Monday, December 2, 2013

Warsaw Climate Change Conference, November 2013: CLOSING PRESS RELEASE

The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw ended on 23 November 2013, keeping governments on a track towards a universal climate agreement in 2015 and including significant new decisions that will cut emissions from deforestation and on loss and damage. 
“Warsaw has set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement so it appears on the table at the next UN Climate change conference in Peru. This is an essential step to reach a final agreement in Paris, in 2015,” said Marcin Korolec, President of the COP19

In the context of 2015, countries decided to initiate or intensify domestic preparation for their intended national contributions towards that agreement, which will come into force from 2020. Parties ready to do this will submit clear and transparent plans well in advance of COP 21, in Paris, and by the first quarter of 2015.

Countries also resolved to close the pre-2020 ambition gap by intensifying technical work and more frequent engagement of Ministers.

The conference also decided to establish an international mechanism to provide most vulnerable populations with better protection against loss and damage caused by extreme weather events and slow onset events such as rising sea levels. Detailed work on the so-called “Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage” will begin next year.

“We have seen essential progress. But let us again be clear that we are witnessing ever more frequent, extreme weather events, and the poor and vulnerable are already paying the price,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “Now governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do their homework so they can
put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris conference,” she said.

In addition, governments provided more clarity on mobilizing finance to support developing country actions to curb emissions and adapt to climate change. This includes requesting developed countries to prepare biennial submissions on their updated strategies and approaches for scaling up finance between 2014 and 2020. 
The Warsaw meeting also resulted in concrete announcements of forthcoming contributions of public climate finance to support developing nation action, including from Norway, the UK, EU, US, Republic of Korea, Japan, Sweden, Germany and Finland. 
Meanwhile, the Green Climate Fund Board is to commence its initial resource mobilization process as soon as possible and developed countries were asked for ambitious, timely contributions by COP 20, in December, next year, to enable an effective operationalization. 
Cutting emissions from deforestation 
Today’s agreements included a significant set of decisions on ways to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and the degradation of forests, which account for around one fifth of all human-generated emissions. The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ is backed by pledges of 280 million dollars financing from the US, Norway and the UK. 
President Korolec said: “I am proud of this concrete accomplishment. We are all aware of the central role that forests play as carbon sinks, climate stabilizers and biodiversity havens. Through our negotiations we have made a significant contribution to forest preservation and sustainable use which will benefit the people who live in and around them and humanity and the planet as a whole. And I am proud that this instrument was named the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.” 
Further progress in help for developing nations 
In Warsaw, a milestone was passed after 48 of the poorest countries of the world finalized a comprehensive set of plans to deal with the inevitable impacts of climate change. With these plans, the countries can better assess the immediate impacts of climate change and what they need in the way of support to become more resilient. Developed countries, including Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland have also paid or pledged over 100 million dollars to add to the Adaptation Fund, which has now started to fund national projects. 
Governments completed work on the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) so that it can immediately respond to requests from developing countries for advice and assistance on the transfer of technology. The CTCN is open for business and is encouraging developing countries to set up focal points to accelerate the transfer of technology. 

Climate action at all levels 
COP19 has been a showcase for climate action by business, cities, regions and civil society. The UNFCCC secretariat also celebrated its annual Momentum for Change lighthouse activity awards for climate actions that demonstrate positive results through innovative finance, by women and the urban poor. In addition, Momentum for Change launched a new initiative focusing on contributions by information and technology sector to curb emissions and increase adaption capacity. 
“A groundswell of action is happening at all levels of society. All major players came to COP19 to show not only what they have done but to think what more they can do. Next year is also the time for them to turn ideas into further concrete action,” Ms. Figueres said. 
2014 New York Summit/ next UNFCCC meeting 
In Warsaw, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his invitation to all governments, and leaders from finance, business, local government and civil society, to a climate summit in New York on 23 September 2014. This will be a solutions summit, complementing the UNFCCC negotiations. “I ask all who come to bring bold and new announcements and action. By early 2015, we need those promises to add up to enough real action to keep us below the internationally agreed two degree temperature rise,” he said. 
The next UNFCCC meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform is to take place in Bonn from 10 to 14, March, 2014. 
About the UNFCCC 
With 195 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties. For the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. In Doha in 2012, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol adopted an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which establishes the second commitment period under the Protocol. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. 

As UN climate talks stall, experts identify new approach to tackling climate change, food insecurity and poverty

