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31.03.2005 Feature Article

Can Ghana’s Parliament Review Its Position on the Kyoto Protocol?

Can Ghana’s Parliament Review Its Position on the Kyoto Protocol?
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“In the history of civilization climatic optimums are associated more with prosperity and progress, ice ages-with hardships and catastrophes” –peter kaznacheev, Institute of Economic Analysis, Moscow, August 2004 Recent extreme weather conditions has given cause for some political and green environmental leaders to warn us of the calamity that lays ahead if urgent 'sustainable' steps are not taken to save our planet.

For instance, in a speech to mark the 10th anniversary of His Royal Highness' Business and the Environment Programme last autumn, the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair provided his 'watertight' evidence on the present state of our world. The 10 warmest years on record have all been since 1990. Over the last century average global temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius: the most drastic temperature rise for over 1,000 years in the northern hemisphere. Extreme events are becoming more frequent. Glaciers are melting. Sea ice and snow cover is declining. Animals and plants are responding to an earlier spring. Sea levels are rising and are forecast to rise another 88cm by 2100 threatening 100m people globally that currently live below this level. The number of people affected by floods worldwide has already risen from 7 million in the 1960s to 150 million today. Solutions to these extreme weather conditions are to be found in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (KP), which demands that countries cut their global greenhouse gas emissions because as it were, carbon emissions are responsible for global warming. According to Tony Blair “It is the poorest countries in the world that will suffer most from severe weather events, longer and hotter droughts and rising oceans. Yet it is they who have contributed least to the problem. That is why the world's richest nations in the G8 have a responsibility to lead the way: for the strong nations to better help the weak.”

On February 24 2005, Ghana's Parliament urged all countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol because in its view the 55 per cent cap set for emissions reduction by the 141 ratifying countries was too slow for our warmed planet. The Parliamentarians were not happy that whilst the 141 countries had pledged to cut carbon emissions by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012, 35 of the world's developed countries supposedly responsible for a chunk of the emissions had not done enough to reduce CO2.

Ghana's deputy Minister for Tourism Mr. Asamoah Boateng, averred that in order to beat back the threat posed by global warming, Parliament should “sensitise our countrymen, especially vehicle owners and those in businesses such as the mining and cement industries, among others to be mindful of how waste is managed”. That admonishing is right but to link it to global warming without any credible scientific basis is worrying. Another Parliamentarian, Mr. John Ndebugre is reported to have called on the international scientific community to take a second look at the solar system since in his view there were other factors than carbon emissions that was responsible for the warming.

We should not forget that a little over three decades ago temperatures were so low some scientists told us we were all going to be chilled. Today the same people tell us our planet is on fire and very soon we are all going to be fried. True, global emissions of CO2 have risen in the last 130 years but they do not exceed 8 per cent of the overall CO2 emissions. This means 92 per cent of global CO2 emissions will remain unaffected by Kyoto.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Asia on 25 May 2004, Neil Collins said “In fact, as the greens never admit, we are nowhere near an environmental catastrophe. Water and air in Europe are cleaner than they have been for centuries. Africa's deserts are not encroaching, but retreating. The Maldives, one of the first places due to disappear under rising sea levels, are actually slightly higher out of the water than they were 30 years ago”.

Dr. Peter Kaznacheev of the Institute for Economic Analysis in Moscow also convincingly concluded at a recent seminar in France that today's temperatures are not the highest in the history of the earth. According to Kaznacheev mounting evidence suggests temperature variations cannot be explained by variations in CO2 concentrations. In deed, the only such period that there has been a positive correlation between temperature variations and CO2 variations has been between 1976-2003, the only such sub-period out of six sub-periods between 1860 and 2003. The changing nature of our planet means we could start experiencing lower temperatures tomorrow.

But are Kyoto targets achievable?

Kyoto promises to achieve a 55 percent emissions cut by 2012 but that's a dream. A more likely target even with Russia's recent decision to ratify would be 27.9 per cent. Ghana's emission as a percentage of global CO2 emissions in the 1990s was 0.0 percent just as many others in Africa. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa recorded 2.1 per cent throughout the late 1990s.

