The climate in Liberia has already changed. Between 1960 and 2006, mean annual temperature has increased by 0.8°C, at an average rate of 0.18°C per decade. Mean annual rainfall over Liberia has decreased since 1960, however, it remains unclear if this a long-term trend or due to the variability in rainfall for the region , .
Liberia will continue to be affected by changing climatic conditions. Global Climate Modelling (GCM) data indicates that mean annual temperature is projected to increase by 1.8°C between 2040 and 2059 . Under a high-emission scenario, projections show a likely increase of monthly temperatures of 3.2°C for the 2080s, with a possible increase of more than 4.8°C by the end of the century. Warming rates are expected to be higher and most rapid in the northern inland regions as opposed to coastal zones .
Despite significant interannual variability, annual rainfall in Liberia is expected to decrease. Additionally, an increase in extreme rainfall intensity is expected by mid-century, meaning while there is expected to be a decrease in total annual rainfall, the precipitation that does occur will be more likely to be concentrated in extreme events . Projected changes to rainfall will adversely impact Liberia’s coastal, forestry and agricultural sectors, and will likely result in potential flooding for lowland areas .
Liberia is affected by several climate-related hazards, the most common being epidemics, floods, tropical storms, tidal abnormalities, and coastal erosion . The risk and severity of natural disasters is expected to increase with climate change . Floods are among of the most frequent hazards in Liberia, which occur during rainy seasons, and are costly in terms of both human and economic loss. In 2017 alone, more than 100,000 people were affected by floods in the country .
Sea level in the country is projected to rise 0.13-0.56 m by the 2090s, relative to the sea level from 1980-1999. Sea level rise and associated coastal flooding can lead to erosion of the coastline, damage to houses and infrastructure, and poor sanitation of land and aquifers. The coastal zone is one of Liberia’s greatest environmental and economic assets and is home to around 70% of Liberia’s population . Already, 0.8 km² of land has been lost in recent decades due to coastal erosion, impacting infrastructure and nearby population centers .
Informal settlements are especially vulnerable to potential damage to critical infrastructure. Since 2013, sea level rise and coastal erosion have displaced more than 6,500 people and destroyed 800 houses in the West Point slum of Monrovia. The projected rise in sea level will likely increase migration to higher lands and/or result in shock waves of migration to the interior when coastal inhabitants seek refuge from flooding. Estimates suggest that more than 230,000 people are at risk and 2,150 km² will be lost with a one- meter rise in sea level by the end of the century. Damages and loss (infrastructure and land) for major cities such as Monrovia, New Kru Town, River Cess, Buchanan and Robertsport are estimated at $250 million, according to estimates from 2017 , .
Rising temperatures can seriously impact human health, due to increased risk of vectors, airborne and waterborne diseases, and a potential increase in food insecurity. In sub-Saharan Africa studies have shown that the death rate per year due to climate change will increase to 270,000 deaths per year by 2030. Due to Liberia’s weak health infrastructure and preparedness capabilities, it places as one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa least able to cope with climate change .
Liberia ranks low on nutrition indicators due to persistent food insecurity from low agricultural output, high reliance on food imports, and weak infrastructure, all of which are impacted by climate variability and change. In the country, food insecurity is widespread, with the highest rates of food insecurity found in Bomi, Grand Kru and River Cess counties. Agricultural yields of subsistence crops (rice and maize) are some of the lowest in the region; these yields will be further threatened by higher temperatures and increased rainfall variability. Liberia imports 73% of its food needs and interruptions in transport conduits in the regional market due to a more variable climate, coupled with higher food prices, threaten further the country’s food security .
Changes in seasonal rainfall patterns and rising temperatures will negatively impact the country’s water resources by decreasing total water levels and/or degrading water quality through contamination. Runoff in the St. Paul River Basin is projected to decrease 0.7–25% by the 2020s due to precipitation and temperature changes, impacting potential hydropower production at the Mount Coffee plant as well as the water supply for Monrovia. Increased rainfall, flooding and increased heat are also expected to increase sanitation vulnerabilities by further increasing the prevalence of water and vector-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrheal diseases .
The fishery sector in Liberia is important for food security and livelihoods of both coastal and inland communities. Fishing provides 65% of the animal protein needs of the country, contributes around 3.2% to Liberia’s GDP and is a key primary source of protein for children in many coastal areas. Rising sea surface temperatures are reducing biodiversity and overall fish stocks as a result of death, diminished reproductive cycles and migration to cooler waters. Climate induced changes in the biophysical characteristics in Liberia, along with extreme events, will have significant effects on the ecosystems which support fish (especially inland). This is projected to significantly affect food security and key livelihoods .
On a global scale, Liberia's contribution to climate change is negligible (less than 0.05%). However, the country is likely to be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change .