Global experts made an impassioned plea to change the way the world is tackling food insecurity, climate change, poverty and water scarcity — and warned that UN climate negotiators in Warsaw risked “turning their backs on some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in this world”.
“We are wasting precious time as a result of a disjointed, discombobulated dance,” Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, told participants at the Global Landscapes Forum, held on the sidelines of the climate talks. If the world continues “to fund crop expansion on one hand but forest protection on the other, we are simply wasting taxpayers’ money.”
Experts called for a “landscape approach” to rural development, hailed as a way to bring together the agricultural, forestry, energy and fisheries sectors to come up with collaborative and innovative solutions to ease increasing pressure on the world’s resources, which are threatened by climate change.
“Landscapes are not just an important part of the solution. They are the solution,” Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research, told the forum’s 1,200 participants from 120 countries. “We must put our hope in landscapes. Fragmentation is our enemy and a recipe for disaster.”
The most recent disaster in the Philippines should be a call to action on climate change, said Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. “How many superstorms will we have before the world starts to take climate change seriously? As a scientist, I know we have the knowledge we need to act, so let’s do it.”
Historically, farming, fisheries, energy and forestry have been managed in isolation despite their many links. Agriculture is the chief driver of deforestation even though it depends on forests for water, pollination and other ecosystem services.
Speaking at the conference, His Royal Highness Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso of the Kingdom of Lesotho described himself as a “messenger for Africa” and said that “the impact of climate change on livelihoods, food security and nutrition at household levels and the environment has been disastrous.”
“By failing to safeguard our natural resource base, farmers are … having to sell off their meager physical assets. … They are failing to feed their own families,” he said. “Only when we take a landscape approach … can we boost agricultural production while adapting agriculture to climate change and reducing agricultural emissions.”
Ruth DeFries, a renowned professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, warned there is “no single prescription” for managing the differing functions of landscapes.
“It is possible to bring together competing interests to achieve multiple objectives … it requires an on-the-ground approach that cuts across ecological, economic, cultural and political dimensions,“ she said. “But there is much science to be done  … and even more hard work on the part of policy to provide the right set of incentives.”
She gave the example of her home city of New York where a forest 100 miles (160 kilometers) away is crucial for the regulation and filtration of water for city dwellers.
Sara Scherr, President of EcoAgriculture Partners, cited another example from Ethiopia where “integrated landscape management has already made a huge difference to the livelihoods and economies of millions of people”.
Kyte said that science has advanced far enough that the world has the necessary technical capacity to quantify and visualize the connections between human activities and the environment. “From crowdsourcing to satellite imagery, from natural capital accounting to participatory mapping, we have more data, more resources, more images, more evidence.”
Referring to a breakdown in talks on agriculture this past week in Warsaw, Kyte said that “these negotiations run the risk of turning their backs on some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in this world and that will not build a climate negotiation that works.”
Tackling the world’s pressing challenges requires urgent action from all, said Marcin Korolec, the Polish Minister of Environment and president of the 19th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. “The global challenge of climate change requires that we seek no less of our leaders than of ourselves.”
Source: Global Landscapes Forum
The Global Landscapes Forum was co-convened by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on behalf of the 14 organizations of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), on behalf of an international consortium of 12 leading Agriculture and Rural Development organizations in collaboration with the host country partners: Poland’s Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the University of Warsaw.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

How Africa's natural resources can drive industrial revolution

An article co-authored by Tony Elumelu and Carlos Lopes, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

Five years after the global financial system came perilously close to collapse, the global economic outlook is still uncertain. In Europe, GDP is still below pre-crisis levels and unemployment is at a record high. Recovery in the United States, although stronger, remains weak by historic standards, and even China, which has done so much to drive global growth, is slowing down.

Yet, in what some might call an unexpected twist, average growth in Africa over the last decade has been more than 5%. Of the 10 fastest-growing global economies, seven are in sub-Saharan Africa. But how will this economic spike be sustained? How do we ensure we continue along this trajectory?

It is the world's appetite for Africa's rich natural resources which, up to now, has been the major driver of this stellar record. And it is this same appetite that will provide both the opportunity and the solution for Africa to sustain these economic achievements.

While not all African countries are commodity rich, the continent has 12% of the world's oil reserves, 40% of its gold, and 80% to 90% of its chromium and platinum. Africa is also home to 60% of the world's underutilized arable land and has vast timber resources.

The idea that these abundant natural resources can be the driver for an industrial revolution across the continent is growing. The latest edition of the Economic Report on Africa (ERA 2013) sets out how the continent's future will be determined by how policies that promote commodity-based industrialization are designed and implemented.

We believe that such a transformation is both imperative and possible. But it requires courage, vision and a new mindset from the continent's business and political leaders to overcome the challenges which continue to hold back the building of a successful and dynamic industrial base in Africa.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to accelerating resource-based industrialization. But important lessons can be learnt from the success of countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Venezuela in promoting value addition, new services, and technological capabilities.

Malaysia, in particular, is a perfect example of how a commodity-based economy was transformed, through focused state interventions and an allocation of resources towards the industrial sector, to a high-income and diverse manufacturer in only a few decades. Through a series of five-year development plans, centered on a vision to transform the structure of the economy and raise incomes in the medium- and long-term, investment was oriented towards industry. Today, Malaysia is a key manufacturer and exporter of a wide range of goods and services.

It is clear that governments, both individually and collectively, have an important role. A supportive policy and investment framework is essential to attract long-term investors. Policies to build local capacity and address inequality are essential. Moreover, developing skills through training and incentives will ensure that local economies are able to grow and diversify.

However, a barrier to Africa's industrialization that is not often talked about is the mindset of private sector leaders -- both in and outside Africa. Many are still indulging in the same historical rent-seeking attitudes that have resulted in the short-terms gains of crude, cocoa and gold sales. More business leaders need to change their thinking and understand that short-term revenue gains -- as opposed to long-term value addition -- offer little or no contribution to sustainable economic growth.

We are now seeing a new style of African business leader emerging -- leaders who are building, investing, growing for Africa's future. It is their efforts which will provide the jobs and income which will have the biggest impact on tackling poverty and driving wider social progress. 

Africa's private sector must take the lead in improving coordination between farmers, growers, processors, and exporters; in increasing competitiveness in the value chain, and ensuring the price, quality, and standards that market demands are met.