Reliable scientific minds estimate that the cost of complying with Kyoto between 1990 and 2100 is a staggering US$ 1,750,000,000,000. This will raise the cost of doing business and alternative means of development means slapping punitive taxes on everyone. According to Dr. Andrei Illarionov, Economic Advisor to Russian President Prutin, “the average Russian will lose the equivalent of US $ 7000 as a result of Kyoto's economic restrictions”. It has also been established that the KP is anti economic growth. Studies have shown that economic growth in Kyoto countries (EU 15, Canada and Japan) between 1997-2003 was 2 per cent while it was 3.1 per cent in 10 non-Kyoto developed countries (USA, Australia, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel, Mexico, Cyprus and Malta). Under the same period most poor Kyoto countries recorded less than 2 per cent growth. Ghana's annual growth rate is about 0.7 per cent and may reach 1.7 per cent in ten years after Kyoto enters into force. Complying with Kyoto means this insignificant gain will be whittled away. As a poor country we should be concerned with realistic methods of eradicating our poverty. Focusing on climate change and the KP will not change our energy use pattern overnight for more expensive alternatives.

Energy Use Pattern in Ghana According to the Kumasi Institute for Technology and Environment (KITE), an environmental research organization in Ghana, Ghana's energy use pattern is “similar to that of many developing countries. Ghana's energy consumption is estimated at 6.6 million tonnes of oil equivalents (TOE) and per capita energy consumption is estimated at 360 kilograms of oil equivalent (KOE). The majority of Ghana's energy use is from biomass in the form of firewood and charcoal. These two account for about 59 % of the total energy consumption. Petroleum products and electricity constitute 32% and 9% respectively”.

Traditional fuels such as firewood and charcoal provide the bulk of energy needs followed by petroleum and then electricity. As a developing tropical country, the majority of Ghana's energy use is in the home rather than in industry. There is no home heating requirement and energy use in the home is primarily for cooking and lighting.

KITE estimates that about “84% of households in rural Ghana use fuel-wood in its untransformed state as their source of fuel. A further 13% depend on charcoal as their fuel of choice for cooking. All other sources, for example electricity, kerosene and LPG, together account for less than 3% of consumption and are therefore relatively insignificant”.

Energy related interventions to reduce poverty. Majority of Ghanaian rural dwellers who use wood fuel for cooking use a variation of the three-stone stove. This method of cooking is very inefficient, generates considerable amounts of indoor air pollution with negative health impacts and considerable deforestation.

The urban poor use fuel wood, which they purchase at very low prices compared to the alternatives. In rural areas however, the time spent in collecting wood fuel for cooking is enormous and is done primarily by women who should have expended their energies in other income generating activities and by children who should be studying in school. This human resource spent on meeting energy needs perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

The most authoritative official document that spells out how Ghana should reduce her acute poverty levels has been captured in the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS). The goal of the GPRS “is to create wealth by transforming the nature of the economy to achieve growth accelerated poverty reduction and the protection of the vulnerable and excluded.” With respect to rural poverty however, the GRPS identified energy as a major contributor to economic transformation. But as argued by KITE, the strategy lacks clear-cut focus on how to achieve this except stating the government's intention to support the development of renewable energy technologies and ensuring that electricity supply to rural areas was capable of being used for production purposes.

Without a focused energy strategy for the poor Ghanaian, the field is thus open for all manner of experts to advise the government on the way forward. Most of these unfortunately, are bureaucrats from the United Nations and their counterpart green environmental organizations that see scintillating rewards from renewable energy sources. With promises of matching funds to facilitate renewable energy interventions the government will eventually fall for what has become known in climate control circles as 'adaptation'. The most popular intervention in the energy sector has been the introduction of solar technology, particularly the photovoltaic PV system. Several projects have deployed these solar PV systems to provide electricity service to off-grid communities in the northern regions of Ghana. An estimated 1,800 homes in the East Mamprusi district and 2000 homes in the ten remote rural communities in the Kpasa area have been fitted with the PV system. But this does not guarantee a whole day's access to power and the technology has not been of much interest to consumers.

