With less than one month to go until the 2021 United Nations climate change conference, COP26, the British Ambassador to Liberia and the Resident Representative for UNDP Liberia jointly set out their hopes for the Summit, and how it will impact Liberia.
Between 1-12 November, the UK will welcome the world to Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, COP26. This will be a key moment to address the enormous threat of climate change and build a cleaner, brighter future for us all.
In Liberia, we are already seeing the impact of climate change. For example, an increase in average annual temperatures, a decrease in average annual rainfall, and a greater number of flooding events during the rainy season. Unless the world can limit any further increases in temperatures to 1.5 degrees, Liberia, along with many other countries, will face rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, destruction of wetlands, deteriorating water quality, decreasing crop yields, and greater food insecurity.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has warned that “The world remains way off target in staying within the 1.5-degree limit of the Paris Agreement. This is why we need more ambition, more ambition on mitigation, ambition on adaptation and ambition on finance.” Limiting the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees will require concerted action from every country, business and part of society— to keep fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, in the ground, and switch to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro power; to improve farming practices and restore and safeguard forests, oceans and natural environments so that they can absorb any carbon that we still produce; and to reduce our consumption wherever possible of transport, animal products, fashion, and especially plastics, whose production and disposal results in enormous amounts of carbon.
Liberia has already shown great leadership in these areas, with a National Climate Change Conference held in June 2021, which aimed to promote environmental awareness, and an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) published in July 2021, which sets out how Liberia will play its part in keeping the global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.
The good news for Liberia is that there is no need to choose between protecting the environment and tackling poverty; taking the measures set out in the NDC will contribute greatly to Liberia’s efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly its Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.
Liberia is blessed with tremendous natural resources: for example, its plentiful sun and rain could be used to produce increased amounts of solar and hydro power, not only benefitting the planet, but also helping to extend electricity to all parts of the country, and possibly exporting it; its forests, wildlife and natural beauty, if properly protected, will not only help absorb carbon, but also attract ecotourism, which could be an important source of revenue for communities (the UK is supporting Liberia’s efforts to manage its forests sustainably through its Forest Governance Programme); and its agriculture and fisheries, if properly managed, could help prevent erosion and coastal flooding, whilst reducing food insecurity and benefitting the seven in ten Liberian citizens who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. There is also potential scope to attract carbon credits/payments to Liberia for its natural resources and the contribution of its forests to capturing carbon.
In order to help make this a reality, the UK, UNDP and many partners are working closely with the Government of Liberia on the Climate Agenda. For its part, UNDP is working with partners to support actions that advance climate change adaptation, particularly in areas such as agriculture and food security, coastal zone management, environmental governance and ecosystems protection, livelihoods, and climate information/early warning systems. Coastal zone management interventions in New Kru Town and Buchanan, for example, helped prevent the destruction of the D.Tweh High School and Redemption Hospital, and protected the homes and livelihoods of more than 100,000 Liberians from coastal erosion. UNDP is also mobilizing Liberia’s private sector to offer climate-friendly innovative solutions (including solar) that promote climate change adaptation.
However, it is clear that, in order for countries such as Liberia to adapt to the climate changes that are already being experienced, and meet their NDC ambitions, donor nations must also deliver on the $100 billion a year in climate finance that they have promised, as well as mobilising trillions of dollars from the private sector. This funding is vital in order to help those communities on the frontline of climate change who are struggling to deal with a crisis they did little to create.
Persuading world leaders to make good on these promises will be a key aim of the UK’s COP26 Presidency, and we look forward to welcoming a high-level delegation from Liberia to Glasgow next month; we have full confidence in the constructive role that Liberia can play in forging consensus and underlining the importance of all nations working together on the most important issue of our time.
As UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said at the UN General Assembly on 22 September: “Humanity….is approaching that critical turning point… when we must show that we are capable of learning, and maturing, and finally taking responsibility for the destruction we are inflicting, not just upon our planet but ourselves”.
COP26 is that critical turning point, and the British Embassy and UNDP Liberia are steadfast in our commitment to working with Liberia to ensure that we all turn together in the right direction, both for the people of Liberia and the wider world.