Ghana’s Transition Into A Low Carbon Economy



By Mustapha Iddrisu
(Energy Analyst)


OtsenI wish to seize this singular opportunity to congratulate the former President of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor for his recent appointment as a United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change. I agree with the former president when he described his responsibility as “daunting”.


When I first heard the news, I had mixed feelings for two reasons. Firstly, I thought our country has not done enough towards combating the global warming caused by climate change to deserve this recognition.


However, this promoted me to start researching on the  country’s records of carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets but the closer I could find something was only Ghana’s acceptance and ratification of Kyoto Protocol on climate change on 30th May, 2003, which came into force on 16th February, 2005.


On the contrary, I felt the appointment of our former president to this important position could serve as impetus to engineer sound policies towards the use of cleaner, greener energy sources for our expected accelerated economic growth. The latter is where my hope lies. It is better late than never. Ghana must begin putting her climate change policies (if any) on the front burner.

Even though extra burden of carbon dioxide reductions is on the industrialized countries, Ghana has a responsibility since combating the climate change is a collective one. As Margret Thatcher of blessed memory put it: “no generation has a freehold on this earth.”

And I dare say that no country, both industrialized and developing ones, can escape the effects of the climate change. One of the major challenges of the 21st century and the greatest threat facing human race is the climate change.

Therefore, to combat the debacle more effectively, collective effort is needed irrespective the size of a country’s economy or contributions to the climate change.

Currently, most countries, such as China, United States of America, India and Russia run carbon intensive economies in all sectors of their national discourse. With China and the United States of America emitting 23.5% and 18.27% of the world’s carbon dioxide respectively.

A country is said to operate a high carbon economy when its productive sectors emit high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The degree of the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere precipitate the phenomenon of global warming.

In the global ranking, Ghana only emits 0.03% of the world’s carbon dioxide. This might be seem to be insignificant but considering the country’s per capita growth in recent times. It is frightening since the level of emissions of a country tends to rise as the economy grows.

The far reaching effects of climate change can only be mitigated through sacrifices and lifestyle changes. So what will be Ghana’s energy mix outlook in the next 20 years? Moving the fundamentals from high to low carbon economy demands a shift of policies in Ghana.

This calls for series of policies and activities geared towards prevention of the release of greenhouse emissions into atmosphere or removal of the carbon emissions from the environment. I, therefore, suggest the following strategic but not exhaustive recommendations towards the country’s transition into a low carbon economy:

In the interim, the fossil energy will still dominate the world for many years to come. So what then do we do in dealing with their resultant carbon emissions in the atmosphere? Since the climate change occurs due to excess carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, growing more trees (carbon sink) to remove the carbon could be a natural answer in the roadmap towards low carbon in the country.

It is, therefore, imperative for the government to take a second look at the afforestation project under SADA, in order to serve the Multipurpose of creating jobs, reducing desertification and serving as carbon sink.

Natural gas should be considered seriously as a long term transitional energy to renewable energy sources in our thermal generation of electricity. The use of natural gas in the interim will be a intelligent move towards the roadmap to less intensive carbon energy and the fight against the climate change.

Comparatively, it has the lowest emission record among the first generation energy sources. The cost of production is also lower than oil generation of electricity. In view of this, the roles of the Ghana Gas Company and Western African Gas Pipeline have become more imperative.

The government as matter of policy should also introduce hybrid vehicle technology in the transportation sector to minimise its huge oil consumption. The hybrid vehicles can be an important element in the fight against climate change due to their reduction in petroleum usage.

This technology will focus on reducing CO2 emissions from the transport sector in Ghana. In this case, more charging points for electric vehicles should therefore be established and monitored by an agency. To start with, all the government imported vehicles to Ghana should be hybrid vehicles or electric cars.

The Public Utility Regulations Commission should be empowered to embark on energy efficiency and conservation measures. These are some of the measures we can employ to reduce our energy consumption and subsequently pay less electricity bills. Energy efficiency and conservation measures have the potential of promoting economic development, ensuring access to energy and can lead to Job creation and saving of personal income as well as less carbon emissions.

The regulatory frame work can also play significant role in combating the carbon emissions. Carbon credit and taxes should be introduced to regulate the level of carbon emissions among the commercial users of energy. With the carbon tax, a company is taxed based on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) generated from burning fuels.

The more the emissions by a company, the more payment of the carbon tax and vice versa. This will, therefore, serve as disincentive for companies, thereby reducing fuel consumption which intends reduces their carbon emissions.

Carbon credit, on the other hand, acknowledges countries or companies that have contributed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by awarding them credit. More so, if a company in Ghana exceeds its emission quota, it could be made to purchase the excess in the international market at their prevailing market price.

As a long term strategy, the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum should think green. Ghana has huge potentials in the renewable energy sector (solar and wind) which contribute near zero greenhouse gas emissions in the world. These second generation energy sources are clean, renewable and sustainable.

The Volta River Authority has done tremendously well by generating more electricity from hydro.The recent commissioning of 2 mega watts of electricity from solar in Navrongo and the distributions of solar lanterns to rural dwellers also deserve more applause.

However, more needs to be done. The potential of the wind energy is spotted along the coast of Ghana, which can also be used to complement the other sources of energy productions. Even though the renewable sources of energy is said to be capital intensive venture, their operating cost is often minimal.

Ghana, as one of the beacons of democracy in Africa, can also take a lead role in the fight against the global climate change if the above strategic recommendations are considered and implemented.

However, the fact that countries do not contribute evenly to the climate change signals the daunting task that lies ahead of the former president. The United Kingdom has taken the lead role in combating it. They aim to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, from the 1990 baseline.

However, the USA is yet to ratify and enforce the tenets of the Kyoto Protocol. Some countries have also developed a semi-conscious plan with the view that they have money to cope with the effects of the climate change. Reconciling these competing interests among the industrialized countries would be the herculean task for our former president.

Furthermore, the developing countries view the developed and industrialized countries as having more burden of cutting down emissions in order to prevent the climate change. But others also argue all nations should be held to an equal level of responsibility. The collective responsibility to safeguard our planet is the watch phrase.

Once again, I salute our former president for his new appointment. The task ahead of him is truly not easy. Daunting or herculean, the war against the climate change must soldier on. Mr. J. A. Kufuor, leave your footprints on the sands of time.

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