Concern over climate change was expressed most vocally at the conference – organised by UN-Habitat — by the mayors of coastal cities and small island states. “In the Seychelles, our 116 islands are on the front line,” said Marie-Antoinette Alexis, mayor of the islands’ capital, Victoria. “We can lose our beaches, our tourism, our land and our way of life if something is not done quickly.”
Samba Faal, mayor of Banjul, Gambia, observed that a one-metre rise in sea level near his city would result in a 50% loss in landmass. As most of Banjul lies one metre below sea level, such a scenario would pose a serious threat to human settlements, health and food security.
Negative climate impacts are not confined to coastal areas, however. Mahamat Zène Bada, mayor of Chad’s capital, N’djamena, noted that irregular rainfall patterns and deforestation in and around the city had led to major flooding in 1999, 2001 and 2008. Two rivers flank N’djamena and local people rely on wood products for energy.
Despite African cities’ relatively low contribution to global warming, they are feeling the effects of rising greenhouse-gas emissions elsewhere in the world.