Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE recently spoke with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) about her plans to tackle environmental issues and make Sierra Leone’s capital more eco-friendly.
As a vocal supporter of the Global Green New Deal, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr has several actions on her agenda to advance sustainability, ranging from waste management and housing to improving urban planning and tackling environmental degradation. These actions have all been incorporated into a comprehensive three-year plan called “Transform Freetown.”
“It is four clusters and 11 priority sectors, with the clusters being: resilience, human development, a healthy city, and urban mobility. Everything ties into resilience, climate change adaptation and mitigation. It’s recognizing that to deal with these issues you’ve got to look at water, housing, sanitation, job creation, and skills development amongst other things. The 11 priority sectors are our commitment to integration and building a sustainable city.”
In the face of the current global crisis caused by COVID-19, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr emphasizes how the combination of issues related to the pandemic and climate change can increase risks for those who are most vulnerable. In this context, she believes climate change mitigation and infrastructure investments are even more critical.
“Climate change is on us, and a pandemic like this means that the impacts of climate change can translate into increased vulnerability of populations like people living in informal settlements, in inadequate housing and sanitation. There is a real need to ensure both climate change mitigation and investment in infrastructure, as well as reducing rural-urban migration happens now.”
Mayor Aki-Sawyerr concluded the interview with an important message: actions to save the climate and the environment should start locally, on the ground, scaling up to a national level. In order to ensure their implementation, however, she says that having access to financial resources is paramount.
“The point that is made repeatedly by the mayors I talk to is that city governments need access to financial resources, from the private sector as well as institutional development partners.”
To read the full interview, click here.