We need to see national and regional champions created and supported, and help foster effective collaboration between public and private sector and the development world. This is the essence of the emerging economic philosophy called Africapitalism, a private sector led partnership mode focused on Africa's development.

We have already seen real progress on the continent. Ethiopia's leather industry is not only developing fast but is also increasing high-value-added activities. South Africa and Egypt are making similar strides. In Ghana and Zambia, the cocoa and mining sectors have long contributed to wider socioeconomic growth. In East Africa, the success of Kenya's fresh vegetable producers in adding value to their exports has been remarkable.

But when Africa only sees some 10% of the income from its own coffee crop, we can see that much work still needs to be done.

Africa now has the chance, as never before, to shape its own economic future through industrialization. This will help to spread prosperity throughout the continent. An industrialized Africa will also provide a much-needed new driver of global growth. It is in everyone's interest that Africa succeeds.

Carlos Lopes is Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Tony O. Elumelu is an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and the chairman of Heirs Holdings Limited, a pan-African investment company committed to driving economic prosperity and social wealth in Africa.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Whale Deaths and Oil Exploration in Ghana

The surge in the death of marine mammals, particularly whales, should serve as a wake-up call because it signals the gradual breakdown of sustainability of the marine ecosystem and if not unraveled would result in a negative outcome for biodiversity, livelihoods and food security.

The situation at hand far exceeds the predictions of the environmental impact assessment of the Jubilee field. The impact assessment predicted minor residual impacts on marine mammals and proposed some measures to counter the effect. According to residence whale deaths were averagely encountered once in every five years but with the advent of oil exploration eleven (11) whales were reported within three years (2007-2010) to have died and washed ashore in the Western Region alone and recently four more have been discovered ashore within a week.

Around the world, energy companies are exploring for oil and gas using seismic airguns in sensitive, wildlife filled waters. The issue about seismic air guns in oil exploration is that the sound waves which extend for hundreds of miles bounce off the ocean floor indicate likely areas for oil. It is the most severe acoustic insult to the marine environment short of naval warfare. This sonic barrage can interfere with a whale’s ability to feed, breed, navigate, communicate and avoid predators — in short, to survive. If a whale goes deaf, it can’t survive. And repeated blasts (100,000 times stronger than a jet engine) can impair hearing easily. The blasts can drive whales to abandon their habitats, go silent and cease foraging over vast areas. It can cause permanent hearing loss, injury and death for whales.

The death of these marine mammals coincides with the commencement of oil extraction and has followed trends with oil exploration around the world. Like their counterparts in many countries that have experienced this negative phenomenon the government agencies responsible for curtailing this ongoing disaster has claimed there are no empirical basis to establish a link between the death of the whales and oil production.

According to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) there is no question that sonar injures and kills whales. Evidence of the danger caused by these systems surfaced dramatically in 2000, when whales of four different species stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas. Although the Navy initially denied responsibility, the US government's investigation established that mid-frequency sonar caused the stranding. After the incident, the area's population of whales nearly disappeared, leading researchers to conclude that they either abandoned their habitat or died at sea. Similar cases have occurred in the Canary Islands, Greece, Madeira, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii and other sites around the globe.

If my argument makes sense, then we have clearly made our choice. We cannot hide behind the curtain of ignorance and claim we know not the cause of the impending extinction of this vital species in our ecosystem. 

Written by:
Enoch Ofosu
Water Resources Specialist

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fracking - opportunity or challenge?

On 14 August 2013, I woke to a news item on BBC about The Church of England has telling its parishers that fracking causes environmental problems and risks lasting harm to God's glorious creation. As an environmentalist and a Christian, I was very interested in the Article and decided to find it to read. This lead me to the website of the Diocese of Blackborn ( where I found the full article. I wish to share it with my readers so I have reproduced the article below.

Fracking - opportunity or challenge?
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process for extracting natural gas from shale deep under the water table. It allows energy companies to reach natural gas that was previously inaccessible by breaking up the rocks in which the deposits form. While natural gas is domestically produced and considered to be a cleaner energy source, there are also environmental and human health risks associated with the extraction process
The Diocese of Blackburn has also produced a helpful leaflet on the subject.
Fracking - also called hydro-fracking or, officially, horizontal drilling coupled with multi-stage hydraulic fracturing - is a relatively new process of natural gas extraction. Here's a step-by-step guide to the process:
 A well is drilled vertically to the desired depth, then turns ninety degrees and continues horizontally for several thousand feet into the shale believed to contain the trapped natural gas
  1. A mix of water, sand, and various chemicals is pumped into the well at high pressure in order to create fissures in the shale through which the gas can escape
  2. Natural gas escapes through the fissures and is drawn back up the well to the surface, where it is processed, refined, and shipped to market
  3. Wastewater (also called "flowback water" or "produced water") returns to the surface after the fracking process is completed, and it is then contained in steel tanks until it can be stored long-term by deep injection in oil and gas waste wells, or other geological reservoirs
Fracking is fundamentally different than traditional gas extraction methods
  • Fracking wells go thousands of feet deeper than traditional natural gas wells
  • Fracking utilizes "fracking fluid," a mix of water, sand, and a cocktail of toxic chemicals. While companies performing fracking have resisted disclosure of the exact contents of the fracking fluid by claiming that this information is proprietary, studies of fracking waste indicate that the fluid contains: formaldehyde, acetic acids, citric acids, and boric acids, among hundreds of other chemical contaminants
  • Fracking removes millions of gallons of precious freshwater from the water cycle. Fracking requires between two and five million gallons of local freshwater per well - up to 100 times more than traditional extraction methods
  • About half of this water returns to the surface, but no one is entirely sure what happens to the other half of the water used in the process. Our best guess is that the water remains underground, though there are indications that at least some of this toxic cocktail makes its way back into the water supply
Fracking causes a range of environmental problems
  • In the USA, where fracking is an already established process, there have been reported surface, ground, and drinking water contamination due to fracking
  • Pollution from lorry traffic, chemical contamination around storage tanks, and habitat fragmentation and damage from drilling to environmentally sensitive areas have are all related to fracking
Fracking God’s creation: Where should faith communities stand in the arguments between economists and environmentalists over fracking?

