Keynote Statement By H. E. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf President of Liberia Delivered by the Vice President Hon. Joseph N. Boakai 20 November 2008 Excellencies and members of the diplomatic corps, Members of the cabinet and heads of agencies, Participants from the UN Agencies the GEF Donors and other partners Environment stakeholders and county participants Students, members of the 4th estate Ladies and gentlemen: I want to thank all those who have made this occasion possible including the Board of Directors, Policy Council and Management Team of the Environmental Protection Agency, local and international environmental NGOS, and other collaborating institutions and individuals. I want to particularly thank the Country Support Team of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for encouraging and funding a national dialogue initiative in Liberia, UNDP for its financial support to the process and the GEF National Coordinating Committee of Liberia for the organization. According to the GEF, National Dialogues provide a forum for consultations on global environmental management and national sustainable development issues in GEF recipient countries. They offer an opportunity for GEF partners to engage in dialogue with key stakeholders representing a wide range of national and local interests and areas of expertise. As a recipient country, it is my hope that this dialogue will raise public awareness about the GEF among all stakeholders and set the pace for national coordination UNDP has stood firmly behind the Government of Liberia in matters of the environment, including substantial support to the National Environmental Commission of Liberia, which evolved into the Environmental Protection Agency, and its continuous provision of logistical and technical support to the EPA. In recent times, UNEP has been the largest contributor to the EPA besides UNDP, buttressed by Fauna and Flora International. I call on other friends like Conservation International, with whom we have country agreement, to follow the good examples of other partners. As a financial mechanism of the Rio Conventions, and within the context of its six strategy areas (biodiversity, climate change, land degradation, ozone depleting substances, sustainable land management and persistent organic pollutants), the Global Environment Facility has provided substantial support to meaningful projects in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Between 2002 and 2007 Liberia benefited from more than seven projects with total value of over US$3,000,000.00. With the GEF about to complete its fourth replenishment under the Resource Allocation Framework (RAF), known as GEF-4, we are reminded of some of the difficulties faced by developing countries in accessing GEF resources. The most outstanding constraint in the GEF process has been its requirement for co-financing, making it almost impossible in some cases for countries to get projects approved for funding. I call on the GEF to reconsider its co-financing requirement so that poor countries can have easy access to resources. I also call on the GEF to create special funding windows for countries coming out of conflict, such as Liberia. Like any developing country, the Liberian environment is beset by many problems, challenges and opportunities, ranging from natural disasters, climate change due to natural and anthropogenic factors, deforestation and land degradation, coastal erosion and sea level rise, unwarranted clearing of mangroves, unsustainable use of wetlands, uncoordinated waste disposal, pollution of our beaches and inland waters. Interestingly, Liberia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) of 2004 recognizes ignorance, poverty and insufficient public awareness as some of the key environmental problems in Liberia. It is quite difficult for one who has very little or no information about the need to conserve and protect our environment to cooperate. Equally, no one wants to listen to environmental problems if that person is subjected to abject poverty. Therefore, environmental sustainability can only succeed if we reduce the poverty level of the vast majority of the people. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: Liberia just elaborated its poverty reduction strategy, which is basically situated under four pillars, where the environment features strongly. Although Environment is considered to be a cross-cutting issue within the PRS, but in the Liberian context, we are cognizant that the environment is also of more fundamental importance to poverty reduction. Caring for the environment is a prerequisite for the success and sustainability of most poverty reduction initiatives, and the environment itself presents many of the best opportunities for pro-poor development. I therefore call on all within our borders to respect the environmental laws of Liberia, with a particular call on developers and investors to ensure strict adherence to the requirement for environmental impact assessment (EIA). The EPA has reported that there is some appreciable level of cooperation from developers in this respect, such as the waste water treatment plants of Firestone Liberia and USTC and several requests for environmental permits. This is a laudable effort to mitigate the problem of water pollution. When the waste water treatment plant at Firestone is fully operational, there will no longer be a pollution problem associated with the Farmington River. I hope all those in the building industry will also ensure they meet with EIA requirements of the EPA. In the last two years, we have experienced floods, beach erosion from sea level rise and other extreme weather