Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 UN Climate Change Summit in Paris: Africa Must Go As a Team
By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
How industrialized nations contributed to global warming over the years
A legendary broom stick of Ghanaian folklore says: “When I stand alone I cannot sweep and even a baby can break me up into pieces. But when we are bound together we sweep beautifully and a giant cannot break us up into pieces!”
UN Climate Change Summit 2015
On Saturday, August 22, 2015, the Daily Graphic carried a well-researched feature on page six (6) of its GLOBAL OUTLOOK column. The academic piece was written by no less a person than H.E. Jon Benjamin, the British High Commissioner to Ghana. The headline of the article was: “100 Days to Paris – Securing a Global Deal and Transitioning to a Low Carbon Future.”
It was the sub-heading “Securing a Global Deal and Transitioning to a Low Carbon Future” that fascinated me. In Political Ecology of Global Environmental Politics, it is known that when countries engage in debates during negotiations at global forums of the UN World Environmental Programme (WEP), some advanced nations tend to adopt some funny tricks or strategies to their advantage.
Analytically and critically, I read the High Commissioner’s article with rapt attention. And I could deduce that if the author is not an expert in environmental issues, then he a fantastic writer who knows his stuff. I have enjoyed every bit of his argument and totally agreed with him on all five critical points raised, except one. Although I cannot claim to be an environmental expert, it is from that point of disagreement that I am struggling to write this article for the attention of African environmental gurus. I should be pardoned for my ignorance mercifully!  
 Contribution to Global Warming
First of all it has been noted that out of 17-paragraph-exposé, the author named Ghana eleven times and the European Union five times. But he did not mention his own country Britain at all. In fact, the article did not refer to any individual European nation by name except Paris, the capital of France where the summit takes place in 100 days.  Why did the author not mention any European country by name? It is simply because all European nations are going to Paris under the banner of the European Union. They are not attending the summit individually as Britain, or Germany, or Italy, or Portugal etc. Is Africa Union (AU) alive and kicking?
In paragraph 11 of his article, the learned High Commissioner wrote: (…) “For all these reasons, the EU has and will continue to play a strong climate active role in contributing to global climate agreement. Recognising that we have a common responsibility to reduce global emissions, the EU submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) in March.”  Then he added: “Our contribution commits us to a binding target of at least a 40 percent domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels).”
 From the above quoted paragraph, our beloved Diplomat was informing the world about the 40 percentage point of greenhouse gas emissions the EU has agreed to reduce. What the High Commissioner did not tell the globe is what percentage of greenhouse gas emissions EU has contributed to the rise or increase in global warming since the 18th Century to date.
 It is common knowledge that it was the Great Britain that started the industrial revolution. And it is in Europe that some of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are climatically devastating.  How many industries or greenhouse gas emissions has Ghana contributed to global warming or temperature rise levels globally since the creation of the world?  Ghanaian scientist should find out!
Commending Ghana
Diplomatically, however, the writer commended Ghana highly for “mitigation actions” as far as climate warming and greenhouse gas emissions were concerned. His concluding paragraph reads: “We very much hope that Ghana will be a vocal advocate in Paris of an ambitious global deal that keeps all of us on track to achieve the grand total average temperature from increasing beyond 2 degrees Celsius more than it was in the pre-industrial age.”  Ghana may be having her fair share of global warming, but who set the industrial age into motion?
Furthermore, in January 2014, Concordia University, based in Canada, conducted a study on global warming and it was found out that  of about 194 member states of the United Nations, just seven (7) of them were contributing to over 60 percent of total global warming. The study identified the United States of America, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, and United Kingdom as being the biggest contributors of “man-made global warming.”
The research indicated that out of the seven, the US alone is responsible for global temperature increase of 0.5 degrees Celsius, that is about 20 percent of global warming. China and Russia 8 percent, India and Brazil 7 percent, UK and Germany 5 percent. Not a single African country was among these biggest global climate offenders, let alone Ghana. www.natureworldnews.com/article/5664/20140116/seven-nations-contributed-60-percent-global-warming-study.htm
 If not yet, then it is suggested the AU should quickly convene a meeting of environmental experts for the Continent to adopt its “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC)” like the EU, before December 2015!
·         The author works with the Information Service Department (ISD) Accra. abissath@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pope Francis the Environmentalist: Saviour of Planet Earth - our Common Home

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Pope Francis and President Obama, fraternal twin brothers and Global
Apostles of Environment and Climate Change

A popular Ghanaian adage says: “If a baby crocodile rushes out from under the water to announce that his father and mother are at each other’s throat then you better believe him.”