Natural gas extraction is increasingly presenting people with a choice between economic gain and a healthy environment. A relatively new technique to extract natural gas from previously unreachable depths is prompting a rush to drill, despite virtually no history as to its environmental impact.

West Lancashire is very much at the centre of the debate about fracking with a pilot well in Elswick having been in operation since 1993, and more recently a systematic series of geological surveys have revealed there is potentially a significant amount of natural gas that could be extracted from beneath the region by using the fracking process, originally developed by the giant American Oil and Gas extraction corporation Halliburton, and now being adopted in Lancashire by a company called Cuadrilla.

People in favour of fracking claim it is a means of addressing economic necessity that can fill the shortfall in energy supplies that have hitherto been extracted from the North Sea oil and gas reserves. On a more localized basis, gas companies claim that drilling brings economic benefits, including increased employment. This premise is alluring to many landowners, including local farmers who may be struggling to make their land profitable. It has lured landowners to sign or contemplate signing leases to drill on their land. This is one way they can retain their land and make money, and money in today’s world seems to count for more than environmental stability
Those opposed to fracking are concerned nonetheless with health and the environment. They question the safety of the process, where will gas companies get the millions of gallons of water needed, where will it be stored once it’s brought back to the surface mixed with fluids from deep underground and those toxic chemicals. A point of contention is that gas companies are not required to disclose the chemicals employed in fracking, no doubt as a way to keep their fluid recipes secret from competitors.

Fracking produces gas that, when burnt, is as, if not more, toxic than coal, and for it to be considered as an environmentallly-friendly source of energy, can only be burnt in power stations that have installed expensive and effective carbon capture and storage (CCS) processes. This CCS technology is currently far from well-developed on an industrial and commercially viable scale.

 Those with reservations about fracking also want to know how it will affect the soil and, above all, sources of drinking water, including ground water. Human and environmental health are greater priorities for opponents than potential economic gain. An increasing body of reported evidence from the United States of America raises concerns about the structural stability of wells, explosions, combustible water, illness among humans, farm animals and plant life, and the necessity to purchase water for drinking, bathing and other common uses. Fracking opponents point out that we can live without gas, but not without water.
The rush to benefit from the gas-drilling bonanza is an obvious temptation for many and this, of course, raises the question of how consideration for God the Creator enters into the decision-making process. Is there a way for Christians to be guided by the scriptures in applying biblical and theological considerations to gas drilling?
Our solutions must be rooted in scripture, employ our ability to reason, stem from listening to people who have experienced fracking positively and negatively, and to discern under God’s guidance what is good and right. As local church members become more aware of the issues surrounding fracking, they need to engage in biblical and theological discussion about their responsibility as stewards of the earth.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Longer, The Costlier

One report of the United Nations that I regularly seek to read is the” Human Development Report” (HDR). Since 1990, the UN has produced these reports which seem to impact policies around the world. In 1990, the first Human Development Report opened with the simply stated premise: “People are the real wealth of a nation.” This statement couldn’t have been more appropriate. The empirical data these reports use and produce makes it so clear and with little ambiguity how countries are developing and how the people in these countries feel and see these developments. 

In this post and for the purpose of this blog, I am focusing on the 2011 Human Development Report under the theme “Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All”. The 2011 HDR clearly argued for the simultaneous addressing of the twin-challenge of sustainability. The report further identified policies on the national and global level that could spur mutually reinforcing progress towards these interlinked goals.

The various environmental challenge including anticipated adverse effects of climate change on agricultural production, access to clean water and improved sanitation, and pollution comes in to compound the issues of the already poor in the society. Under a scenario encompassing the environmental challenges mentioned, the report projected that the average global Human Development Index (HDI) value would be 8% lower by 2050 than under the “base case” scenario, which assumes a continuation but not a worsening of current environmental trends. HDI is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development: very high, high, medium and low human development. 

For places like South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, it was projected that average regional HDI would be 12% lower under challenging environmental scenario than it is now by the year 2050. Under a more severe “environmental disaster” scenario, the global HDI value in 2050 would fall 15% below the current baseline — 22% below in South Asia and 24% below in Sub-Saharan Africa, effectively halting or even reversing decades of human development progress in both regions.

As much as I do not like the doomsday prophecies associated with impacts of climate change, sometimes I cannot help but talk about it. The possible impact of environmental degradation, under which climate change falls, is so serious and yet nothing much seems to be done about it. Under any kind of scenario that one wishes to look at with regards to the impact of environmental degradation, the already poor and marginalised people can only get poorer. Billions of people will be worse off in, let’s say 20150, living in extreme income poverty than they are now. The 2011 HDR also projects that environmental calamities would keep some 800 million poor people from rising out of extreme income poverty, under an environmental challenge scenario.