Yet the experts who advice us based their conclusions on the fact that Ghana has good solar energy resource, receiving daily solar irradiation of between 4 and 6kWh/m2 and a corresponding annual sunshine duration of 1800 - 3000 hours. These experts believe albeit erroneously that if the government extends its subsidy (generally collected from carbon trading) to current and potential users of the PV system, it would boost consumer confidence.

Unexploited clean energy sources remain

Hydro Electricity

One of the cleanest energy sources that remain largely unexploited is hydroelectric power. It is estimated that Ghana has the potential for 2,000 MW of new hydropower. About 1,205 MW of this total is expected to be produced from proven large hydro sources while the rest will come from small hydro sources. It is estimated that there are about forty (40) Small Hydro Plant (SHP) sites in Ghana, where small hydro is defined as any hydro installation rated at less than 10 MW.

Until recently virtually all of Ghana's electricity was produced from two large hydro dams on the Volta River at Akosombo and Kpong which combined have a capacity of about 1.1 GW out of a total installed capacity of about 1.5 GW. In spite of the considerable resource base, no SHPs have been developed in the country. Even in the face of past political arrangements that ceded 40 per cent of hydropower generated on the Volta River to the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO), much of the remaining power remains inefficiently distributed. There has been much outcry against the public regulator for erecting transmission lines over communities without granting them access to power after many sacrifices have been made by way of relocating agricultural activities.

VALCO however was expected to have closed operations in Ghana in 1997 but held on until it became economically unviable to run the biggest aluminum smelter in the West African sub region. Having renegotiated with new investors to now extract alumina from our bauxite reserves, increased energy poverty looms unless we intensify and expand our use of traditional sources of energy and most importantly fossil fuel such as liquefied gas.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

West Africa contains approximately 32 per cent of Africa's natural gas reserves. Although natural gas is still in early stages of use in the region, several projects for the expansion of its use are under way. The West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) is a proposed 800-kilometer pipeline designed to transport gas from the Escravos oil and gas fields in Nigeria to Benin, Togo and Ghana.

Evaluations done reveal that the project will achieve additional emission reductions, will bring a reduction of approximately 100 million tonnes CO2, will contribute to the economic development of the region and above all gas is a clean source of energy.

Ghana estimates that it will save between 15,000-20,000 barrels per day of crude oil by taking gas from the WAGP to run its power plants. A good adaptation mechanism will be to encourage Ghana to expand access to LP gas throughout the country as that can be perfectly packaged and transported over distances. The adoption of the PV system is not only inefficient, it is costly and the target beneficiaries who live in hard-core poverty areas cannot afford. In Northern Ghana where the project is said to have been heavily patronised, users cannot pay the monthly rates of US$10 hence rates have been uneconomically regulated for them to pay between US$1.1 to US$3.30 for 50 W to 400 W power generated from PV. And this is the future of renewable energy in Ghana if we embraced Kyoto.

Interestingly Friends of the Earth International, an environmental NGO, believes the evaluation was done without recourse to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and as such the project will earn no emission credits under Kyoto.

Apart from pillaging the entire project as not consultative enough, Friends of the Earth International dismisses the expected results as 'myths' arguing especially that gas is a fossil fuel whose use releases 75 per cent of the CO2 emissions of oil. Secondly expanded commercial demands will increase emission levels beyond the projected cuts in CO2.

The most unfortunate of all the claims against LPG is that it will lead to mass impoverishment. Nigeria is cited as a country whose forty-year history of oil and gas development has resulted in mass impoverishment. This idea of a negative relationship between fossil fuel and economic growth seems to have been borrowed from Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner of the Harvard Institute for International Development who claim that “economies of developing countries with abundant natural resources have tended to grow less rapidly than natural-resource-scarce economies”. In my view this position sacrifices efficient energy use on the altar of political corruption. In any case how different will the UN's 'adaptation' idea hope to solve what appears to playing directly into the hands of governments in poor countries by giving them money for adaptation measures and mechanisms under Kyoto?

Adaptation is flawed Bent on seeing Kyoto succeed, the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sees 'adaptation' as the panacea to global warming.

