The need to mainstream climate change into development planning is particularly underscored by the fact that Ghana is already experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change. Recurrent drought, flood and climate induced diseases such as malaria and cerebrospinal meningitis in most parts of the country and the associated loss of property and lives can be ascribed to climate change. Relief and rehabilitation efforts have become a constant major drain on Ghana’s development drive.
But much less attention has been paid to making development more resilient to climate change, its related disasters and impacts. Current efforts appear to be largely driven by emergency and hardly consider the long-term ripple implications on life and property.
It was emphasised at the Mole 21 that climate change should be considered and treated as one of the external factors that can have an intense direct or indirect consequence on WASH services delivery. And since WASH services delivery and poverty reduction were mutually dependent on each other, it was imperative to balance poverty reduction interventions with climate change adaptation strategies to maximise benefits, especially for local populations.
Presenting a paper on Integrating Climate Change into National Development Planning, Winfred Nelson of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) acknowledged that national development goals could be hampered by ignoring climate change and disaster risk reduction issues.
It is a truism that Ghana needs to secure water for her people, secure water for food production, develop alternative job creation activities, protect vital ecosystems, deal with variability of water in time and space, manage risks, create popular awareness and understanding, forge political will and make traditional authority act, and ensure collaboration across sectors and boundaries. These are vital to efforts at combating climate change.
What is Climate Mainstreaming?
From Nelson’s perspective, “climate change mainstreaming is simply making climate change a ‘normal’ thing in the national development planning processes. It is taken as the consideration and incorporation of climate change as a vital component in the whole processes of decision-making.”
It is also a comprehensive integration and inter-weaving of climate change with other environment and socio-economic themes and dealing with the trade-offs in the complete planning processes – formulation, planning and budgeting implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
The call to mainstream is justified by the following reasons: Ghana is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and is obligated under the UNFCCC to mainstream climate change. Article 3.4 of the Convention states that :
“The parties have a right to, and should, promote sustainable development. Policies and measures to protect the climate system …should be integrated with national development programmes, taking into account that economic development is essential for adopting measures to address climate change.”
Also, Ghana is a climate sensitive economy, i.e. a large part of the population is heavily dependent on climate; poverty incidence in Ghana is very much linked to climate variability and climate change and mainstreaming will ensure targeted and coordinated approach.
A few scattered frameworks are being worked on. These include Ghana Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessments, Medium Term Development and Budgetary Processes, National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS), Climate Change Policy Briefs, Economics of Climate Change Adaptation, Piloting of Climate Change interventions in some districts, Low Carbon Growth Issues, and Sub-Regional Scale Issues.
Plans under the NCCAS
The NCCAS takes cognisance of the fact that climate change impacts various sectors. Regarding water, the NCCAS, which is still yet to be finalised, observes that reduction in precipitation and its associated decline in surface runoff and groundwater recharge can result in water shortages and subsequently move the country from its current position of relatively water rich to water stressed country. Thus, one of the major adaptation options in the NCCAS is the promotion of water harvesting systems in the construction industries i.e. the building industry.
In terms of food security, it is anticipated that climate change can result in drought and erratic rainfall patterns which will in turn compromise the availability, accessibility and affordability of food in Ghana as the area for growing crops as well as the length of the crop growing season are expected to decline.
Furthermore, the increasing attractiveness of biofuels also has implications for food security as more farmlands are converted to biofuel plantation. Cultivation of drought-resistant and early maturing crops is recommended as one of the adaptation options.
The energy sector is considered the largest emitter of green house gases in Ghana. Expected decline in rainfall would result in low levels of water in rivers feeding water into the hydro-electric dams and consequently compromise the country’s ability to generate power. One of the recommended options under NCCAS is the promotion of energy mix for the country.
Again, climate change has consequences for national security. Potential increase in drought and erratic rainfall patterns and the associated decrease in arable land are likely to create a wave of “environmental refugees”. The resulting movement of people could create new conflicts and exacerbate existing tensions. There, the improvement of national biodiversity conservation especially on sustainable land management is an adaptation option worth considering.
As would be expected, the health sector too will not escape from the impacts of climate change. This is particularly because expected increases in climate change-induced flooding and increases in temperature could exacerbate the burden of diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and meningitis.
One of the recommended adaptation programs under the NCCAS is the promotion of efficient early warning systems to inform the public on the outbreak of epidemics. Drains should be constructed, taking into consideration changes in rainfall patterns.
Challenges and opportunities
So far, challenges facing the mainstreaming of climate change include a lack of balance between the short-term poverty reduction and long term development strategies. There is also weak coordination of activities by key stakeholder. There is inadequate financing, as well as, inadequate capacity building and retention.
Despite the challenges, major opportunities exist to be tapped. There is opportunity to improve sources of funding for development interventions through means such as carbon trading. This can in turn lead to a minimisation of loss of life and property.
These opportunities can be harnessed for the future through a number of measures, including increasing the understanding and knowledge of climate change nationwide; scaling up coordination between the Ghana National Climate Change Committee and other organs to ensure an efficient National Climate Change Plan and enhancing capacity of actors through training and on the job training.
Going forward, there is also the need for mass sensitisation, improvements on observation and early warning systems, strengthening research base, and enhancing partnership and international cooperation.
In addition, impacts could be minimised through proper planning and integration of climate change and disaster risk reduction measures into all facets of national development planning particularly at the district level and across sectors.