins to become appreciable. Such a practice would show our concern for Climate Change, not to talk about beautifying our city. The same holds true for many new homes being built. The general practice is to tile the compound. There are many more beautiful ways of doing it rather than tiling the whole area and very often it cost cheaper. Have you thought about rooftop gardens?

The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone is ready to offer their services and advice in this very important issue. Our mission is to ensure that in a short time Sierra Leone will hold its head up high among other African countries when the topical Climate Change challenge, actions and results are being discussed. If you are interested contact the Programme Manager, CSSL, No 4 Old railway Line, Tengbeh Town, Freetown or Mobile Phone- 077726444 / 078709578 or email g.ganda@sky.com.