events, such as storms. Some of the events were due to natural phenomena, but we as a people have been responsible for some due to our own action. But the reality is, climate change is real, and there is need for urgent actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. As a country with zero emission of green house gases on a global scale, our concern is how to adapt to climate change caused by mostly industrialized countries. Developed countries must meet their commitments for contribution to lease developed countries (LDC) funds for adaptation to climate change. Liberia needs support to support the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). The NAPA reveals that cclimate vulnerability and adaptation potential in Liberia is real in a most considerable way. In the case of vulnerability, the study established that climatic vulnerability threatens The economic/livelihood sector, including agriculture, fisheries, energy and forestry, it also threatens meteorology/hydrology, health and coastal communities Liberia’s coastline is in serious danger due to sea erosion, which wiped out entire communities in Robertsport, Buchanan and Monrovia this year. We are making frantic efforts to seek assistance to defend our beaches. I am pleased to announce that with the intervention of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the Dutch Government recently commissioned a study on the coastline, conducted by Royal Haskonig. That study shows that it would take close to two hundred million Euros to put in place a system that would ensure the safety of the beaches from further deterioration. In Monrovia the critical areas are Hotel Africa in Virginia, West Point, from Mamba Point to Sinkor. I call on our donors and other sympathizers to come to our aid. Thanks, though to the Least Developed Country (LDC) funds through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for a commitment of US$3,000,000.00 for a coastal defense system for Buchanan and Monrovia, but this is just a drop in the bucket. The GEF, EU, USAID, UNDP and the World Bank should help us explore other avenues for the entire coastline of Liberia. Liberia has been confronted with the huge problem of managing wastes, ranging from municipal to domestic and medical wastes. With assistance from the World Bank, we have made some achievements, with the decommissioning of the Fiamah Dumpsite to the Temporary landfill site at Wehn Town, hoping to have our first official landfill site at Mount Barclay within the shortest possible time, subject to availability of funding. I want to remind everyone within Monrovia and its environs that the only official dumpsite is the Wehn Town temporary landfill site near Mount Barclay. We will endorse any recommendation from the EPA and the Monrovia City Corporation against anyone caught dumping any where besides Wehn Town. I call on the Liberia National Police to work with the EPA in this respect, especially for those dumping on the Samuel Kanyon Doe Boulevard and reclaiming the wetlands. Of more serious concern is the handling and disposal of medical waste. Hospitals and funeral homes must cooperate with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Environmental Protection Agency for a workable programme in this direction. With Firestone Liberia and AccelorMittal now in the process of installing incinerators, I hope other developers will follow their examples. This is one area that requires investment, considering limited capacities of most medical institutions. Liberia recorded significant achievements in natural resources management and governance over the years. The enactment of the National Minerals Law, the Forestry Reform Law of 2006, compliance with environmental impact assessment in the timber and mining sector, public participation in the pre- qualification and granting of timber concession, community involvement in decision making are some examples. In protected areas, thanks to the GEF and World Bank for their support, the Forestry Development is now executing the project, Consolidating of Protected Areas Network (COPAN), which is expected to lead to the creation of three additional areas (Lake Piso, Wenegizi and Gola) besides Sapo National Park and East Nimba Nature Reserve. We hope this will satisfy our obligation to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity for setting aside ten percent of our land area for protection by 2010, referred to as the 2010 biodiversity target. I would expect all those concerned, especially the national legislature to ensure that the process is fast tracked so that we meet with our international obligations. Liberia is also participating in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), aiming at reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation (REDD), as part of the Bali Action Plan on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol. We also need substantial investments in solar, hydro electricity and wind energy. Speaking further of Clean Development Mechanism, there is a global concern about the small number of CDM projects in Africa, especially south of the Sahara. Everything must be done globally to ensure that Africa participates in the CDM to prepare for the post Kyoto period after 2012. The Government recognizes that the EPA has been under-funded during the recent fiscal years. My office will engage the cabinet committee on the environment and national legislature for reasonable in allocation to the EPA during the next fiscal year. To the participants at this GEF National Dialogue and the National Environmental Forum, I request you to carefully examine the objectives for the two meetings and come out with meaningful resolutions.