Author : African Development Bank Group
Site of publication : African Development Bank Group (Afdb)
Type of publication : Report
Date of publication : October 2022
- CLIMATE RESILIENCE AND A JUST ENERGY TRANSITION
2.1. Climate resilience, readiness, and vulnerability
Africa is warming faster than the global average over land and oceans and Sierra Leone is no exception (see the African Economic Outlook 2022 main report). According to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), current predictions are that critical global warming levels will likely be reached earlier than mid-century in Africa. The continent and Sierra Leone are, therefore, exceptionally vulnerable to climate variability and climate change which affect millions of people 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.
Sierra Leone is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, despite a low level of exposure to climate-related hazards, with a growing number of people at risk to extreme events and significant impacts on the economy. Like other vulnerable countries, Sierra Leone has gradually experienced high temperatures, inconsistent weather patterns, recurrent storms, floods, mudslides, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, poor water quality and scarcity, changes in ecosystems, and biodiversity loss, among others. Floods and landslides regularly affect Sierra Leone during the rainy season due to heavy precipitation and storm surges along the coast which take a toll on agricultural production, infrastructure, people’s homes, public health and biodiversity along the coast. Sierra Leone ranks 47th among 181 nations recording high scores for vulnerability, susceptibility and lack of coping capacities on the World Risk Index 2021. In August 2017, mudslides and flooding in Freetown and its outskirts affected thousands of people resulting in multiple deaths. The floods caused widespread destruction of at least 1,245 properties with over 300 houses being destroyed. Over 11,000 people were displaced, and their livelihoods were completely destroyed. A damage and loss assessment by the World Bank estimated a total economic loss of over USD 31 million and recovery needs of over USD 82 million. Sierra Leone is among the most vulnerable of the African countries to the increasing frequency of climate change impacts and has been ranked third most vulnerable after Bangladesh and Guinea Bissau by the IPCC.
Sierra Leone is among the most vulnerable of the African countries to the increasing frequency of climate change impacts and has been ranked third most vulnerable after Bangladesh and Guinea Bissau by the IPCC
According to the Notre Dame-Global Adaptation Index (2020), the country is also one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world with the least readiness. The estimated climate vulnerability and climate readiness indices for Sierra Leone are 56.5 and 29.3, respectively. Sierra Leone’s vulnerabilities stem from generally low socio-economic development where lack of resources increases the future risk of not meeting sustainable development objectives. Although contributing only marginally to global warming, Africa is bearing a disproportionately high burden as one of the regions of the world most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The region’s vulnerabilities stem from generally low socio-economic development, where lack of resources increases the future risk of not meeting sustainable development objectives. It is therefore imperative that countries like Sierra Leone focus on developing response measures through identifying and assessing disaster risks and strengthening collaboration and coordination.
2.2. Climate change and socio-economic impacts
Climate change resulted in significant losses in GDP per capita growth in Africa. These losses stem largely from differences in economic structure and exposure to climate change.
High dependence on agriculture exacerbates Sierra Leone’s vulnerability to climate change. The agricultural sector employs 54 percent of the total population and, together with the fishing and forestry sectors, constituted 57 percent of GDP in 2021. Reliance on rain-fed farming methods increases the sector’s vulnerability to rising temperatures and extreme weather shocks. Sierra Leone is also significantly dependent on the mining sector. More frequent floods and drought due to climate change are likely to reduce the supply of water to the mining sites and disrupt the mining operations. At the same time, a shift in commodity demand towards those needed for low carbon technologies may impact the demand for iron ore, particularly low-grade iron ore, produced in Sierra Leone that also requires more carbon intensive processing. The mining sector, which contributes significantly to fiscal and export revenues, needs to adapt proactively to climate change (IMF,2022). Apart from this, frequent climate change related flooding disasters in Sierra Leone such as the one that occurred in 2017 caused secondary health problems of water-borne diseases due to lack of safe drinking water after flooding. Water and sanitation infrastructure are sensitive to storm surges, the rise in sea level and flooding. Already a large percentage of the population lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Wastewater collection and treatment facilities are often situated at the lowest point possible as their operation often depends on gravity flow and can easily be inundated by water level rise. Therefore, Sierra Leone needs to develop climate-sensitive innovative designs of sanitation infrastructure, critical in adapting to climate change (GOSL, NDC, 2021).