It is a fact that environmental threats are among the major impediments to lifting human development, and their consequences for poverty are likely to be high. But such an obvious challenge is not being addressed head-on in the manner it should be. Many meetings and treaties have come and gone and yet not much has changed for the better. 

The longer action is delayed, the higher the cost will be. We need not wait to say sorry. As each day passes our chances of solving a problem also passes.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ghana’s forestry programmes for climate change

Kwame Agyei brings the concluding part of his article, "FORESTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE". He  focuses on Ghana’s forestry programmes for climate change in this piece titled: "Ghana’s forestry programmes for climate change". Kwame Agyei holds a master's degree in Climate Change from the Australian National University (2012). He has worked with the Forestry Commission (FC) of Ghana since February, 2007.  He also holds a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Management from the Australian National University (2011) and BSc in Natural Resources Management from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (2005).


The main forestry programme with direct relevance for climate change mitigation/ adaptation in Ghana is the REDD+ scheme (USAID 2011). Formal REDD+ activities in Ghana commenced from 2008 when the REDD+ Project Idea Note of Ghana was approved by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Afterwards, Ghana began a project to ensure that preparatory activities to pave the way for a full National REDD+ scheme are completed by 2014 (Forestry Commission 2010). The preparatory activities have focussed on addressing issues such as the manner by which benefits from the REDD+ scheme will be shared equitably amongst stakeholders as well as the mechanisms by which the carbon stocks conserved and enhanced through the REDD+ scheme will be monitored, measured, verified and reported to meet acceptable global standards. Ghana is well on course to achieve these objectives and the nation is presently piloting REDD+ activities as a final step of the preparatory processes.

The focal point of the REDD+ scheme in Ghana is the Climate Change Unit of the Forestry Commission. The Climate Change unit serves as the secretariat of the National REDD+ Technical Working Group which is within the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

The implementation of the REDD+ scheme in Ghana is proceeding with complementation from other sustainable forest management initiatives which are outlined below. First, Ghana has entered into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union since November, 2009. The essence of the VPA is to ensure that only legally produced timber from Ghana is exported to the EU. The advantage of the VPA stems from the fact that almost half of Ghana’s locally produced timber is exported to the EU and consequently such an agreement will be helpful in addressing illegal logging (USAID 2011).

The Government of Ghana has also been implementing an ambitious plantation programme under the National Forest Plantation Development Programme since 2001. The programme has a target of establishing 20,000 hectares of tree plantations each year. The programme is being implemented with a variety of stakeholders including the local communities, through the Modified Taungya Programme which incorporates plantation establishment with agriculture, as well as engagement of private developers under the Private Plantation Development Programme.

Ghana has also been systematically implementing the Non-Legally Binding Instrument (NLBI) on all types of forests since 2008. The NLBI was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 and is focussed on ensuring that forest management interventions are implemented in a transparent manner where all relevant stakeholders are actively engaged and provided with adequate information on all initiatives.
The REDD+ scheme is therefore been implemented within very positive forestry initiatives and interventions in Ghana. It is anticipated that if the support for the scheme is sustained by the government through its relevant agencies, the REDD+ scheme will not only represent an opportunity for Ghana to reap the monetary and other co-benefits associated with sustainable forest management but it will also ensure that the country actively partakes in global efforts on climate change.

This article sought to shed light on human induced climate change and the essential roles of forests in climate change. Additionally, the article outlined global and national efforts aimed at incorporating forestry in climate change. The important role of forests in climate change and other essential natural processes which make life as we know it possible should inspire all of us to plant trees, nurture trees, fight the menace of deforestation and support all other forms of sustainable forest management strategies. It is often accurately pointed out that when the last tree dies, the last person dies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The earth is becoming warmer as a result of emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through human activities. Global warming or human induced climate change is strongly linked to the higher incidence of extreme weather events globally such as hurricanes and droughts in recent times. For example, heavy rainfall in Northern Ghana this year which have led to unfortunate deaths and destruction of property has been linked to human induced climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their global climate change assessment reports have consistently indicated high to very high probabilities that if the drivers of human-induced climate change are not addressed, our planet may become increasingly un-inhabitable.

This article discusses the curious case of forests which is both a driver of the global warming problem as well as one of the most potent solutions to the problem. Also outlined in this article are strategies that are being undertaken globally and in Ghana to incorporate forestry as a strategy to address the climate change challenge.

Deforestation remains a major driver of human-induced climate change. Deforestation is defined as the conversion of forests to other forms of land use. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 13 million hectares of forests globally were degraded or deforested each year from 2000 to 2010 (FAO 2010). A forest area equivalent to the size of Ghana was therefore lost every two years during the last decade. The world currently has an estimated 850 million hectares of degraded forests. The IPCC estimates that about 17 per cent of annual greenhouse emissions are as a result of deforestation and degradation of forests (IPCC 2007).

It can, therefore, be deduced that implementing strategies that will prevent deforestation will contribute substantially to climate change mitigation (or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere). This method of mitigating climate change is termed as forest carbon stocks conservation and it is attained through sustainable management and use of forests; integrated fire management; management of forest biodiversity and management of protected areas and wildlife.