On Thursday, June 18, 2015, Pope Francis I made history that could classify him as the first Environmentalist Pontiff of the Catholic Church. That was the day a 182-page document dubbed PAPAL ENCYCLICAL LAUDATO SI, written by the Pope was released unto the world. In that document, the Pope spoke as if he was seating down watching the Creator the day the Earth was created.

Ecology and climate change
Well, the Catholic Church does not force but still encourages its faithful to appreciate praying in the once vibrant Latin which is a ‘dead language.’ Thus, the phrase Laudato si, mi Signore simply means “Praise be to you my Lord.” But the object of this article is not about Latin interpretation but to underscore the import of the Pope’s epistle to the world. It is about ecology; it is about climate change; and it is about the environment. This explains why it will not be out of place to baptize this Pope as Environmental Angel and Saviour of Planet Earth. I hope the world will listen to him. Otherwise, it will be said:  “And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended it.” John1:5.

When I first read the Pope’s message on the BBC website, (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33182065 ) that day, my mind went to the Biblical Saint Paul who was fond of writing to his followers some 2000 years ago. Amazingly, hardly was the Pope’s thought-provoking message uploaded on the website when some anti-environmental apostles and climate change deniers started criticizing and castigating the Holy Father. Of course, even Jesus was not spared.

Science and Religion
Someone wrote that the Pope was not a scientist so he must leave the environment and climate change matters alone and focus on his religious doctrines.  Really?  This author does not want to engage in fruitless debate about science and religion. But he believes that the Pope has a moral right to comment on global environmental politics. By the way does one need to be a scientist to see that humans are the cause of environmental havoc globally?  Even in our local environmental politics and ecological economy here in Ghana, those who close their eyes can see that galamsey or illegal gold mining is devastating farmlands, destroying forests and polluting rivers by heart.   

Of course, the Pope is a human being and lives among other human beings. Even if he is not a scientist, his knowledge from animality, humanity and divinity cannot be underrated. Even the   knowledge of a neophyte catholic priest cannot be quantified in real terms. How much more of a Bishop, let alone a Pope. Like any world religious leader of good will, the point Pope Francis was making in his secular letter to his fellow human beings was just a caution. He was simply advising us “greedy mortals” to be prudent in the way we treat Planet Earth, which he refers to as “our Common Home.”  President Obama is another Apostle of environment and climate change I admire a great deal!

Sensitivity of the Pope
Philosophically, this is how the Pope put his risk-free thought across: “The earth, our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements; we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” Based on these facts of life, the concerned man of God and Environmentalist Pope feels sad that man, out of greed and selfishness, has been mistreating and abusing this loving-kind-hearted mother called the EARTH.

Even I, common man, can sense that the consciousness of the Pope has been elevated to that degree of sensitivity   where he could feel the agony, the groans and the pain of Mother Earth as she threw her desperate arms towards the Creator, crying for rescue mission. Consequently, the enlightened soul invites all men and women of goodwill to listen to the lamentations of the miserable Mother Earth.   

 Pope Francis uses his Papal Encyclical Laudato Si, as a platform to humbly appeal to humanity, made up of individuals, families, local communities, national and the international community to fill not only the stomachs of present generation but to make some provision for those yet unborn as well. The Pope, with all humility, is appealing to the conscience of modern scientists, technologists, multilateral gold mining untouchables, galamsey super powers, international fishing trawlers, submarine wizards, chemical weapons strategists, atomic bomb architects, Green House Emission agricultural gurus,  as well as space craft manipulators who are contaminating the atmospheres,  to have mercy upon our Common Home –Planet Earth.

Earlier in March 2015, the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR) under an alarming banner headline, “Catastrophic Global Water Crisis Looming Large”, warned that by 2030 that is just in 15 years global water demand would increase by 55 percent resulting in catastrophic consequences. Ghana is already sweating under “Dumsor” for lack of water in Akosombo Dam. Won’t it be in the interest of mankind to pay heed to Pope Francis1?

The writer works with the Information Services Department (ISD), Accra
Email: abissath@gmail.com

Is Ghana losing the battle against Galamsey and its environmental costs to sustainable development of the nation?

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

How Galamsey contaminates rivers in Ghana

Do you remember that Bible story where the Master Jesus Christ is reported to have asked his apostles in a boat: “Why are you afraid?”  Then he added,  “You men of little faith?” (Matthew 8: 27).

