Ghana considering a direction towards Green Economic Recovery?
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed several weaknesses in almost all economies across the globe. However, the recent development and administering of COVID-19 vaccines have raised much optimism of a much faster recovery in the global economy.
As the world recovers from the venomous effect of the pandemic, attention is now shifting towards an economic recovery that ensures environmental sustainability; A Green Economic Recovery (Green Recovery).
A Green recovery is a widely adopted name for a proposed package of environmental, regulatory, and fiscal reforms to recover the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. It focuses on long-term policies and solutions that are designed to benefit both the people and the planet.
As such, it involves measures that focus on safeguarding the environment, protecting ecosystems, and addressing issues relating to climate. It also includes creating a resilient, sustainable and inclusive society. Consequently, this has aroused the debate on the fight against a long-standing foe– climate change.
The Paris Agreement
More specifically, it has brought to the fore the need to re-assess the progress and commitment made by countries in the Paris Agreement. This agreement, adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, is the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement.
The Paris Agreement sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change and support them in their efforts.
Based on this, the EU in December 2020, set a target to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.
Meanwhile, Africa’s contribution to the world’s carbon dioxide emissions is very small. According to the United Nations Fact Sheet on Climate Change, Africa accounts for only 2–3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industrial sources. Nonetheless, the UN warns that Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that climate impact on economic output will cause annual losses of between 3-5% of GDP by 2030 in Africa.
In Ghana, the cost of environmental degradation is estimated at US$6.3 billion, equivalent to roughly 11% of the country’s 2017 GDP.
Fight against climate change
Even though Africa’s contribution to the problem is minimal, Dr. John Baptist Jatoe, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at University of Ghana believes that the fight against climate change should be a grave concern to the government of Ghana. He indicated that even though it’s a general issue with no guarantee that a certain action from Ghana will make an immediate impact, Ghana must do its best in addressing the issue.
“Definitely… we actually need to do something about it. If we act and other countries around the world also act, it is then that we will also slow down the warming. As the warming slows down, the losses will also reduce”.
Most people in the developing world believe a Green Recovery is only a preserve for the developed economies. As such, it has become very necessary to find out whether Ghana is considering a ‘green economic recovery’ as it implements its recovery strategies and policies for post-COVID.
“From where I sit, I will say… we are better off driving now than later. If we join now and work with development partners, we will have the chance of accessing greener technologies which will reduce further our contribution to the problem. It will also give us a higher moral ground from which to stand and ask some of the difficult but important questions. E.g. questions of equity and redistribution”.
Efforts at green recovery in Ghana
According to Dr. Jatoe, the June – Dec. 2020 items captured in the CARES program have not yet been implemented as of Jan/ Feb. 2021 due to lack of resources. He said “we largely depend on partner resources. Hence, it is better to join the drive now”.
However, he stated that, since most of the countries have begun to embrace the green recovery as it has become the “world’s poster child”, Ghana will also be better off if it considers a green economic recovery now. He added that this is more so because most of the policies of the other countries and development partners are already gearing towards that direction.
Many economists in the country have called for sector-specific or targeted policies as Ghana rolls out policies and programs to revive the economy which grew marginally at 0.4% in 2020. It is, thus, vital to find out the spending pathways the government needs to consider to enhance economic recovery and environmental sustainability.
Need to Focus on Three major areas
Dr. Jatoe has advised the government to focus on three major areas if it has plans to enhance an environmentally sustainable economic recovery.
“If we look at our economy, agriculture is one of the main areas. Another area we should also work on is the energy sector”.
He pointed out that because of the nature of farming in Ghana, agriculture should be one of the areas that must serve as a starting point for the green recovery. He explained that some of the practices such as slash & burn and the annual bush burning must be replaced with other better means that will not pollute the environment.
Also, Dr. Jatoe stated that the government must also work harder to clamp down on illegal mining activities. He explained that inappropriate farming practices and illegal mining activities are fast degrading and depleting Ghana’s forests. According to him, mining activities have rendered most of the river bodies lifeless posting significant danger to human survival. He expounded that the chemicals mostly used for mining and farming pose a serious risk to environmental sustainability.
Need to gather Political courage
Recently, the Deputy CEO of COCOBOD, Dr. Emmanuel Agyeman Dwomoh revealed during the National Consultative Dialogue on Small Scale Mining that the European Union is threatening to impose restrictions on Ghana’s cocoa exportation into ports of its member countries if the deforestation that is being caused by illegal mining is not dealt with.
Reacting to the call, Dr. Jatoe described it as legitimate but pointed out that it will be very difficult for the government to win the fight against illegal mining. According to him, we need to “gather the political courage” to educate the people on the implications of illegal mining activities on our future generations. He added that the country is not making progress in the fight against ‘galamsey’ despite the government’s efforts.
“That should be a wake-up call. If we haven’t realized the issue of the rapid expansion in illegal mining and the dangers that it poses to our cocoa, the EU has recognized it. Aside from that, if we look at the extent to which our economy depends on cocoa, it will be a pity if we sit back and allow something like this, that we can actually work on, to destroy the future of our cocoa. As for the ‘galamsey’ fight, we are not making progress, that is the way I see it”.
More Investments in Clean Energy Sources
On the energy sector, Dr. Jatoe stated that hydro is better than other fossil fuels in terms of its impact on the environment. Dr. Jatoe, therefore, called for the establishment of more dams in line with the government’s ‘one village one dam’ initiative. He lauded the construction of the Pwalugu dam which is serving both hydro and irrigation purposes but he added that “more of such is needed”.
Furthermore, he specified that the government must try to invest more in solar because it is another major clean energy source that is readily available in our part of the world. Moving into renewable energy use, according to him, will ensure a sustainable recovery.
Meanwhile, among the environmental costs to Ghana’s economy, air pollution is the most significant cost, estimated at 4.2% of GDP in 2017. Based on this, Dr. Jatoe cited transportation as one of the areas that required urgent attention in the country’s quest to ensure a green recovery. According to him, there is the need to decongest our roads by using the public transport system. He added that the country should reduce the importation of used cars and also explore the options of using electric cars and the maintenance of vehicle efficiency standards. He indicated that with proper collaboration with development partners, Ghana can obtain some electric cars that will also help reduce air pollution.
Investment in Green Economy R&D Required
At the heart of a green recovery is the investment in a Green Economy R&D. This includes renewable energy technologies, technologies for decarbonizing sectors such as aviation, plastics, and agriculture, and carbon sequestration.
As to whether Ghana has made any significant strides as far as investment in Green R&D is concerned, Dr. Jatoe indicated that he does not have the statistics on the level of investment in research in that particular area. However, he pointed out that, there are efforts to promote the use of renewable energy especially solar. According to him, the government has unveiled some solar panels and households are already being connected to them.
“I don’t know how much of investment expenditure has been directed to that area. But If we look at it in general, our research and development expenditure is close to zero; that is If we take it as a proportion of our budget. So, in the area of research and development, we are not doing well as a country.”
Dr. John Baptist D. Jatoe
Snr. Lect. Dept. of Agric. Econs. & Agribusiness
University of Ghana