The President of Ghana made bold statements during the 2nd Africa Climate Change Summit in Accra on Thursday, 17th October, 2019 to the effect that he realizes the extremely detrimental impacts that climate change is having, especially on Africa, and that Ghana is committed to reducing her carbon footprint. He also said climate change is the biggest threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
To implement Ghana’s commitments on climate change mitigation, the President said the contribution of solar energy to Ghana’s national energy mix would reach 10% from the current 1% by 2020―a positive step but much more must be done to tap into Ghana’s vast solar energy potential.
The President also stated that nature-based solutions are at the heart of Ghana’s climate action, illustrating this commitment with government’s actions to end illegal mining that causes so much destruction to the nation’s forests, together with the restoration of Ghana’s degraded lands by planting 190,000 hectares of trees.
While these actions have some benefits, it is important to note that it takes some 20 years for a tree to contribute to climate change mitigation after being planted. Meanwhile, Ghana’s existing natural forests are already contributing as nature-based solutions to climate change and will continue to do so if only they can be left intact and healthy. Besides their importance for climate change mitigation, forests also have a crucial role in helping rural communities adapt to the increasingly extreme weather events and other impacts of climate change.
We want government to place much greater emphasis on nature-based solutions consistent with the urgency of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Although they provide low-cost resource-efficient responses to the challenge of climate change, natural solutions are often underestimated as we focus on manmade technologies to address climate change.
Many examples in Ghana exist. They include;
- Protected and well-managed forests with high integrity and biodiversity provide carbon sinks that help mitigate climate change. They also protect communities from storms and help reduce flooding and landslides. Mountain forests such as Atewa, stabilize soils to stop landslides following heavy rains. Forests also cool the air, protecting people from rising temperatures caused by global warming. On the fringes of the Amazon Rainforest, the air over the adjacent crop fields is on average 5 degrees C higher than inside the forest. This temperature difference rises to 10 degrees C at the end of the dry season.
- Preserving the health and integrity of wetlands helps to mitigate the intensity of floods and reduce the associated damage. Wetlands also help protect water resources during droughts.
- Mangrove forests have proven time and again to protect coastal communities from dangerous storms and other threats such as tidal waves. They also provide fish spawning grounds that increase fish populations and support food security and livelihoods that may otherwise be damaged by climate change. Protecting and restoring natural floodplains have proved more effective against flooding than dikes. These nature-based solutions are cheaper and more sustainable while also providing habitats for aquatic life.
These are just a few of the ways that nature-based solutions are helping Ghana to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Several organizations are involved in raising the awareness of District Assemblies of the huge value of healthy ecosystems and the services they provide, including as nature-based solutions to climate change, and supporting them to incorporate this value into Medium Term Development Plans. These well intended actions need to be complemented by a strong political commitment for action that reflects the popular and flowery speeches made on big international platforms and podiums.
To show real commitment instead of just empty words in addressing the climate change challenge, we insist that Ghana’s President and government act urgently to protect and enhance existing nature-based solutions to maximize Ghana’s mitigation and adaptation capacities in the shortest possible time.
The government must ensure that all our forest reserves and protected areas are given maximum protection, and that all incidences of both ‘legal’ and illegal mining and logging are halted immediately. Of critical importance is the need for government to take urgent steps to protect Atewa from bauxite mining. Every attempt to turn a blind eye to community and civil society calls to secure Atewa only serves to demonstrate government’s big talking without any true commitment to walking the talk. It is crucial that Ghana takes firm action now: climate change is real and communities are already feeling its harsh impacts.
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Deputy Director (A Rocha Ghana)
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