The great Glasgow gathering …the global goal and Ghana’s game plan

The speeches have ended, the applauds have faded, the pavilions have been disassembled and participants of the great gathering at Glasgow, Scotland in the United Kingdom for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26)  have all left for their respective homes.

Back home in Ghana, the aftermath of the tidal wave at Keta in the Volta Region—caused by factors including  climate change— has not ended, the calls for help and solution have not faded and shelters have been assembled for the many residents who have lost and left their respective homes.

The distance between Glasgow and Keta is about 3,500 miles but the Glasgow event would be meaningful only if world leaders and other stakeholders who converged there would implement their commitments towards reducing global warming to help tackle climate change issues like the Keta incidence.

COP 26 and global goal

As has been the case for nearly 30 years, the UN assembled 125 global leaders, thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens to firm up efforts to reduce global warming, this time at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow.

It was held on the theme “Keeping 1.5 alive; ensuring it is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees” from October 31 to November 12, and co-hosted by Italy. It marked six years since COP 21 was held in Paris in 2015, where 196 parties adopted the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change.

Under the agreement which came into force in 2016, all parties including Ghana are required to have Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)   to combat climate change, adapt to its effects and achieve the common goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

COVID-19 protocols, protests and security

Being the largest international conference since the COVID-19 pandemic, the stakes were high with regard to safety protocols. Aside from hand sanitisers positioned at vantage points and those given participants, free lateral flow tests kits were distributed to participants to test themselves. A negative result was one’s ‘passport’ events centre. These checks were done amidst long queues and stringent security screening.

As typical of COPs, there were series of protests by various groups of persons who held flags, placards and megaphones to reverberate varied issues. On a few days, the protests created gridlock. But amidst the unavailability of accommodation for all participants resulting in some living in nearby towns, the provision of travel passes for train and bus services made commuting to and fro easier.

Ghana’s glow and glory

Ghana’s delegation, led by President Nana Akufo-Addo, was made up of negotiators, experts in climate and related fields drawn from sector ministries, departments and agencies and academia including Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Energy Commission, and other officials.

For the first time ever in the history of COP, Ghana acquired its own pavilion and delegation office which attracted global attention. It had about 300 visitors every day who could not keep their eyes and hands off the Ghanaian chocolate bars displayed as gifts.

The colourful pavilion decorated with kente-themed wallpaper exhibiting cocoa and forestry was set up, to showcase the various interventions the country has put in place to combat climate change over the years. Hitherto the country’s delegation was perching at the pavilion for Africa and other private organisations.

The Game plan

Ghana’s updated NDCs submitted to the UN Climate Change Secretariat for the 10 year period (2020 to 2030) cover 19 policy areas and translates into 47 adaptation and mitigation programmes of action. These are expected to build the resilience of over 38 million people, generate absolute greenhouse gas emission reductions of 64 MtCO2e (Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent); create over one million jobs, and avoid 2,900 deaths due to improved air quality by 2030.

According to the document, the country requires between $ 9.3 and $ 15.5 billion of investment to implement the NDCs out of which $ 3.9 billion would be required to implement the 16 unconditional programmes of action till 2030.

The remaining $ 5.4 billion for the 31 conditional programmes of action would be mobilised from the public, international, and private sector sources and carbon markets.

Ghana would need an additional $ 3 million biennially to support coordination actions and the regular international reporting of the nationally determined contribution. Already the country, from 2015 to 2020, spent GH¢14.5 billion ($3.15 billion) on various climate change interventions across the country, according to the Ministry of Finance.

President Nana Akufo-Addo summed up Ghana’s game plan by telling the world leaders at COP26 that the country would strike a balance between climate actions and the use of natural resources for development.  He also reminded developed countries, who are the great emitters, to honour their financial commitments to the climate fight. 

Coping after cop26

After the two weeks negotiations, parties agreed, among other things, on the Glasgow Climate Pact, which sets a challenge for nations to attend COP27, scheduled for Egypt next year, with improved 2030 targets that are in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping warming well below 2°C and closer to 1.5 °C.

They also made bold collective commitments to curb methane emissions, to halt and reverse forest loss, align the finance sector with net-zero by 2050, ditch the internal combustion engine, accelerate the phase-out of coal, and end international financing for fossil fuels, among other things.

Indeed, the COP26 was a great platform for the world to meet and solidify efforts to deal with climate change. However, it is hoped that this would not be another talk-shop but a reminder of the need or action and enforcement of law on threats like illegal mining and sand wining. This is because climate change is an all-encompassing threat to livelihoods and sectors such as agriculture, energy, water, transport, land and natural resources on whose shoulders the Ghanaian economy, for instance, rests.

It is important to note that the meeting would be meaningless until real results are seen on the ground especially in situations like the prevailing one in Keta. We ought to quit waving away the wave with words and  well-wishes and work to ward off the water and wipe away the worries of residents who wail and wobble whenever the waves wander their way. 

By Jonathan Donkor, back from Glasgow (Scotland)

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