Gabon's climate change challenge

President Ali Bongo Ondimba reaffirms his commitment to the fight against climate change

"Because of their high impact on our daily lives, environmental problems such as climate change and the fight against the loss of biodiversity are major political, economic, and geopolitical issues. Fighting against climate change is not a choice. It is compulsory; it has become an inevitability, because we are subject on a daily basis to its harmful consequences. So, rather than suffering from it, let us grasp the opportunities it presents", said the President of the Gabonese Republic, Ali Bongo Ondimba during the second meeting of the National Climate Council held in the presidential state room.

The agenda for this meeting related to the challenges of climate change, as well as progress made towards Gabon's Climate Plan and future prospects.

Following commitments made in December 2009 at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, President Ali Bongo Ondimba decided to establish a National Climate Council. This structure aims to develop and strategically direct national policy on climate change, with the ultimate goal of drafting a National Climate Plan.

Participants and speakers

Around two hundred people attended the meeting, including the Prime Minister and members of the Government, Presidents of constitutional institutions, the head of diplomatic corps in Gabon, representatives of civil society, representatives of the private sector, and development partners.

The first speaker, Mr. Etienne Massard Kabinda, the President's special advisor and President of the Managing Committee of the National Climate Council, opened by explaining the background to the climate plan. From his point of view, a vision, global issues, an economic opportunity, and the vulnerability of the ecosystem and populations, could be factors contributing towards the launch of a strategic climate plan.

From this perspective, the following objectives need to be achieved: to resolve and anticipate the vulnerability of the region and its populations to climate change; to fight against climate change; to support the government's development policy by adopting an integrated approach; and to respect international commitments made by Gabon.

During his presentation, Mr. Massard focused on Gabon's vulnerability to climate change, and more specifically upon the impact of rising sea levels on the country's coastal area. Gabon has more than 800 kilometres of coastline, where more than two thirds of the population are concentrated as well as the majority of the country's economic activities. According to measurements taken in Port-Gentil by the CNDIO (National Centre for Oceanographic Data and Information), between 1958 and 2008 the coastline in the Mandji Island area receded by 4 meters per year, in other words, 200 meters in 50 years. If this rate was to accelerate, the coastline risks losing up to 10 meters per year. The consequences of climate change will therefore have a significant social and economic impact on Gabon, requiring a rethink of town planning and land use policies.

Mr. Massard also focused on the fact that Gabon's ambition to develop a Climate Plan could only be achieved if the different actors were committed to respecting the schedule for developing it. The aim is to be able to present a first version of the Climate Plan during the 17th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa.

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