The minister of Environment, Parks and Wildlife has said that it is now widely recognised that climate change and biodiversity are interconnected and there is evidence that climate change is already affecting biodiversity and will continue to do so.
According to her, biodiversity is affected by climate change with negative consequences for human beings. Biodiversity she said, makes an important contribution to both climate change mitigation and adaptation through the ecosystem it supports.
Minister Fatou Ndeye Gaye made these remarks at the opening ceremony of a three-day national workshop on Protected Area Resilience to Climate Change (PARCC) West Africa that is officially known as Evolution of Protected Area Systems with regards to Climate Change in West Africa Region.
She indicated that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is mainly human-induced, forcing global warming to increase, while species and their habitats are on the decrease with chances for ecosystems to adapt, diminished naturally.
Consequently, she went on, conserving and sustainably managing biodiversity is crucial to addressing climate change; that the rapidly changing climate and accelerating biodiversity losses are risks to human security. "These include major changes in the food chain upon which we depend, water sources receding or disappearing, medicine and other resources we rely on may be harder to obtain as the flora and fauna we derive them from may reduce or disappear," Madam Gaye stated.
The minister went on to reveal that the initiative is a full-size Global Environment Facility (GEF) project focusing on issues of Climate Change and protected areas being implemented by the National Environment Agency (NEA), as the designated national liaison institution for the project on behalf of GEF and World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). The objective, according to her, is to build capacity of participants on how to better link seasonal climate variability to the health of particular species population.
The expected outcome is for participants to understand climate model results, disseminate species vulnerability results in their institutions and finally to relate vulnerability species with either seasonal or climate projections.
On the other hand, she said biodiversity is threatened by climate change, but suggested that proper management of biodiversity could reduce the impacts of climate change levied on them. Minister Gaye disclosed that the Government of the Gambia recognises that environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources creates cycles of poverty, poor health, loss of wildlife and generally retarded development which need full national commitment to address.
To address this situation, she said, government has put in place the following coherent policies: Banjul Declaration of 1977, National Environment Management Act (NEMA), National Environment Management Council (NEMC) in 1987 to provide the legal basis for environmental planning, management and decision making, and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP).
"As a Least Developed Country (LDC), the Gambia is and will continue to be greatly affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, forcing government to attach great importance to climate change issues. Therefore, the government's commitment in tackling the effects of climate change is reflected in its new five-year development strategy called Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE)," she posited.
While future climate change scenarios and local impacts remain uncertain, she said, protected areas will surely be affected, while improving climate resilience and adaptation will require changes in the approach to protected area planning, establishment and management which requires additional resources.
The executive director of the National Environment Agency (NEA), Momodou B. Sarr, disclosed that the project started from 2011 to 2015 and has covered a geographic scope of five pilot countries in West Africa; namely Chad, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo and Gambia. Ultimately, he said, when this PARCC project ends, it is anticipated that all the strategies, tools and methodologies of the PARCC project would be replicated in other regions in Africa.
According to him, this represents a significant body of work to be undertaken across a wide area with potential huge benefits to the whole region of West Africa from using the tools developed to increase the resilience of protected areas to climate change and to allow other trans-boundary initiatives.
The NEA boss said the workshop is expected to be very technical and will enable participants to better link the climate variability of their different seasons with the variation in population size of certain species.
Sarr pointed out that the importance of such information cannot be over-emphasized in identifying the most vulnerable species in their different annual seasons.
Famara Drammeh, the coordinator of the project, called for a holistic synergy in the understanding and dissemination of climate information and species vulnerability to climate change.