A conversation with Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone: Yvonne Aki-Sawyer and Amanda Ikert, Head of Adaptation Implementation at C40
Tune in. Listen to The Beam Podcast, Episode 4: Cities: Bracing for Climate Change.
Floods in Mozambique and Malawi, mudslides in Sierra Leona, droughts in Senegal and the Gambia, and flooding in Bangladesh and Nepal have killed thousands. They have wiped away homes and communities, destroyed farms and crops. Every day, all around the world, the climate crisis continues to hit the people who are the least responsible for the climate crisis the hardest. And science shows that it is only going to get worse.
Adaptation to climate change in developing countries is vital and it is a high and urgent priority for governments. Unfortunately, COP25 in Madrid showed the vast disconnect between the urgency that some communities are feeling at home and the pace of action from our governments.
In this new episode of The Beam Podcast, we wanted to raise awareness about the importance of long-term climate change considerations, and feature some good examples of climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. We invited Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, « a city that’s nestled along a plain, boarded with the Atlantic Ocean, and surrounded by mountains », as she describes it.
Aki-Sawyerr is one of the few politicians we know who doesn’t have a short-sighted view on climate justice issues. We asked her what climate change looks like for people in Freetown, Sierra Leone. « It looks like extreme weather conditions. It looks like terrible rainfall, which we’re also seeing in other parts of the world, but which, within our own context, led to a mudslide two years ago where 1,000 people died in just under five minutes. »
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr explains that she ran for office driven by the desire to “save” the city. The deforestation of the mountains, the cutting down of the forests along the mountain sites, the hillsides, the destruction of the coastal line as mangroves were depleted, were of major concerns for her, and within the first four weeks of her mandate, the newly elected Mayor implemented a flood mitigation plan in response to climate change, which already resulted in much smaller flooding.
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has already brought a radical transformation in governance to the capital city of Sierra Leone and she is committed to continuing to work neighbourhood by neighbourhood to develop locally-driven transformation plans.
The need for more collaboration and knowledge sharing platforms
Cities have an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis, and we often overlook the necessity of collaboration and knowledge sharing in order to drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change. A network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, C40 encourages more mayors and local political leaders to take ambitious action to secure the futures of their cities and citizens.
« The fastest way for cities to take action is to get inspired by other cities and to learn from other cities’ successes and failures. And it also very much helps in benchmarking progress and to see what could be possible in my own city, reflecting upon what others are doing, » explains Amanda Ikert, Head of Adaptation Implementation at C40. Her role is to make sure that cities know what steps they need to take to achieve the meaningful, effective preparedness for climate change. She is also making sure that cities don’t just make a plan and have it sit on a shelf, but that they’re actually taking action to prepare for the climate impacts of the future.
Thanks to C40, mayors of cities such as Chennai, Johannesburg and Tokyo are able to learn from each other on managing and mitigating urban flooding in their cities. A group of cities have also shared what they’re doing or what they could be doing to address and manage heatwaves. Coastal cities like New York, Shanghai or Jakarta are also sharing knowledge on how to prepare for the sea-level rise or hurricanes or typhoons or other coastal storms.
Listen to our conversations with Yvonne Aki-Sawyer and Amanda Ikert in the fourth episode of The Beam Podcast.