According to Liberia’s First Biennial Update Report (BUR) to UNFCCC , Liberia’s total national greenhouse gas emissions for 2017 was estimated at 5,900 GgCO2e, a 5% increase from the 2015 emission levels of 5,695.17 Gg CO2e. This increase was associated with high deforestation and inefficient waste disposal. In fact, excluding the Forest, and Other Land Use Sector (FOLU), Liberia’s total emissions was 2,185 GgCO2e in 2017, representing a 23% reduction from 2015.
In 2017, FOLU alone made up 64% of the overall emissions. Energy was the second-largest source of emissions in Liberia at around 16% of all the emissions, followed by IPPU (9%), Waste (8%) and Agriculture-related emissions (3%).
While the total emissions increased between 2015 to 2017, the trends for different sectors differed widely. Emissions in the Energy and IPPU sectors showed a declining trend of 18% and 48%, respectively. Conversely, AFOLU and Waste sectors recorded increasing emissions of 31% and 17% in the same period.
CO2 is the dominant greenhouse gas. The CO2 emission levels amounted to 81.1% of the total emissions in Liberia in 2017. Of the CO2 emissions, 78% came from the land category, mainly driven by the conversion of forest land to grassland .
Liberia remains fragile due to several non-climate factors include widespread poverty, high inequality and unemployment, and limited access to essential services (water, sanitation, and energy). These non-climate factors combine with climate change processes to create significant vulnerabilities for Libera at the national and local levels. Vulnerability is exacerbated by the country’s high dependence on climate-sensitive natural resource-intensive sectors– such as agriculture, fisheries, and forestry– for economic growth and livelihood support .
Key policies and governance approach
The National Climate Change Steering Committee (NCCSC) is the supreme institutional body responsible for coordinating and supervising the implementation of climate change policy and other related activities in Liberia. The EPA is Liberia’s Designated National Authority for the UNFCCC and has the mandate as the national regulatory agency for sustainable environmental management, including climate change .
Liberia joined the UNFCCC in 2002 and is a signatory to the 2002 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement . In compliance to its obligations to the UNFCCC, EPA has submitted two National Communications (2013 and 2021), its First Biennial Update Report (2020), and its revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2021 , . Additionally, the country formulated its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in 2008 , which identified several projects and urgent adaptation needs including agriculture adaptation, national meteorological and hydrological monitoring, and coastal defence. Liberia was also one of the first recipients of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) support for climate change to formulate its NAP .
In 2010, Liberia initiated the National Adaptation Plan process. The National Adaptation Plan 2020-2030 aims to: (i) provide a framework and procedures for sharing of information of scientific, technical, and traditional knowledge on climate change risk management and develop capacity-building measures; (ii) coordinate sectors and related government and private land-use institutions on climate change risk management using awareness with a focus on the improvement of climate risk management actions; and (iii) work with the priority sectors to identify and propose measures to promote adaptation to reduce climate change risk. The NAP also seeks to support climate change adaptation actions at the national and subnational levels (between line ministries and development partners) and accelerate strategic investments in climate-resilient development .
Liberia’s revised NDC commits to reducing its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 64% below the projected business-as-usual level by 2030, through a combination of the following: unconditional GHG reductions of 10% below BAU, resulting in an absolute emissions level of 11,187Gg CO2e in 2030; with an additional 54% reduction conditional upon international support, which would result in an absolute emissions level of 4,537Gg CO2e in 2030. It also includes climate change adaptation targets for eight sectors - Agriculture, Forests, Coastal zones, Fisheries, Health, Transport, Energy, and Waste - as well as cross-cutting targets for urban green corridors. Additionally, the NDC outlines a national system for measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) for mitigation actions and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) for adaptation actions to implement the NDC .
Liberia’s national efforts towards mitigating and adapting to climate change have also been outlined across several policies, plans, and strategies, including the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), the National Policy and Response Strategy on Climate Change and the National REDD Strategy, among others. The country has also developed several major sectoral policies including the National Energy Policy (NEP), National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) 2015, Rural Energy Strategy and Master Plan for Liberia until 2030 (RESMP) 2016, and the National Transport Policy Strategy (NTPS) .
The National Policy and Response Strategy on Climate Change, developed in 2018, aims to have a climate-resilient, low carbon nation that responds to climate change while equally addressing its national development priorities sustainably and equitably. The policy builds a firm foundation for mainstreaming climate change actions into all key socio-economic programmes to bring about an integrated response across all sectors. The policy outlines thirteen “Adaptation” interventions and eight “Mitigation” interventions. It also focuses on cross-cutting issues and enabling pillars necessary for successful implementation and achievement of the policy .
