Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, the vice president and secretary of state for Women’s Affairs, on behalf of President Jammeh, yesterday presided over the official opening of a two-day Gambia climate change forum at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The forum, which was organised by The Gambia government through the Department of State for Forestry and the Environment, in conjunction with the University of The Gambia and the United Nation’s Development Programme country office, brought together secretaries of state, representatives of international organisations, as well as key stakeholders in the cause of the phenomenon of climate charge.
Described as a timely move towards solving the issues surrounding climate change, the forum seeks to provide a platform for discussion in a bid to device ways and means of addressing the challenges posed by climate change. It also aims at creating a platform for information sharing and exchanges for deeper dialogue to strengthen partnership in climate change.
In her keynote speech, Vice President Njie-Saidy said that The Gambia government is doing a lot to implement the climate change convention. She informed participants that the government has created the relevant national instruments and institutions for the effective implementation of the various multilaterally sanctioned environmental agreements.
She indicated that the government had also succeeded in developing activities under the clean development mechanism in 2001 and in 2003 fulfilled the requirement of submitting the country’s initial national communication to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In 2007, she went on, The Gambia finalised and submitted its national adaptation programme of actions to the UNFCCC secretariat.
"In all these years, we [have] prided ourselves for contributing to the international debate, research, and review efforts in climate change and related threats to the global economy.
The Gambian scientists have been participating in the activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and they have become contributing authors, lead authors, coordinating lead authors and review editors of a number of IPCC reports," the vice president stated, while observing that no meaningful development can be attained and sustained without addressing the issue of climate change.
Vice President Njie Saidy further went on to say that The Gambia is contributing significantly to the stabilisation of Green House Gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere, adding that they will strive to maintain that policy direction.
"The Gambia government will not fail in its commitment to bring about and pursue relevant national programmes and projects necessary to help us confront the issue of climate change sufficiently. As a country, we have gone far in putting in place mitigation and adaptation plans estimated respectively at US$16 million and US15 million. Both plans show government’s willingness to implement a line of projects towards responding to the challenges of climate change from those that seek to introduce waste management, fuel switching and energy efficiency production and conservation techniques, to those that involve the installation of early warning systems, as well as coastal and marine resource management," she noted.
While expressing hope that the forum would achieve its objectives, Vice President Njie-Saidy noted that the government would leave no stone unturned in its efforts to enhance national capacities to observe, predict and interpret world climate change trends and information.
For his part, Momodou Kotu Cham, secretary of state for Forestry and the Environment, called on development partners, both bilateral and multilateral, to be supportive of the projects proposed in the plans of action. He informed the forum that the plans were geared towards increasing the resilience to climate change of the local communities and ecosystem. SoS Kotu Cham noted that their plans were necessary as vulnerability to climate change was synonymous to continued under-development as it impacts on all socio-economic sectors in the country, noting that 90 percent of livelihood thrive on climate-sensitive activities.
Ms Chinwe M Dike, the UN resident coordinator, described the forum as a demonstration of the great importance that the government of The Gambia attaches to the threat of the current climate variability in the country. She observed that the forum constitutes an important component of the ongoing national advocacy and sensitisation work, which is aimed at ensuring that climate change and climate variability considerations are fully taken into account in national and regional planning and programming.
The UN resident coordinator stressed the need for ambitious policies and strategies to avert future climate change.
Other speakers at the forum included Professor Andreas Steigen, former vice chancellor of the University of The Gambia, Dr Michel Jarraud, secretary general, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and Mr Abiodum Bashua, secretary of the conference of parties at the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).