Climate change threatens food security and the livelihoods of most of the population in Sierra Leone. Changes in precipitation and temperature increase risks of droughts, floods, and cause rises in sea levels affecting the country’s agriculture, water, energy, infrastructure and coastal areas. In the agriculture sector, the increased occurrence of drought will lead to higher crop water requirement. This will impact crop and livestock production by reducing water availability in water limited areas, while the expected increase in high rainfall events, potentially leading to flooding, will put rain fed agriculture at risk of crop and livestock losses. All of this could therefore significantly affect food security.
Climate change threatens food security and the livelihoods of most of the population in Sierra Leone. Changes in precipitation and temperature increase risks of droughts, floods, and cause rises in sea levels affecting the country’s agriculture, water, energy, infrastructure and coastal areas
Sierra Leone needs to build climate resilience. Building climate resilience involves synergies with considerable mitigation co-benefits. As discussed in the AEO 2022 main report, examples of building climate resilience include climate-smart agricultural practices and low-cost but effective technologies such as water harvesting and small-scale irrigation techniques, land and water conservation and management strategies, and minimum or zero tillage agriculture with high net returns to farmers — and even higher when farmers adopt complementary technologies. Building resilience also requires transformative changes with support from the public sector.
2.3. Energy transition as an opportunity to strengthen
Among the many challenges in building climate resilience is access to modern energy. As extreme weather events become more frequent and intense, installation of residential and workplace climate control systems is important for building climate resilience among households and businesses requiring modern energy. However, such efforts are held back by Africa’s low modern energy production and consumption. Energy is vital in building resilience for key productive sectors of African economies, including agriculture where changing patterns in rainfall and temperature threaten output and productivity. Unfortunately, Africa’s low level of access to modern energy presents significant challenge and dilemma in its quest to build climate resilience, and Sierra Leone is no different.
Beyond playing a critical role in building climate resilience, access to modern energy is vital for industrialization and to meet the development aspirations of its people, creating high-quality jobs and prosperity for all. Indeed, there is a strong correlation between GDP per capita and modern energy consumption in the form of electricity across a wide range of countries.
In terms of transitioning to renewable energy, about 50 percent of Sierra Leone’s 135 MW of installed generation capacity is from green energy sources. Since the country’s electricity access rate is one of the lowest in the world, further investment in green energy generation infrastructure remains a top priority.The current electricity supply is constrained by generation capacity and seasonal variation and is disseminated using inadequate and aging transmission and distribution networks. It is delivered at a very high cost with Sierra Leone having one of the highest electricity tariffs (currently at USc18/kWh) in the sub-region.
In terms of transitioning to renewable energy, about 50 percent of Sierra Leone’s 135 MW of installed generation capacity is from green energy sources. Since the country’s electricity access rate is one of the lowest in the world, further investment in green energy generation infrastructure remains a top priority
Inadequate energy supply is one of the key constraints undermining private sector development and economic competitiveness in Sierra Leone. Therefore
2.4. Towards a just energy transition: estimated carbon credit
Sierra Leone’s carbon emission is minimal compared to developed economies. The carbon footprint of Sierra Leone on a per capita basis was only 0.11 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2) in 2020, which is much smaller compared to developed nations such as the United States and China whose carbon footprint was 14.34 tCO2 and 7.41 tCO2 respectively.
2.5. National framework to strengthen climate resilience and accelerate energy transition
Due to strong linkage between climate vulnerability and development, Sierra Leone mainstreamed climate change into a national development agenda. The Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019-2023 stresses the need for aligning environmental, climate, and economic development plans in order to stage proactive efforts to mitigate the causes of global warming. This will help vulnerable citizens in both rural and urban settings to effectively adapt to climate change over the long term. Sierra Leone’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC, 2021) underscores that climate change mitigation is particularly crucial for the country in terms of adaptation, being ranked one of the least able countries to adapt to climate change in the world.Sierra Leone has adopted National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) and National Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (NCCS & AP). Sierra Leone’s policy response to climate change is driven by the need to urgently address the adverse impacts of climate change on the country’s economy and society as well as its physical environment. This entails efforts to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen adaptation to climate change in all sectors and at all levels, as well as to develop and implement mitigation initiatives for a low-carbon and high growth development path (GoSL, 2021).
Sierra Leone is taking measures to enhance greenhouse gas sinks. In 2020 Freetown alone committed to plant 1 million trees to build resilience against floods and absorb carbon dioxide. Sierra Leone also has plans to promote reforestation through agro-forestry and sustainable land management practices, and the implementation of alternative livelihood schemes to restore 175 km2 originally forested land by 2030.