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
The constraints, gaps and related financial, technical, and capacity needs are discussed at length in Liberia’s Second National Communication to the UNFCCC. As described in the Second National Communication, implementation of proposed climate change actions in Liberia are constrained by limited human resources and technical capacity. For instance, the energy sector specifically needs technical experts to initiate development of technologies that can mitigate emissions from the energy, transport, mining, and agricultural sectors. Limited technical capacity also hinders research and interpretation of national and regional climate change projections. As a technical need, Liberia should enact a climate change bill into law. This will enhance government capacity to ensure the best practice climate assessments, adaptation approaches and low carbon development strategies are in place at regional, national, and individual levels. Such technology advancements will require high investment due to their high cost .
Implementation of specific adaptation and mitigation strategies and options are often constrained by financial limitations. There is inadequate funding in the national budget for climate change activities, and, as a result, activities are largely donor driven and project based. Domestic financing of climate change activities is also difficult to estimate over a given time frame as there is no clear differentiation of climate expenditure items in the national budget, which leads to challenges in tracking actual government expenditures on climate change . The NDC Costing and Cost-Benefit analysis estimated that a total investment of US$490,590,000 dollars through 2025 will be needed to achieve Liberia’s NDC mitigation and adaptation targets. To achieve the conditional portion of its NDC target, Liberia intends to mobilize approximately US$460,000,000 dollars from the private sector, bilateral and multilateral sources and all other sources, mechanisms, and instruments .
Another constraint in Liberia is the duplication of climate activities and funding, due to weak institutional coordination within government and among donors. Additionally, in most cases, resources are also not directed to where they are needed most .
Initiatives and Development Plans
In 2021, the Green Climate Fund approved a US$17.2 million grant for a climate resilience project in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia. The six-year Monrovia Metropolitan Climate Resilience Project will be implemented by EPA with the support of the UNDP, and responds to the life-threatening climate change-related impacts of sea-level rise, coastal erosion and urban encroachment into vital mangrove ecosystems. The Government of Liberia is providing US$8.4 million in co-financing for the project. The project will indirectly benefit approximately 1 million people – a quarter of the country’s total population – through the adoption of an integrated coastal zone management approach. The project outputs include: (i) Protection of coastal communities and infrastructure at West Point against erosion caused by sea-level rise and increasingly frequent high-intensity storms; (ii) Institutional capacity building and policy support for the implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) across Liberia; and (iii) Protecting mangroves and strengthening gender- and climate-sensitive livelihoods to build local climate resilience in Monrovia .
The Enhancing Climate Information Systems for Resilient Development in Liberia (Liberia CIS) project will aim to reach 7.7 million beneficiaries to increase the resilience of Liberia’s population and infrastructure to climate change through: (i) improved hydro-meteorological service generation and provision, in line with WMO requirements for establishing a functioning National Meteorological and Hydrological Service; (ii) improved risk knowledge and awareness of both Government institutions and communities; and (iii) mechanisms to better prepare and respond to climate hazards through an enabling environment, appropriate legislation, agency coordination as well as implementing an effective impact-based forecasting and forecast-based financing mechanism .
- Improve understanding of the occurrence and magnitude of key climate change trends, as well as the key vulnerabilities, development impacts, and possible adaptation responses.
- Widen the participation of the public, scientific institutions, women and local communities in planning and management, accounting for approaches and methods of gender equity.
- Strengthen environmental monitoring capabilities for strengthened and more effective environmental management.
- Enhance Liberia’s adaptive capacity through a national hydro-meteorological monitoring system.
- Specific policies relating to waste management are needed in Liberia.
- Ensure NDC goals and climate change adaptation efforts are integrated and included in sectoral and regional plans as well as with City governments, land authorities, and DRM agencies.
- Implementation of cross-sectoral climate-smart solutions at national and subnational levels.
- Implement regional-scale cooperation among countries in West Africa to emphasize the benefits of collaboration and institution building in the region.
- Integrate climate change concerns into relevant policies and planning processes at the state and national levels.
- Encourage private and public sector partnerships and independent private partnerships in the development and deployment of clean and affordable energy solutions to fast-track electrical power supply and financing. This way, the country can expand opportunities for socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 impacts.
- Climate change adaptation technologies should be used in the agriculture sector, including value addition to agriculture products (rice, cassava, vegetables and fruits), improved storage (drying and freezing of agriculture products), and Integrated Soil Fertility Management.
- Develop and implement simple strategies for sharing climate change knowledge and information, such as posters/fliers on climate change situations/actions and mitigation/adaptation activities.
 Reliefweb (2021). Green Climate Fund approves US$17.2 million grant for climate resilience project in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia. [Online]. Available: https://reliefweb.int/report/liberia/green-climate-fund-approves-us172-million-grant-climate-resilience-project-liberia-s.
 Green Climate Fund (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.greenclimate.fund/project/sap018.