 Ghana appears to be in that storm of socio-economic boat today. Ghanaians seem to be   overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable challenges. Virtually all segments of our society from teacher cum nurse-trainees, ‘dumsor-celebrities’, Sodom and Gomorra heroes, pharmacists cum doctors etc. – all on warpath for one reason or the other. These kenkey and shiitor matters are so awesome that alarming galamsey activities ravaging our environment and natural resources are receiving little attention.   

Two years ago, precisely on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at the main auditorium of the Flagstaff House here in Accra, President John Dramani Mahama, inaugurated an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Illegal Mining – popularly dubbed ANTI-GALAMSEY TASKFORCE.

Anti-Galamsey Taskforce
This is partly what the President said about the membership of that high-powered Taskforce: (…) “In constituting this Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on illegal small-scale mining, I am sending a clear signal to the offending individuals and groupings that government will not allow their activities to cause conflicts, dislocation, environmental degradation, and unemployment, when in fact, the sector should benefit our communities and help develop Ghana.” The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources was to chair the taskforce, with   Ministers for the Interior, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration as well as Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation as other members.

Mandate of Taskforce
“Your task is simple and straight forward. - To actualize my determination to bring sanity into the mining sector, including my pledge to ensure that the small-scale mining sector is reserved for Ghanaians.”  He went on, “Government is not against small-scale mining; what we want is for those who are engaged in small-scale mining to follow the required procedures that govern mining in our country,” said the President.

Specifically, the President charged the taskforce, “To seize all equipment used by those who fail to comply with the new directives of obtaining licenses or renewing their licenses; arrest and prosecute both Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, involved in small-scale illegal mining; to deport all non-Ghanaians involved in small-scale mining; revoke the licenses of Ghanaians who have sub-leased their concessions to non-Ghanaians against the rules; and also revoke the licenses of Ghanaians who have engaged the services of non-Ghanaian miners in the small-scale mining sector in ways that were contrary for any illegal mining in the country...” ordered the Commander-in-Chief of the Republic.    

If the 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana mandates the Ghanaian media to hold accountable public office holders on behalf of the people then I think the media has not done badly at all. And that is the essence of this article. This author deliberately quoted verbatim some parts of the President’s address made on that occasion. (The full speech can be accessed on the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation’s website http://gbcghana.com/index.php?id=1.1389360).

Appeal to Government
On Saturday, August 1, 2015, the Daily Graphic carried a story with a screaming banner headline on its back page: “Three Atiwa communities call on government to help curb illegal mining in their areas!” The story was illustrated with two pictures captioned: “The Birim River destroyed by the galamsey operators. INSERT: The Eastern Regional Minister, Mr. Antwi Boasiako Sekyere (right), explaining how the operators have destroyed the land to Nii Osah Mills (left) (Minister for Land and Natural Resources).

Mr. Erasmus Solomon, who filed that story from Atiwa stated that, “Residents of Akwaboaso, Akroful and Awerenare say apart from the daily threats to their lives, the illegal miners have taken over their farmlands and also polluted their sources of drinking water.” Thus, they have appealed to the government to save them from the illegal mining activities in the area. It is this appeal that prompts this author to write this article. It seems to me that if care is not taken, by the time the proposed Eastern Environmental University comes into being the entire Eastern Region of Ghana would have vanished from the face of the earth.  

Well-meaning Ghanaians may want to know whether the Presidential Anti-Galamsey Taskforce is still in existence. If yes, where are they? And are they aware of what is happing at Atiwa and other parts of the country where galamsey is dealing deadly blows to sustainable development of our only begotten country?  The other day, television news showed to the world how galamsey operators are destroying lands and rivers in the Wassa, Ayamfuri and other districts of the Western Region. River Ankobra is deceased. The touristic Lake Bosomtwi in Ashanti Region is being disemboweled. The magnificent savanna landscapes of Upper East Region are at the mercy of galamsey champions.   

Worst of all, galamsey vampires are fast crawling towards the newly constructed Bui Dam to suck its blood. That Dam now hibernating in the Brong Ahafo Region, took Ghana over 40 years on the drawing board. The white and black Volta Rivers are receiving their fair shares of galamsey dosages amidst the ravages of environment and climate change. Why?  Is Ghana losing the battle against galamsey and its environmental costs to sustainable development of our beloved nation?

·      The author works with Information Services Department (ISD), Accra 
Email: abissath@gmail.com