Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr calls for cities to play a larger role in the global fight against climate change

Providing more urban green spaces, driving a reforestation campaign, and scaling up and modernizing public transportation are only some of the measures undertaken by Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE to fight challenges brought on by urbanization and climate change.

In a recent discussion at the UN Forum of Mayors 2022, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr highlighted how Freetown is at the forefront of the battle against climate change in Africa.

She pointed to the efforts, supported by the city of Zurich, to regenerate Freetown’s central business district through expanding green spaces and introducing street lighting powered by renewable energy. She also noted that the pioneering new cable car system introduced under her leadership will significantly reduce traffic-related greenhouse gas emissions:

“We will be moving 6000 people every hour. This will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions… and from the perspective of local health, the reduction in respiratory diseases will be really significant.” 

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr also recently participated in a discussion at the International Cooperation Forum in Switzerland, where she called for greater recognition of the potential that cities have to undertake impactful global climate action. She pointed to Transform Freetown—an ambitious development plan designed to sustainably drive socio-economic development and improve the quality of life for Freetonians—as a viable example of city-level initiatives that tackle global challenges:

“Transform Freetown—which is our development plan as a city—is aligned with the SDGs, but is also an integrated approach, data-driven, and inclusive.”

Fulfilling the potential of cities in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation is dependent upon the space they are given at the negotiating table “in places such as COP and other UN fora,” she argued.

In conclusion, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr presented a roadmap for addressing environmental challenges in which cities are given a say in the design and implementation of national policies, and where rural and urban communities—including slum dwellers—are at the heart of the climate agenda.

Watch the UN Forum of Mayors 2022 in full here, and the International Cooperation Forum in full here.

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