Adaptation means sourcing funds from rich countries for adaptation measures and mechanisms in poor countries. Essentially, it is just an extension of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, where rich countries are expected to offset their green house emissions by investing in small-scale renewable energy projects to reduce emissions in poor countries. To an extent some environmental experts consider the scenario as ushering us into the era of the 'Carbon economy' and poor countries are expected to benefit. The wisdom is that rich countries have already reached an advanced stage of wealth creation and should limit their means to further economic growth by reducing green house gases from their industries.

EU officials are said to be planning to pay 'developing countries' €360 million per year to help them with climate change. However, this in the words of International Policy Network's Executive Director Julian Morris amounts to “a fair-size bribe – for which there must, presumably, be some quid pro quo. Yet it is far too small to induce any of Asia's big economies to commit to reduce GHG emissions, since these reductions would cause billions of dollars of economic damage every year”.

Two questions remain unanswered under Kyoto. First, how will rich countries benefit by reducing their own emissions and second how will poor countries benefit from rich countries producing fewer green house gases? As I see it, by entry into the CDM regime, rich countries will be limiting their propensity to future wealth creation and technological innovations to deal with any real or perceived climate change. A reduction in wealth means lower consumption levels, which ultimately will affect the ability to purchase what poor countries are good at- agricultural products, setting into motion a never ending poverty cycle.

The late British economist Peter Bauer argued in his book Equality, The Third World And Economic Delusion (1981) that “insistence on the need for external donations obscures the necessity for the people of the Third World themselves to develop the faculties and to adopt the attitudes and conduct required for sustained material progress”. Yet, having admitted through the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy that poverty cannot be solved without foreign aid, there is little wonder Ghana wouldn't join in the campaign for transfer of aid money to finance its mythical emissions reduction.

However, provision of grants to African governments to implement Kyoto-related mechanisms will only exacerbate our precarious poverty levels as previous aid projects have shown. Measures to be instituted in return will limit our consumption of energy and suppress locally driven initiatives that otherwise would have evolved gradually for us to cope with our energy poverty. Complex regulations to reducing real or perceived emissions will support the creation of closed economies with little or no individual and economic freedom-that which ultimately is needed to enhance a spontaneous adaptation process.

The Way forward

There are far more pressing issues burdening a poor country like Ghana than climate change and its alarmist protocols and mechanisms. Indeed in the estimation of the Copenhagen Consensus, a coalition of eight of the world's most respected economists tasked to prioritise ten world problems, climate change ranked least and 'bad' of the ten biggest challenges facing the world. Communicable diseases, hunger and malnutrition, governance and trade reforms were to be given immediate attention.

Far from working towards these, Ghana will be better off if she relied on her own initiatives to ensure resilience to climate change. But the right atmosphere is needed to encourage efforts at enhancing maximum resilience. Particularly, focus on building institutions such as the rule of law, free markets, free speech, property rights and a limited government involvement in the economy are recommended. Adopting these will enhance investment, trade and wealth creation, which will guarantee access to new and clean technologies to enable us adapt spontaneously instead of being cajoled into outcome-oriented mechanisms.

In the interim, Ghana should not be stopped from consuming more of what she has to survive- environmental resources. By allowing us to consume more today, we would be better placed to afford clean and efficient energy tomorrow. What Ghana and all poor countries require of Tony Blair is to champion trade liberalization by calling on his European counterparts to drop agricultural subsidies for their farmers and lower barriers to poor countries agricultural products. It will even be better for him to urge Europe to outsource her agricultural production to Africa while it focuses on the things it could do best.

If there are any significant reforms to be made in Ghana's energy sector they should be centred around creating conditions to attract significant private sector investment in the various segments of the present energy supply chain and replace the monopolistic and centralized structure of power utilities with power markets.

We do not need any alarmist theories clouded in climate control jargons like the UN style adaptation to delay us. In fact, previous experiences with whatever form of foreign aid resonates with Patrick Jake O'Rourke's assertion that “giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys”. This is what 'adaptation' under the Kyoto Protocol will do to governments in poor countries. Franklin Cudjoe Director Imani: The Centre for Humane Education Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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