Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr Announces Africa’s First Chief Heat Officer
Today, from City Hall in Freetown, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr kicked off the heat season awareness campaign in West Africa, by naming Freetown City Council’s sanitation sector lead, Eugenia Kargbo, as Freetown’s first Chief Heat Officer (CHO), delivering on her commitment as a founding member of City Champions for Heat Action (CCHA) and making Eugenia the first to be appointed to the position on the African continent. CCHA is a cornerstone initiative of the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance (EHRA) a global team led by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock) committed to providing one billion people with resilience solutions by 2030.
“Climate change for Freetown means more frequent and dangerous extreme high temperatures for residents, especially our most vulnerable citizens,” said Mayor Aki-Sawyerr. “Freetown is not unique – heat is an emergency for cities across Africa and the world. City Champions for Heat Action and our new Chief Heat Officer will help me accelerate the protection of vulnerable people and implement cooling solutions for long-term health and well-being of the citizens of Freetown and ultimately, other cities in the African continent.”
Freetown is not unique – heat is an emergency for cities across Africa and the world. City Champions for Heat Action and our new Chief Heat Officer will help me accelerate the protection of vulnerable people and implement cooling solutions for long-term health and well-being of the citizens of Freetown and ultimately, other cities in the African continent,”
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With Ms. Kargbo’s landmark appointment as CHO, Freetown – one of the founding members of CCHA – joins a small but growing group of cities and counties around the world dedicating a city official to manage the growing risk of extreme urban heat. CHOs raise awareness of extreme heat risk among their citizens, coordinate among disparate stakeholders to prompt better planning and response to heat waves, and support the implementation of long-term strategies and projects to protect people and livelihoods from heat. Fellow CCHA founding members, Miami-Dade County and Athens, Greece, made history earlier this year by appointing Jane Gilbert and Eleni Myrivili as CHO’s, respectively.
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As a member of CCHA, Freetown will receive critically important technical support from EHRA; a ready-to-implement roadmap for decision-makers to reduce the risks of heat to their most vulnerable citizens; connection to a network of global cities working to address heat risks; and coordination and implementation of heat-awareness communications campaigns. Ms. Kargbo will work through Innovation SL as an advisor to Mayor Aki-Sawyerr on efforts to reduce the heat-related climate risks, and with Freetown City Council and other stakeholders to develop and enact a multi-sectoral Heat Strategy and Action Plan for the city. This will involve the launch of a heat-health task force with participation from key municipal departments and sectors, as well as the private sector, civil society, and community leaders. She will also support data collection, analysis, and visualization of heat impacts, including the Freetown City Council Treetracker Platform.
“I am so proud to be named Freetown’s Chief Heat Officer and to be a part of the global platform of EHRA that helps cities protect vulnerable people and communities from extreme heat,“ said Eugenia.
I am so proud to be named Freetown’s Chief Heat Officer and to be a part of the global platform of EHRA that helps cities protect vulnerable people and communities from extreme heat,“
Eugenia Kargbo, Freetown’s Chief Heat Officer
Climate change is causing global temperatures to rise, resulting in life-threatening heat waves and record highs that have devastating short- and long-term consequences. In the long-term, the World Meteorological Organization predicts that over the next three years, Africa will experience continued warming and decreasing rainfall. If global temperatures increase from 1°C to 4°C relative to pre-industrial levels, the continent’s overall GDP is expected to decrease by 2.25% to 12.12%, respectively.
“Extreme heat is a silent killer responsible for more deaths across the globe than any other climate-related threat,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, SVP & Director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council. “The dangers of rising temperatures disproportionately impact marginalized urban communities, but with the right solutions and coordinated efforts, we can reduce the effects. We look forward to working closely with Mayor Aki-Sawyerr and Ms. Kargbo to bring scalable policies and projects that protect the citizens of Freetown.”
The dangers of rising temperatures disproportionately impact marginalized urban communities, but with the right solutions and coordinated efforts, we can reduce the effects,”
Kathy Baughman McLeod, SVP & Director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of Mayor Juan Espadas of Seville, Spain, becoming the first elected official to agree to name and categorize heat waves, beginning in 2022.The cities and counties that are taking immediate, scalable action provide a model for governments around the world to replicate and expand upon. As the worsening impacts of extreme heat are felt worldwide, local officials – especially cities – can lead in protecting communities, particularly the vulnerable to the effects of heat. According to Atlantic Council.