Forests (management) can help to tackle climate change in other ways too. Forests can aid in sequestering or absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Forest management strategies such as afforestation, reforestation and agroforestry increase the stock of forests and thereby enhance photosynthesis which boosts the capacity of the forests to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The trees incorporate the carbon dioxide as carbon in their biomass, soils and even wood products for possible perpetual storage.

Sustainable forests (management) also help forest fringe/ dependent communities to adapt to climate change impacts. Several dwellers of communities adjoining forests in Ghana are engaged in the collection of snails, mushrooms as well as manufacture of pestles and chewing sticks from non-timber forest products for their livelihoods. Additionally, good forest management ensures that the micro-climate conducive for agricultural productivity is enhanced for these communities. These livelihoods would be lost through deforestation and these communities may become poorer. Poor people tend to be very susceptible and have low coping capacities to climate change impacts. Thus, sustainable forest management ensures that there is an enhancement of the livelihoods of these communities to make them better off and consequently enhance their adaptive capacity to climate change impacts.

Forests play other essential roles which are depicted as co-benefits in sustainable forest management interventions that seek to address climate change impacts. These co-benefits include preservation of water bodies, protection of soils from erosion and degradation, and biodiversity conservation.

Global forestry programmes for climate change mitigation/ adaptation
Global negotiations on climate change have led to the development of two major international forestry based climate change mitigation initiatives. These initiatives include the forestry component of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the REDD+ scheme.

The CDM is one of the three mechanisms for reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol, which was formulated in 1997 and ratified in 2005. The other mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol are International Emissions Trading and Joint Implementation. The essence of the CDM is to allow developing countries to be actively engaged in activities that results in the reduction of GHGs whereas developed countries have the option to purchase offsets created by these CDM projects to enable them to meet their binding targets. There are a variety of projects under the CDM and these include forestry initiatives such as afforestation and reforestation strategies. The CDM, however, excludes avoided deforestation as a result of difficulty in the measurement of what constitutes avoided deforestation. The CDM has chalked some successes but to date a bulk of all CDM projects (over 80 per cent) emanates from China and India whereas the European Union (EU) have been the main purchasers of CDM offsets. The EU has however indicated that they will be introducing tighter measures for purchasing CDM credits from 2013 and the bloc will only purchase CDM credits from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) who currently account for negligible CDM projects. This position of the EU is likely to have implications for the long term sustainability of the CDM and by extension the forestry component of CDM.

The REDD+ scheme seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from avoided deforestation and forest degradation and (+) to conserve and enhance forest carbon stocks through sustainable forest management (UNFCCC 2011 (Paragraph 70, decision 1/ CP. 16)). The REDD+ scheme therefore incorporates all forest management activities which contributes to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation and poor forest management tends to be associated with developing countries. Consequently, the REDD+ scheme is usually conceptualised as a scheme that results in the flow of funds to developing countries in order to incentivise the requisite sustainable forest management strategies (UNFCCC 2008). The essence of the incentives is to make forest conservation more profitable than clearing of forests. As has been outlined previously, sustainably managing forests will also deliver co-benefits to forest fringe communities. The proposal that led to the evolution of the REDD+ scheme was put forward by developing countries at the Climate Change Conference of Parties at Montreal in 2005 (Streck 2008, pp. 243 – 244). The past eight years have seen enormous negotiations for a global framework for the scheme. Factors such as a sustainable financing mechanism for the scheme, as well as a potent way of measuring, monitoring, reporting and verifying REDD+ activities are yet to be sorted out at the global level. However, through targeted support by the United Nations and developed countries such as Norway, REDD+ activities have commenced in several developing countries including Ghana.

To be continued:
In the concluding part of this article, the writer will throw light on Ghana’s forestry programmes for climate change. Stay tuned


Kwame Agyei holds a master's degree in Climate Change from the Australian National University (2012). He has worked with the Forestry Commission (FC) of Ghana since February, 2007. His main job responsibilities at FC involve engaging forest fringe communities as key partners to ensure the successful implementation of forest management operations including community-based reforestation programmes such as the Modified Taungya System as well as prevention of deforestation. He also holds a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Management from the Australian National University (2011) and Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Management from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (2005).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Climate Change, GM Crops and Food Security

"Our partners in Europe have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fear" -- George Bush, 2003

Genetically modified foods (GM foods, or biotech foods) are foods that have specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. Generally, the aim of genetically modifying food is simple, either to make the food more marketable or make it easier to produce. So far America seems to be leading in the cultivation of GM crops as they are reported to have grown some 66.8m hectares of GM crops, even in 2010. GM technology has been enthusiastically embraced in the Americas and in many Asian countries. Same cannot be said of Europe, though, where many countries are subject to severe restrictions on growing GM crops. Developing countries are also moving quite fast with the cultivation of GM crops. Brazil, Argentina are embracing GM crops. In Africa, Burkina Faso and South Africa are the leaders in cultivation of GM crops. I am not writing to support or fight against the adoption of GM crops but I would like to provoke more thinking along climate change, GM foods and Food Security, especially in Africa. Should the continent just say “NO” to it or we need to look a little more closely?

