As clock ticks down, optimism beats recession for Ghana on climate change

Ghanaian government has pledged to meet its Paris Agreement pledge to cut emissions while keeping the country growing

The overwhelming optimism of Ghanaian high school students on the success of a climate change initiative used to promote tourism in the country has helped lift it from its steady economic decline.

One hundred days since the the landmark UN climate change agreement, Ghana declared its intention to create an expanded strategy to prevent deforestation, according to the African countries creating their own policies on carbon emissions.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy Initiative aims to cut carbon emissions but expand Ghana’s economic growth, meeting the UN’s overarching promise to protect the world’s vulnerable countries from global warming and contribute to a healthier environment for everyone.

“It’s been 100 days since we signed our national action plan and that’s because you all kept up your resolve to make sure that we deliver on our Paris Accord pledges,” President Nana Akufo-Addo said to applause from schoolchildren at the unveiling of Ghana’s climate change policy, which the government announced during the World Bank’s African Climate Finance Conference in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

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“If you were 15 years old when we reached the agreement [in Paris] and you are now 15 years old when this national action plan has been approved, one can only imagine that you might look back and marvel at the fact that 100 days ago we did the right thing.”

The announcement came on the day from the WWF’s 16th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Doha, Qatar. There Ghana announced a host of commitments to increase national forestry emissions reductions and set a path to exceed ambitious pledges made to the COP21 conference in Paris.

“During last year’s meeting, the government set the ambitious goal of achieving sustainable economic growth while at the same time avoiding deforestation and climate-related disasters. That means a strategy that adds to the economy and keeps the country growing but that is also consistent with safeguarding the planet,” said Emmanuel Limu, WWF country director for Ghana.

“The national action plan, to be implemented in consultation with all stakeholders, lays the groundwork for meeting the targets and for creating the enabling environment for investments that will deepen the nation’s economic transformation to provide more reliable, clean and affordable energy.”

Globally, the 175 countries which committed at COP21 to limit global warming to 1.5C will officially start implementing national action plans in August.

When the UN climate change agreement was signed in Paris in 2015, it marked a crucial moment in the history of the climate change issue. More than 190 countries reached an historic agreement for nations around the world to pull together and chart a course to transition from carbon-based to low-carbon energy systems. But since that time, some developed countries have promised to reduce their emissions, while others have announced measures to promote growth and productivity for the future.

Ghana has not shown that type of commitment.

“Ghana’s action plan shows our determination to overcome the recession by embracing green growth in the cleantech sector,” said Nancy Degroot, who was a former vice-president for clean technology at the US Department of Energy and now with the consulting firm ISM Global.

“To combat climate change, Ghana’s action plan also demands adherence to internationally recognised emission-reduction standards for forest management – but it is yet to set those standards and policies. Ghana, at present, is not playing its fair share in the global green economy.”

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo (right) during a speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech in 2015. Photograph: Aboubacar Bouy/EPA

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