2050: Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr – The Metrics Tracker

What is your job? 

I am the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone. In this role I strive to ensure that our economic development plans address any potential effects of climate change on the residents of my city. 

How are you helping cool the planet through your work? 

We are planting one million trees in and around Freetown to reduce the risks of flooding, landslides, and water shortages. To help protect us and mitigate the effects of climate change, we are also improving sanitation and our disaster response teams, along with our composting and urban farming programs — all of this with people at its heart. The majority of our interventions target the most vulnerable communities, particularly residents of informal settlements, who are most susceptible to the effects of climate change. Rather than impose, we co-create solutions with residents as they usually are involved in various stages of interventions including defining the problems they face, narrowing down possible alternatives, prototyping these solutions and implementing them.

To report back to the city on how we are doing and what needs to change in our climate work, we’ve grouped our climate activities into 4 clusters with 11 priority sectors and 9 specific targets with data and metrics sectors to ensure that investments deliver, and to grow external support. We can’t give up; we need leaders to take the lead. 

What most surprised you about your job? 

That the central government is allowing construction to happen in forest reserves and waterways. Like vaccine inequity, we can’t afford to leave anyone behind when it comes to the climate. But it is shocking that so few see how dire the situation is. How can we get people on board so that they can engage in this movement? We have to keep on doing the right thing, demonstrating what can be done and sharing success stories through networks. This is not a talk show. There is real urgency. 

What can we do to get more young people into public service?

By modeling service delivery and effectiveness so that young people are inspired to pursue public service. 

Public service has a bad reputation in our country. In our local language of Krio, it is usually called “gɔvmɛnt wok”(government work). This connotes a lack of respect, a lack of professionalism, and a lack of impact. However, good public service requires those who are making a change in the field to get the word out. If the quality is poor, if we fail to attract good people who can change the narrative or to bring in young people who are interested in learning, and fail to combat the people who are already in the sector and give it a bad reputation, how can we expect the quality to get better? Modeling service delivery and efficiency shows impact and inspires others to come on board and do better.


20 People Helping Cool the Planet by 2050

Carolyn Whelan

Carolyn is a writer, editor and analyst who covers the nexus between business and social justice issues. She broke into journalism at the Rio Earth Summit where she interviewed Al Gore and environmental pioneer David Brower. Topics covered since then range from climate change and higher education costs to drugs pricing, geopolitical strife, business ethics, artificial intelligence, gene editing, alternative energy and the search for good jobs -- and innovation in all these areas. Her pieces, reported from Europe, the US and South America have appeared in Fortune, Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and SciAm.com. Previously she worked for the Economist Intelligence Unit, Barrons.com, Columbia Business School, WWF, the UN and PwC. Carolyn is fluent in French and Spanish and resides in Brooklyn.

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