African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of their dependence on rainfed agriculture, high levels of poverty, low levels of human and physical capital, and poor infrastructure. The negative effects of climate change on crop/food production in Africa are well researched and documented. In Africa, agriculture sector accounts for a large share of GDP, export earnings, and employment. Many studies point to decline in yields of crops such as rice, wheat, and maize. Irrigation water supply reliability is expected to worsen in Sub-Saharan Africa due to climate change. Increasing temperature, low rainfall, altered rainfall patterns and even droughts, flooding, pests and diseases is likely to worsen Africa’s food security and the likelihood of having and an increase in the number of malnourished children on the continent. So, what is commonly heard on the lips of many African climate scientists is how to adapt to these changes. How can we continue to grow crops that can tolerate the changing climatic conditions, withstand pests and diseases and increases yield? If there are issues that should consider any African leader, these are!

When a continent is faced with such difficult future, one is likely to grasp at any offer that seems to address these big challenges of food security. One of such offers is Genetically Modified Crops. Two forms of stress resistance especially relevant to climate change are to drought and temperature and there are a number of studies which shows that genetic modifications to major crops such as corn and soybeans have increased their water-deficit tolerance. Enhanced resistance to pests and diseases, salinity and waterlogging, change in flowering times or enhanced responses to elevated carbon dioxide levels have all been demonstrated with GM crops.

There has been so many articles and debates on the advantages and disadvantages of GM crops or foods. When it comes to climate change, some of the argument in in support of GM crops are that through the use of low- and no-till farming methods, fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions can be decreased thanks to less tillage. In effect, GM crops can help farmers fight climate change in the following ways:

•Less fuel consumption on farms due to a reduced need to spray crops.

•Better carbon sequestration. With less tillage or ploughing, over time soil quality is enhanced and becomes carbon-enriched since more crop residue can be left on the fields. In addition, since the soil is not inverted by ploughing, less carbon in the soil will be released into the atmosphere.

•Reduced fertilizer use and N2O emissions. Nitrous oxide has a global warming potential 296 times greater than carbon dioxide. And it stays in the atmosphere for more than 100 years. These emissions can be limited by reduced fertilizer use, which will also mean less water pollution.

•For some crops, it is not cost-effective to remove weeds by physical means such as tilling, so farmers will often spray large quantities of different herbicides (weed-killer) to destroy weeds, a time-consuming and expensive process, that requires care so that the herbicide doesn't harm the crop plant or the environment. Crop plants genetically-engineered to be resistant to one very powerful herbicide could help prevent environmental damage by reducing the amount of herbicides needed.

•There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases

In a report titled, GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996–2010, UK-based PG Economics concluded, ‘crop biotechnology has contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with GM crops. In 2010, this was equivalent to removing 19.4 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 8.6 million cars from the road for one year.’

But there are arguments against the adoption of GM crops too. Here are some of them:

•Changing plants may have lasting effects on other organisms in the ecosystem. The change in a plant may cause it to be toxic to an insect or animal that uses it as its main food source.

•Due to the widespread use of insect resistant genes in crops the insects may become resistant to the genetic modifications. This would cause a widespread loss of crops and plants that have the natural immunity leading to a loss in biodiversity.

•Breeding and cross pollination across unintended species could occur resulting in things such as insect resistant weeds.

•Genetic modification could cause allergies in humans due to gene modification of plants.

•Some studies have shown that it may affect the human digestive system in a number of ways. The incorporation of substances that may interact badly with one another in food or in fact be poisonous to people may happen. The modification of certain genes may make some plant substances difficult to digest at all.

•A major economical concern is that the control of world food sources may be limited to large companies because they own the GM seeds and have the money to start and finish the accreditation process.

•Genetic modification can also make it difficult to know what you are eating, as a plant could contain animals products via genetic engineering. This could cause issues for those with dietary restrictions and religious commitments.

These are samples of the arguments as I have presented them here. But where should Africa go? Technology is good for climate change adaptation. Why shouldn’t we go for it? If we go for it, are we ready for the negative consequences if they are true?

I believe the continent must tread carefully. Our leaders should commit resources into research that can be independently conducted to inform our position on whether to accept or not to accept GM foods and GM crops production.

"Let those with the luxury to choose whether to have red meat, white meat or whatever other colour meat not stand in the way of those who are simply asking to have a meal" -- Hon William Ruto, 2010

Monday, March 18, 2013


Sustainable Development is a major concern that all nations of the world must unite to address. While others may choose to debate sustainable development, those in developing world like Africa view it as an only choice that needs utmost attention and effort from the global community. Not only does Africa and the developing world recognise the need to develop and the challenges that confront them, but also appreciate the importance of sustainable ‘economic, political, ecological and cultural development’. Africa’s history with natural resources exploitation and its failure to promote sustained growth, environmental integrity and improved social capital is a lesson well learnt in moving forward.

Permit me to focus this discourse more on Africa as a model of the developing world. Among the political and economic factors that contribute to Africa’s challenges are: Conflict and governance – and there are many of these in Africa – in Somalia, in some countries of Central Africa, in Sudan, in Mali, I note with interest the recent establishment of an Institute for Sustainability and Peace by the United Nations University. This institute, I believe, will do its best in addressing the conflicts in Africa in a sustainable way. I see no need to start something which cannot be done in a sustainable way. The world, when left alone, will run itself sustainably. So if any intervention cannot be done sustainably, it should be done in a sustainable manner.

