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GHANA’S REDD+ STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

 

An African proverb says: “A man’s greed leads to the destruction of the environment.”

 

Basically, the term  REDD+ or REDD-Plus simply refers to “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.”

 

Environmental experts are of the view that Climate Change may become a single most daunting stumbling block to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This explains why all nations with vision ought to ratify and comply with Paris Agreement adopted at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21), November 30-December 12, 2015 in France.

 

In this article, I intend to focus on efforts being made by Ghana, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, with particular reference to the fight against deforestation and forest degradation, which the country finds to be critical to its successes of tackling Climate Change.

 

On Thursday, 19th October 2017, Ghana hosted its 2nd National REDD+ Forum on the theme “Strengthening Law Enforcement for Effective REEDD+ Implementation.” That Forum was addressed by no less a person than the President of the Republic Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in Accra.

 

The Ghanaian President used the occasion to underscore the fact that, as a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC), Ghana initiated a process of reducing considerably greenhouse gas emission from deforestation and forest degradation, while at the same time encouraging tree planting projects in the country.

 

The President reiterated the commitment of his government towards every action that prevents forest degradation and deforestation, and also increases the country’s forest cover. President Akufo-Addo did not mince words when he told conference participants that his government was fighting the menace of illegal mining popularly known as “galamsey’ because of its negative effect on the environment in the country

 

“Our fight against the illegal mining phenomenon, also known as galamsey, is a case in point. In the 2016 Manifesto of my party, the New Patriotic Party, we indicated strongly our commitment to reforestation, forest rehabilitation and forest protection activities, realizing that forest cover has been depleted significantly in the last two decades,” the President noted.

 

According to the President, Ghana intends to undertake massive forest plantations, with both indigenous and exotic tree species, and also develop the bamboo and rattan industry, as they would serve as effective substitutes for furniture and other wood products in the country. He urged farmers and local communities not to allow illegal logging and mining to continue, and charged Security agencies on the roads, ports and borders not look on unconcerned and allow illegal timber products just to pass without confiscation or with corrupt purpose.

 

In Ghana, one institution that is mandated to watch over the nation’s forests is the Forestry Commission. And if the Forestry Commission could live up to its responsibility, of course, when provided with the requisite logistics, to enforce relevant laws, the devastation of forests by illegal loggers would be minimized. In other words, illegal mining and unsustainable harvesting of forest products are some factors that contribute to climate change in our country.

 

It is the considered opinion of his author that the fight against climate change should not only be left to governments. It should be seen as a shared responsibility among citizens, civil society, institutions and organisations, the youth and what have you? For example, in Ghana the media have been playing a tremendous role in the fight against galamsey. The role of the mass media in awareness creation through advocacy and sensitization of the public about issues of forest preservation in particular and environmental protection in general is sine qua non 

 

Another group of people or professionals whose role is crucial for the fight against climate change is the judiciary. It appears that punishments and penalties prescribed by the laws of the land against environmental offenders are not deterrent enough. For example, the convener of the Media Coalition against Galamsey, Mr. Kenneth Asigbey, who, until recently was the Managing Director of Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), had a cause to express dissatisfaction about punishment meted out to illegal mining related offenders.

 

Mr Asigbey cited cases where some galamsey offenders arrested by the Operation Vanguard task force who were taken to courts were fined to pay some amount of money that was nothing to write home about. He contended that if illegal miners who are making huge profit out of their illegal activities that are destroying forests, devastating farmlands and polluting rivers, are asked to pay some insignificant amount of money and go scot free, then it is the nation that will suffer in the long round. Mr Asigbey appealed to the Chief Justice to take a second look at the laws and advise members of the Judiciary to prescribe stiffer punishments to perpetrators of illegal forest destroyers and as well as galamsey operators.

 

Indeed, at the recently held 2nd National REDD+ Forum, Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, lamented that illegal mining has contributed immensely to the destruction of the country’s forest and the pollution of its water bodies. 

According to the Minister, research has shown that some health related problems in the country, like dementia, and other diseases are on the increase due to some chemicals like mercury being used by galamseyers in their activities. How can a country achieve sustainable development goals if illegal is affecting the people’s health? 

 

The good news, however, is that, at REDD+ Forum, Ghana’s Chief Justice, her ladyship Sophia Akuffo, was present and asserted that her outfit would ensure speedy trial of culprit who engage in illegal mining to serve as a deterrent for would-be law breakers.

 

Ghana’s efforts at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) emerged in global climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) as far back as 2005.  The strategy or mechanism was aimed at incentivizing tropical forest countries to reduce their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. 

 

Ghana must not lose guard but maintain and sustain this effort if the nation will want to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

 

The author works with the Information Services Department ISD in Accra This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.