Ghana’s delegation to the just-ended annual United Nations (UN) climate change summit (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, joined the voices of developing countries’ call for more resources to be committed to efforts at reducing the impact climate change had on Ghana, and other vulnerable nations.
The 70-member delegation which was part of the G77 and China bloc, argued that climate change was currently being witnessed first-hand in many parts of Ghana, with rising sea levels, intense and prolonged dry weather, especially in the northern parts of the country, depletion of forest vegetation, pest infestations and the drying up of rivers, all of which were contributing to increasing poverty.
The team, led by the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, also showcased at various negotiations and bilateral talks, the commitment and policies Ghana initiated to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
They stressed the need for the country and other vulnerable nations to be assisted with stronger financial and technological backing to implement their commitment to the Paris Agreement (PA).
The other members of the delegate were the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Peter Amewu; the Executive Director of the EPA, Mr Peter Abum Sarkodie; and the National Focal Person, Mr Kyekyeku Yaw Oppong-Boadi, as well as technocrats and climate change experts from the ministries, departments and agencies.
What is PA?
In 2015, the PA brought together about 195 countries to tackle climate change and adapt to its effects by taking steps to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius and as close as possible to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
To reach these ambitious goals, developed nations are to assist developing countries with appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity-building framework in line with the developing nations’ development objectives.
The PA requires all parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead, requiring all parties to report regularly on their emissions and their implementation efforts.
Vulnerability of agriculture
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has said climate change is now affecting every nation on every continent as increasing global warming is disrupting national economies, affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow.
In Ghana, many local communities are reeling under the impact of climate change that is threatening the livelihoods of the people and even making it difficult for the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
For instance, the agricultural sector is a major economic area that supports the livelihood of over 80 per cent of the Ghanaian population. The sector, dominated by smallholder farmers who produce 80 per cent of the country’s food needs, is today very vulnerable to climate variability.
Though Ghana does not experience frequent floods, the occurrence of flash floods often inundate and destroy the farms of smallholder farmers, who have limited capacity to build resilience against these disasters.
“With just one rain, all the farms of smallholder farmers are destroyed and they have to struggle to regain their farms,” the Deputy Director of Crop Services of the Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Mr Kingsley K. Amoako who shared a case study on Ghana’s climate risk experiences in agriculture sector on the sidelines of COP23 in Bonn,remarked.
Additionally, Ghana has not experienced drought, except in 1983, but prolonged dry spells pose serious threats to farmers who often lose everything they plant.
That was the reason why the government of Ghana had been urged to insure farmers against such disasters.
More than ever before, Ghana has become extremely vulnerable to pest infestations as exemplified by the recent outbreak of the fall army worm that destroyed over 112,000 farmlands and 14,000 farms, threatening the livelihoods of about four million farmers.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that as of June 2017, more than 25 African countries, including Ghana, had been affected by the swarms that had affected more than 1.5 million hectares of maize in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The organisation warned that if the infestations were not controlled, it would pose a serious threat to African agriculture and food security.
Consistently in his bilateral talks with the Green Climate Fund and African Development Bank, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng hammered on the vulnerability of Ghana to climate shocks.
He, for instance, cited how global warming was causing the drying up of the Lake Chad, a situation the FAO called “ecological catastrophe”, predicting that the lake could disappear this century.
The drying up of the 25,000 km Lake Chad, located in Chad and Nigeria with parts extending to Niger and Cameroun, is causing most farmers and cattle herders to move towards greener territories, including Ghana, where they compete for land resources with host communities, with some engaging in menial jobs and roaming the streets as beggars.
“In Ghana, we used to have seasonal migration of cattle herders, but today such migration into Ghana’s forest zones has become permanent due to the drying up of the Lake Chad.
“The interface between the local people and the herdsmen is creating problems and every year, tens of people are killed.
As a result, farmers displaced enter the forests to create new farms and engage in illegal mining that has degraded at least five per cent of the surface area of Ghana’s land,” Prof. Frimpong-Boateng stressed when he addressed a high-level segment of the 23rd closing session of COP23.
Today, nine out of the 13 major rivers in Ghana, such as River Pra, Densu, Birim, Ankobra and Enu, are heavily polluted due to the illegal mining activities taking place in eight out of the 10 regions, with Ghanaians and nationalities from most West African countries such as Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, China and America involved in galamsey.
Rising sea level and infrastructure
Ghana, one of the least emitters of greenhouse gas, has not been spared as climate change-induced rising sea levels are triggering destructive storms and flooding that are threatening the tourism industry and homes of coastal dwellers, most of who have been displaced in communities such as Ada and Keta in the Greater Accra and the Volta regions, respectively.
Moreover, climate change is also wreaking havoc on infrastructure in most vulnerable communities across the country due to downpour that makes many roads inaccessible.
Investment for implementation
Currently , Ghana needs $22.4 billion in investments to implement its 31 actions in NDCs that cut across seven important sectors, including agriculture, forestry, waste management, industry, energy and transportation.
“At the moment, Ghana is mobilising resources from both private and public sources and pursuing a lot of early ground actions in various sectors to lay the foundation for the full implementation of the NDCs,” the Principal Environmental Officer of the Climate Unit of the EPA, Mr Danny Benefor said.
It is for these concerted efforts being made by Ghana, including the banning of illegal mining, that developed nations must come forth with financial assistance and technological transfer to help the country meet its commitments to the PA just as other developing nations.
I was glad when the Executive Director of the UN Green Climate Fund, Mr Howard Bamsey, assured Prof. Frimpong-Boateng of the readiness of the fund to give priority to Ghana, and other African nations, to access the GCG within six months, instead of two years, to meet its commitment to the PA.
While similar promises were made in the past that were unfulfilled, I hope the call by Prof. Frimpong-Boateng on develop nations to support developing countries and the social wellbeing of the people as they protect the earth would be heeded to without any feet dragging.