Helping West African countries reach climate targets

These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.

Based on 28-year-old Faith Edem’s research and analysis, Canada is supporting Ghana, Liberia, The Gambia and Togo to reach their climate targets.

Tell us about that work.

As an economic adviser to Environment and Climate Change Canada, I was tasked with making recommendations for the next phase of the West Africa Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) Program to identify countries in West Africa that would benefit the most from Canadian financial help. The $20 million that has been allocated will support these countries to evaluate, plan and monitor progress toward reducing their current emissions to Paris Agreement levels. It will also allow them to increase their participation in global climate-related conversations, including trade and diplomacy.

In order to provide this advice, I developed metrics that I hope will prove useful in other similar applications in the world of international climate finance.

My goals were to provide both Canadians and citizens of the recipient countries with the assurance the funds were going to be used to build lasting capacity for emission reductions on a sector-by-sector and country-by-country basis. My recommendations were based on an analysis that revealed the recipient governments were competent and committed to developing and implementing the kinds of policies that will actually reduce emissions and also benefit their domestic priorities.

For example, perhaps the country does not yet have good data about emissions in its transportation sector. These funds can be used to measure and make plans for effective reduction, which might help direct what kinds of transportation alternatives receive subsidies or other incentives.

Some of these countries have large forested areas. With Canada’s help, they will be able to better assess their carbon sinks, improve national data collection and participate in international carbon markets.

With Canada’s support, these countries will be able to participate in south-south co-operation with each other. They will learn from other countries’ experiences, build regional collaboration and exchange lessons learned in developing mitigation programs.

How did you get this job?

I found an opportunity through my master’s program to work with Environment and Climate Change Canada to develop energy policy, which led to a job on that file for almost three years. When this opportunity to work in international climate finance came up, I took it. I have just moved to another position where I am helping develop climate and environmental trade policy.

What are some positives about working in government?

A lot of young people think since governments seem to move slowly, they should work elsewhere. But the truth is that we cannot tackle either climate change or the overlapping social justice crises at the scale that is needed without the government involved and leading. I use my passion for change to ask questions that convey both the urgency and the depth of the problem. This project is one example of senior leaders supporting my work. My generation knows we have to push the envelope. I hope more young people will come and help do that.

How did you get into the field?

When I was a little girl, I came to Canada from Nigeria with my family, and we still have close ties there. Just in the past generation, the water has become too polluted to drink or swim in, with reduced access to uncontaminated seafood. I read an article about young Black environmental leaders being supported to attend a United Nations climate change conference. They felt good about making a difference by insisting that because of the unfair impacts of climate change on people in the Global South, social justice needs to be integrated into all our goals. It is the work for climate justice that motivates me to want to work at the international level to make a significant difference.

What makes your work challenging?

I am ambitious and in a hurry. I feel anxious about the need for, and absence of, climate justice. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. But I have lived experience of what happens when decision-makers stop caring. Last year, my dad returned from a trip to Nigeria with a nasty allergy but after a few months back in Canada, his allergy significantly reduced and he started getting better. If we can prioritize wellness for ourselves and each other, we can move forward even if we are grieving.

What would you like to say to other young people?

As a young Black woman, I know we often have to be twice as good to be seen as half as good. I have learned to take chances and keep asking and pushing and if it doesn't work out — well, the next time it might. You never know how things will end up. The important thing is to try.

What about older readers?

You might not realize how much your expertise, your experience, your influence and your time matter. Young people might have great ideas that would become tangible with a little of your help and some introductions. Offer to help.


PHOTO: Faith Edem's work at Environment and Climate Change Canada helped allocate funds to West African countries. Photo submitted by Faith Edem