Climate change is globally recognized as the greatest environmental challenge and development issue facing the world in the 21st century.  Although Sierra Leone’s collective emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is almost negligible, it is now experiencing the adverse effects of climate change in the form of mudslides, flash floods and changing rainfall patterns, leading to both human casualties and infra-structural destruction with a more ominous impact on our farming communities in the form of a marked reduction of crop yields and the attendant lack of food security. For the first time in Sierra Leone we now observe visible signs of coastal erosion and physical alteration of our coastline as a direct consequence of rising sea levels leading to the disappearance of our coastal villages, artisanal fishing industry and general infrastructure.

Sierra Leone has a number of environment-related policies and sectoral laws governing various environmental sectors including the forestry and wildlife policies, agriculture and energy policies, but these do not address climate change and hardly recognize it as a serious threat and problem. As a party to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, the Government of Sierra Leone should not just meet its international obligations, but more importantly to address climate change problems that have already been recognized to affect its people. In this regard, a comprehensive policy on climate change should therefore be formulated in line with the UNFCCC’s requirement of Parties and the National Agenda for Prosperity. In addition, institutional and appropriate legal frameworks are required to advise and direct the government and the governed on necessary actions to address identified climate change problems and facilitate climate change mitigation and adaptation in related sectors. It is important to promote climate change governance in the country to enable Sierra Leone meet its long-term development goals while fulfilling its global obligation to combat climate change.

National Secretariat for Climate Change

 In accordance with Section 12 of Part 111 of the Environment Protection Agency Act, 2008 as amended in 2010, the Agency acts as the national focal point on all issues concerning the environment. In a bid to ensure that decisions adopted by Parties to the UNFCCC are implemented, the Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone with mandate from the Office of the President established the National Secretariat for Climate Change (NSCC) within the Agency. The NSCC is set up in the Agency with the aim to provide high-level political support to climate change activities in Sierra Leone. The Office of the Executive Chairperson shall oversee the work of the Secretariat. It will become an independent and autonomous body when it would have been effectively and efficiently operational.

In March 2012, the European Union Project on Environmental Governance and Mainstreaming with a climate change component was launched by the Office of the President to give support to the NSCC. The UNDP Country Office has and is also given support towards the setting up of the secretariat and the implementation of its programmes. All these efforts have been made to address climate change issues in Sierra Leone.

The Resilience Working Group (RWG) will have to put in place robust strategies and adaptation measures to ensure that Sierra Leone is able to cope with the adverse effects of climate change. It will therefore develop and support the implementation of plans and projects for adaptation to climate change in various key sectors in consultation with line ministries and other stakeholders.

The Long Term Emissions and Mitigation Working Group (LWG) will have robust strategies and plans in place on how Sierra Leone can minimize and stabilize its long term emissions. It will develop a practical Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) implementation strategy and establish a national infrastructure to enable investments in CDM and other emissions reduction projects in the country including voluntary carbon markets. It will also undertake technology needs assessment in the country and develop mechanisms for the transfer of environmentally-friendly technologies in strategic areas.

The Communications, Education and Awareness Working Group shall increase climate change awareness in Sierra Leone and will be responsible for the development and implementation of an education and awareness programme on climate change, develop tools for effective outreach, training and capacity building on climate change, and collaborate with media houses, learning and training institutions and civil society organisations to disseminate information on climate change.

The membership of the National Task Force on climate change will also be drawn from Government Departments, local authorities, private sector, media, university, NGOs and civil society. The Task Force will actively involved in the implementation of Government’s adaptation and mitigation actions , as well as educating the community to build up an understanding of the economic opportunities arising from climate change and how to address climate change impacts on Sierra Leone.