Cities need to take action against climate change, according to Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE. During a recent interview with the BBC on the environmental crisis, Ms Aki-Sawyerr noted that implementing climate change initiatives can have a positive impact on human life: “Trees are life,” Mayor Aki-Swayerr said, “the role they play in our ecosystem can’t be overstated.”
Under Ms. Aki-Swayerr’s leadership, Freetown has committed to planting one million trees over the course of the next three rainy seasons and, with 250,000 trees planted so far, the project is well underway. The aim is to capitalize on the cooling effect the plants will have by pulling moisture from the ground, an effective countermeasure to the rising temperatures caused by global warming. The goal is for efforts like this to contribute to a reduction in the number of deaths related to climate change.
Mayor Aki-Swayerr also spoke about how climate change can be a catalyst for rising inequality. Crop failures are more likely in a warming climate, which can lead rural populations to seek a new life in nearby cities—an influx that many cities are not ready for, according to Mayor Aki-Swayerr: “we don’t have the infrastructure to absorb those people.”
This is a pattern that Mayor Aki-Swayerr sees across the entire Global South, where those with the fewest means often face the harshest impacts of climate change:
“The poor are disproportionately impacted… and in many ways they bear the least responsibility for this crisis.”
Watch the full BBC interview with Mayor Aki-Swayerr here, and find out more about Mayor Aki-Saywerr’s Transform Freetown initiative here.