Freetown City Council, Freetown, Monday 23 October 2023 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has opened the country’s first National Dialogue aimed at “Developing a Just and Inclusive Energy Transition Plan for Sierra Leone in the Context of Climate Resilience and Sustainable Food Systems”.
He assured the massive gathering, convened by the Government of Sierra Leone and organised by the Presidential Initiative on Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Food Security, PI-CREF, of his government’s commitment to a clean energy system that could drive socio-economic benefits, social inclusivity, and empowerment.
With support from the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Agriculture & Food Security, Ministry of Environment & Climate Change, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, the participants were drawn from private sector investors, representatives of the UN systems, World Bank and Millenium Challenge Corporation, civil society, local councils, Paramount Chiefs as well as sector experts and academics from Africa, the United States and the University of Sierra Leone.
“Sierra Leone, as with other developing nations, is exceptionally vulnerable to climate variability and climate change, which affect citizens and make adaptation efforts more pressing as rapid changes in weather patterns erode the productivity of local water and food systems and generate unintended consequences for sustainable development.
“Though we have made progress with 36% of our population having access to electricity and established about 100 mini-grids across the country, there is no gainsaying that we must make concerted efforts to reduce energy poverty in Sierra Leone to drive our aspirations for industrialisation, wealth creation, and the achievement of our BIG FIVE Game Changers.
“Our nation’s low access to modern energy undermines its development goals and ability to build climate resilience. Moves toward low-carbon sources of energy to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are of paramount importance. Still, they must be compatible with achieving Sierra Leone’s development aspirations and meeting the unmet energy needs of 8.4 million Sierra Leoneans,” he said.
President Julius Maada Bio also disclosed that his Government’s long-term vision was to position Sierra Leone as an agricultural powerhouse and a regional hub for energy, adding that he was aiming to achieve that by mobilising investments for one gigawatt energy generation capacity over the next 10-15 years for local consumption and export in the sub-region.
“We believe this will spur transformative growth in advanced manufacturing and agricultural production, leading to thousands of quality jobs, growing our economy and fulfilling our climate action goals. To accomplish these targets, my Government is committed to developing policies and programmes to achieve climate resilience and a just energy transition that is inclusive, ‘leaving no one behind’.
“Our country must unlock its huge renewable energy potential and combine this with conventional energy to light up and power our homes and businesses,” the president encouraged.
Setting the scene earlier, the Chairman of PI-CREF, Hon. Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, emphasised that addressing the intertwined challenges of climate change, low access to energy, subsistence agriculture, unemployment and high levels of poverty would demand a comprehensive approach to planning and implementation, with a strategic focus on resolving pressing development challenges at the intersection with other key development ambitions and priorities.
“The goal is to build strong coalitions and partnerships of local and international actors who can take the lead in developing cost-effective and scalable solutions,” he said, adding that they hoped to pursue options to ensure that gender inclusivity would be an integral part of the energy transition plan and formulate a locally led climate action programme and climate-resilient agricultural and food systems strategy.
Senior Advisor to HE President William Ruto of Kenya and Special Presidential Climate Envoy, Ambassador Ali Daud Mohamed, confirmed that climate change was a threat that required collective actions and commitment from all players at the local, national, and regional levels.
He urged that countries in Africa must invest in climate-resilient programmes, stressing that while human activities continued to increase the rise in emissions, there was every need to develop and legislate laws to support climate-positive growth.
He concluded by confirming that the Kenyan government was committed and willing to support Sierra Leone and used the opportunity to call on partners to join President Bio in his energy drive for Sierra Leone.
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