Another major factor to consider in the whole discourse on sustainability in Africa is agriculture due to the major role it plays in Africa’s development. Urbanization, expanding deserts, the adverse effects of climate change, the demographic profile of the continent, etc are complex issues that require major efforts for sustainable development. There is also a need to give much attention to develop green economic policies and develop/adopt green technologies that go a long way to establish equilibrium with the ‘ecological support systems.’ Africa has a wealth of indigenous knowledge that can contribute to economic as well as cultural sustainability. There is a need to establish meaningful partnerships among developing countries, to better use Indigenous knowledge and adapted technologies instead of importing technologies and remain in the quagmire of endless dependence.

Sustainable development must be seen as a process that ensures a minimum of decent livelihood for the satisfaction of basic human needs for all strata of the population. The value of our natural capital, the wealth of benefits and services provided to people by biodiversity and ecosystems must be fully accounted and integrated into national and corporate planning and reporting practices, policies and programs. Our renewable natural resources must be harnessed in an environmentally sustainable manner for them to recover at natural rates, while managing non-renewable resources with a view to protecting the needs of future generations.

Given Africa’s enormous wealth in natural resources, the challenge of sustainable development is above all a question of democratic governance and human rights, or the responsible management of these resources in the interest of the public.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men". St. Francis of Assisi

It’s February again and the airwaves are becoming alive with messages of LOVE. Saint Valentine’s day is around the corner. I will also share my love with you and will recommend for you something that needs your love as well. Your natural surroundings, your environment; nature needs your love. Loving nature should be one of the easiest things to do and something that must come to us naturally. If not for anything, to satisfy the selfish human nature! Do you ask why? It’s simple, LOVING NATURE IS LOVING YOUR OWN LIFE.

I have decided to share with you a few reasons why you should resolve to show more love to nature:

“The loss of biodiversity and the quality of nature harms the basic psychological interests of man: nature contains beauty and wonders, offers a variety of experiences and challenges, acts as a mental anchor, generates insight and wisdom” -- Sigmund Hågvar

Plants, animals and ecosystems bring important economic and social benefits. Vegetation has cultural, aesthetic and recreational importance to all humans. Interaction between organisms and their environment are important to human survival: humans rely on ecosystems that function properly for clean air and water and healthy soil.

Water is fundamental to the survival of all humans. The human body is primarily water. Infants are made up of 70 percent water, while adult males are 60 percent and females are 55 percent, it is said. Apart from drinking water, most economies depend on water (agriculture, transport, manufacturing, etc). The condition of freshwater ecosystems has a critical impact on the wider environment, especially for sustaining native wildlife and vegetation. Our waterbodies serve us in many other ways. Beaches are a great leisure resort for many people. The oceans and seas support a vast array of marine life and ecosystems of great importance. Where do our fish come from? What about the prawns, lobsters, etc?

Trees produce the oxygen that was mentioned in the paragraph above. Let's face it, we could not exist as we do if there were no trees. Trees absorb dangerous chemicals and other pollutants that enter the soil in a process known phytoremediation. Trees can either store harmful pollutants or actually change the pollutant into less harmful forms. Trees filter sewage and farm chemicals, reduce the effects of animal wastes, clean roadside spills and clean water runoff into streams. Trees control noise pollution, slow storm water runoff and by so doing check erosion. Trees serve as carbon sinks against excessive carbon emissions into the atmosphere, clean the air and serve as windbreaks.

Soils are also just as important as plants, animals and waterbodies. Soils influence distribution of plant species and provide a habitat for a wide range of organisms. It controls the flow of water and chemical substances between the atmosphere and the earth, and acts as both a source and store for gases (like oxygen and carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. Degraded soil affects agricultural productivity, wildlife habitat and water quality.
Our atmosphere is supporting our life on earth. Oxygen sustains us. The ozone layer shields us from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Even greenhouse gases that we talk about so much (predominantly carbon dioxide), maintain the surface temperature of the earth at levels that can sustain life. It is excessive emission of greenhouse gases which is negative and a product of human’s activity. Other than that, greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere for the good of humans.

I admit that it is so easy for one to pursue quality life totally ignorant of what a quality environment can offer. Because quality of life have been examined with many determinants including financial security, health, length of residence in an area, satisfaction with work, education, perceived empowerment, social opportunities, loneliness, community belonging, living with a partner, living in a less densely populated area, family relations, housing, religion, and self-esteem, etc (Chipuer et al. 2003, Cramer et al. 2004, Michalos 2004, Tay et al. 2004). But in all these assessments, the importance of the natural environment in quality of life has been largely overlooked. But this is a time for awakening. If you did not know, now you know.


“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?” -- Robert Redford quotes

1. Chipuer, H. M., P. Bramston, and G. M. H. Pretty. 2003. Determinants of subjective quality of life among rural adolescents: a developmental perspective. Social Indicators Research 61(1):79-95.

2. Cramer, V., S. Torgersen, and E. Kringlen. 2004. Quality of life in a city: the effect of population density. Social Indicators Research 69(1):103-116.

3. Michalos, A. C. 2004. Social indicators research and health-related quality of life research. Social Indicators Research 65(1):27-72.

4. Tay, J. B., C. C. Kelleher, A. Hope, M. Barry, S. N. Gabhainn, and J. Sixsmith. 2004. Influence of sociodemographic and neighbourhood factors on self-rated health and quality of life in rural communities: findings from the agriproject in the republic of Ireland. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 58(11):904-911.