Mariline Diara, a trained geologist, is Director of Environment and Classified Establishments at the Senegalese Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development, a focal point for climate change as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for Senegal. She tells us about the mobilisation of the Department of the Environment at Cop 21 in Paris.
What consequences of climate change are you seeing in Senegal?
The expression “climate change” is appropriate: it is more accurate than “global warming”, as it also covers the consequences, such as swells along the coastline and climatic hazards. Senegal experiences these problems both as a Sahelian country and a coastal country. Inland, we are experiencing increasing aridity with rainy seasons that are increasingly short and increasingly late. This has consequences on agriculture and water supply, for example. Along the coast we are suffering the consequences of erosion and the intrusion of saline water which makes land unsuitable for cultivating. Hotels on the coast are closing because the beach is disappearing. In 2015, over 200 houses were washed away because of swell and too often we deplore the loss of human life among fishermen. Senegal has several islands which are by nature vulnerable to climate change. During the rainy season entire districts are flooded in various cities. Along the roads, areas where materials are excavated (which are often in very poor repair) become flooded and can lead to accidents for people and livestock. Regarding the longer term, a study funded by the World Bank and conducted by the department of the environment predicts a catastrophic scenario for the coast of Saint Louis in 2080.
How is Senegal dealing with climate change?
The intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) we submitted as part of Cop 21 was very useful for us. We reviewed the Emerging Senegal Plan from a “climate” point of view and we changed certain points to give it more of a sustainable development dimension. For example, we had aimed for an energy mix objective based partly on coal-fuelled power plants, but after the INDC we geared ourselves more towards renewable energies: we are now aiming for 40% of renewable energies by 2020, compared with 15-20% previously. We are also working on the energy efficiency of buildings, for example using Nubian vaults in architecture. Coastal erosion is also one of our priorities and in Paris we are bringing a coastal observatory project for integrated management of coastal areas (infrastructures, erosion, early warning system, re-housing of affected populations, drainage of canals, waste management, …) to the attention of donors. This action must act both on adaptation to climate change and against pockets of under-development generated by warming in these areas.
What are you fighting for at Cop 21?
Apart from the negotiators’ work on the agreement, we are here to present projects to fight against the consequences of climate change in Senegal to international institutions, donors and various funders (adaptation fund, green fund, etc.). There are many projects in Senegal, but their scope is not broad enough and they are often too local. We need to change scale. Especially in areas where we are already working. At the Department of the Environment and Classified Establishments, we define our actions in synergy with various stakeholders: associations, NGOs, public interest groups, the public and private sectors, etc. Apart from funding, we would also welcome technical partnerships and strengthening of capacities for our projects.