A mixed bag: Akufo-Addo’s words and deeds on climate change

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“What we do in Ghana affects the people of Nepal or Mozambique or Austria. That is why we need concerted global action to tackle this menace. Success in addressing climate change will be one of the greatest legacies that our generation can give to the next.”

Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made the above statement at the R20 Austrian World Summit on Climate Change on Tuesday, May 28, 2019. On that same day, the president told the world that all local assemblies in Ghana had been mandated to address climate change issues in their medium-term development plans.

Indictment on wealthy nations

To underscore the urgent need to accelerate climate adaptation policies, especially in economically advanced countries, President Akufo-Addo has said “it is time to turn words into deeds, and ambition into action” else the decision makers of the world will not “escape the censure of history”.

He criticized the developed nations for failing to honour their promise to support poorer countries with US$100 billion annually. This pledge was to help underdeveloped states, which contribute less than 4% to the current perilous climate situation facing the globe, to adapt better to the scourge presented by climate change.

President Akufo-Addo further argued that without this support, the desire of the wealthy countries to prevent poorer states from exploiting their relatively new resources would deepen Africa’s already dire economic woes, and enshrine the seeming eternal penury the continent was in.

The president’s sermons on climate change on the global stage show someone who is serious about it, but the actions of his government back home tell a different story. For instance, his unwillingness to discourage mining in the Atewa forest has the tendency to worsen the climate situation.

Atewa Forest
The Government is trading off bauxite in the Atewa Forest for infrastructure amidst protest from environmental civil society organisations     Credit: Key Biodiversity

In 2018, his government announced a deal with Synohydro, a Chinese company, to barter Ghana’s processed bauxite for infrastructure, many civil society organizations CSOs) have embarked on sustained protests to prevent the forest from being degraded.

The project would allow the government to mine bauxite in the 23,000-hectare Atewa forest. In August 2022, a coalition of CSOs against mining in the Atewa Forest have accused the government of being opaque in the issuance of a prospecting licence to the Ghana Integrated Aluminum Development Corporation.

Sworn silence

“Climate change” has never appeared in President Akufo-Addo’s state of the nation address since he started addressing parliament in 2017.

His government’s first budget statement indicated that Ghana had signed on to the African Risk Capacity programme and was creating a manual and a tool to prioritize and track climate change projects. These have been done.  The government has also sourced funding from the Green Climate Fund to start the implementation of some climate change projects it mentioned in the 2017 budget: the Savanna REDD+, Resilient Landscape for Sustainable Livelihood and Sustainable Energy Access projects as well as train MDAs on the use of the tracking tool.

Renewable Energy

Before he assumed office in January 2017, it was Ghana’s target, set in 2011, to increase the renewable energy component of its energy mix to 10% by 2020.

At the time, Ghana’s renewable energy component was barely 1%. As a result, he extended the period to achieve this goal to 2030.  Currently, Ghana’s renewable energy mix, according to the Energy Minister, Mathew Opoku Prempeh, is at 2.4 percent.

In the revised Renewable Energy Master Plan, the government targeted to install 130-megawatt peak of utility-scale solar projects by the end of 2020.

This target was missed.

A report by the U.S. government’s department of commerce expected Ghana to have 152.3MW of renewable energy supply by 2021. Only a part of the first phase (26MW out of 50MW) of the Bui solar farm project was completed in November 2020 as mentioned in that year’s budget. A 13 MW solar project in Kaleo was inaugurated in 2022. These projects and some 54 MW by three independent power producers were part of the projections that informed the U.S. report in 2021.

President Akufo-Addo Commissions 13mw Kaleo Solar Power Project - The Presidency, Republic of Ghana
Although a phase of the Kaleo Solar Project has been launched, the entire project has missed its deadlines.

In 2022, President Akufo-Addo inaugurated the 13MW solar power project in the Nadowli-Kaleo District of the Upper West Region. The Volta River Authority (VRA) had secured funding for this project in 2018.

In a country where the executive ensures Parliament expedites, sometimes with aggression, the approval of its priority bills and loans, the €20 million loan agreement between the Government of Ghana and the German Development Bank that made the Kaleo solar project possible, was approved in 2021. The second phase of the project, a 15 MW plant in Kaleo, is yet to be completed.

In the 2019 budget, the government mentioned that it intended to partner with the private sector to install solar panels at all Ghanaian Airports. Nothing has been heard about this agenda since then.

To reduce the use of kerosene lanterns in Ghana, the government planned to distribute 128,000 solar lanterns by 2020. However, 80, 000 solar lanterns have been distributed per the data captured in all the budget statements presented by the Akufo-Addo-led administration from 2017 to 2022.

As the Climate Clock (a clock that counts down the critical time window to rapidly and drastically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5ºC) ticks, Ghana’s government is still bent on exploring its hydrocarbon resources.

Marine Conservation

The outcome of the marine conservation initiatives highlighted in the 2018 budget to combat the impact of climate change on Ghana’s fishing industry has been motley. The government, under the Marine Resource Conservation initiatives, has enforced a two-month close season to help replenish the depleting fish stock in Ghana’s seas since 2018.

Regardless of this important ban on both industrial and artisanal fishers, Ghana is losing an estimated 23.7 million dollars annually to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation. These activities have also decimated the country’s oceanic fish populations, such as sardinella, which numbers have dropped by 80% in the past two decades.

Ghana received its second yellow card from the EU Commission because of its “various shortcomings… to comply with its duties under international law as flag, port, coastal or market State”. Ghana is the first country to be re-carded. The first yellow card was in 2013.

If urgent steps are not taken to eradicate illegal fishing by vessels flying Ghana’s flag, the country faces a red card. This means there is an impending economic sanction that will prevent Ghana from accessing the European seafood export market. The livelihoods of artisanal fishers are also at stake.

I Village, 1 Dam

The five northern regions in Ghana are more susceptible to the effects of climate change because of the harsh climatic conditions in those regions.

The One Village, One Dam Policy has delivered less than promised        Credit: Zaara Radio

To secure the livelihoods of farmers in these regions, President Akufo-Addo said in 2019 that the “strategic objective” of his government’s flagship programme, the One-District-One-Factory (1D1F), is to make water easily accessible to smallholder farmers during the dry season. This, he said, was integral to Ghana’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). The NDC is a climate action plan to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts.

The specific project under the 1D1F, which is to ensure the availability of water to the farmers is the 1-Village-1-Dam initiative. In the 2018 budget statement, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, said “65 Small Earth Dams in rural communities in Northern Ghana” were being rehabilitated “to contribute towards the One-Village One-Dam initiative.”

However, at the end of the President’s first term, the Minister for Agriculture, Owusu Afriyie Akoto, pointed out that 1V1D needed more than 4 years to be completed. Very little has been heard or done about this initiative since the President won the last elections. It has been almost two years.  A documentary by Joy News on the IV1D policy revealed that this initiative abysmally implemented, and the so-called dams dried up in the dry season they were needed.

Deforestation

Ghana’s forest cover is around 1.6 million hectares, down from 8.2 million hectares in the 1900s according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Since the beginning of this century, the country loses an estimated 3% of its forest cover annually. This makes the future of Ghana’s forests barren. With a belly to consume and store carbon monoxide, forests can provide 30% of the solution to keeping global warming below 2°C, according to the Global Forest Watch.

In 2017, President Akufo-Addo’s government launched a plan to plant 10 million trees to curb the negative effects of climate change. Without any accountability for the outcome of the project in the 2018 budget, the same target was set in 2019. Five million trees were, however, to be planted in 2021.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said in his 2022 budget statement, “In June 2021, to avert the challenge of deforestation and forest degradation, H.E The President led the entire country to plant over seven million trees, which was far above the five million targeted under the Green Ghana Project.”

And in 2022, the government claimed it planted 20 million trees during the Greening Ghana campaign in June.

Akufo-Addo rallies support for Greener Ghana
Government launched a Greening Ghana campaign to plant trees, but the country is losing countless ones to illegal mining

Illegal mining

Riding on the back of a media campaign that highlighted how illegal mining was ravaging Ghana’s water bodies, President Akufo-Addo said he had put his “presidency on the line” to fight the menace. It was reported in 2018 that Ghana was likely to import water if no resolute action was taken to end galamsey. The wanton destruction of forests and farms, in search of minerals, is not only causing the loss of critical biodiversity but the country’s soil and groundwater are also being greatly contaminated.   

 Akufo-Addo, therefore, put together an Inter-ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM) to tackle the problem in 2018. Small scale mining was temporarily banned to halt the destruction of the country’s water bodies, vegetation and forests. However, after it emerged that the IMCIM had been compromised, the president only disbanded the committee.

Detecting Gold Mining in Ghana
Illegal miners are turning the country’s forests upside down

The government’s commitment to crack down on illegal mining was also questioned when it chose to deport, instead of prosecuting, an influential Chinese woman engaged in the devastation of the country’s lands. This person, after being deported, has been apprehended again in the country for the same crimes she committed.

The President’s inaction, therefore, justifies the concerns of environmental groups in the country. The groups say they are not confident in Akufo-Addo’s willingness to adhere to the climate pact signed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021.

Budgeted and actually allocated expenditure

 Ghana spent GHS 14.5 billion on climate change-related projects from 2015 to 2020. Out of the GHc 14.5 billion budgeted for climate change projects, only GHc 519 million was actually allocated, according to a review by an economist, Prof. Lord Mensah. However, his assessment revealed that the climate change-relevant budget as a percentage of total funding source expenditure increased from 0.79% in 2016 to 17.92% in 2020.

Most of this expenditure was spent through initiatives by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) far above what was spent in the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs).

Also, not all MMDAs have complied with the mandate of addressing climate change issues in their medium-term development plans. A perusal of the composite budget of all the MMDAs in the country for the past five years shows that next to nothing about issues of climate change was mentioned in their 2017 budgets.

As a departure from that year, however, climate change issues kept increasing in the budgets of the assemblies from 2018 till date.

In 2018, 33 assemblies out of the 254 did not mention climate change in their budgets. The next year, climate change was absent in the budget of 11 assemblies out of 260. In 2020, 10 out of 260 assemblies didn’t indicate anything about climate change and in 2021, 3 out 261 assemblies stated nothing about climate change.

Renowned British natural historian and author, Sir David Attenborough, poignantly makes it clear that “it’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth, or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.”

President Akufo-Addo has said a lot about climate change. His government has implemented policies to combat this menace. However, per the analysis above, a lot more committed action is required, regardless of how minute they may seem on the global scale, to limit the impending doom climate change presents.

Equally worrying is that the inactions and missed timelines could go a long way to hamper Ghana’s attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7 and 13, which rally nations to attain sustainable and clean energy and climate action by 2035.

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The writer of this report, Edmund Agyemang Boateng, is a Fellow of the Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellowship at the Media Foundation for West Africa. Diana Amoako Boakyewaa & Thelma Amedeku also contributed to this report. 

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