Improving environmental sustainability

Alt text for imageUNDP provides support to strengthen Ghana's capacity to address energy and environmental challenges (Photo credit: Bossman Owusu)

The sustainability of Ghana’s impressive economic growth in recent years, as well as the advances it has made in various aspects of human development (e.g. achievement of selected MDGs well-ahead of other Sub-Saharan African countries), depends heavily on its ability to address environmental challenges. Considering that a substantial chunk of the country’s economic growth is fueled primarily by highly resource extractive industries, notably mining, expansion of agricultural production into forests and non-renewable fossil fuel (oil), the main challenge for Ghana is to ensure that development meets the need of the present without compromising its environmental resources that are critical for sustainable well-being of communities and future generations.

Recent estimates show that the annual cost of natural resource and environmental degradation in Ghana is equivalent to about 9.6 percent of GDP because of the unsustainable management of the country’s forests, land resources, wildlife, and fisheries, and the health impacts of environmental factors (water supply and sanitation, indoor and outdoor pollution). The country has also experienced rapid deforestation in recent years with damaging consequences for biodiversity and people who are culturally and economically dependent on forest resources and ecosystem services.

The root causes of these environmental problems could be traced not only to critical gaps in domestic environmental management, but to global environmental problems as well. Climate change – manifesting as changes in climate extremes and increasing rainfall variability - is aggravating pressure on ecosystems, specifically on biodiversity and populations who are not able to adapt to its impacts because of knowledge, resource, and capacity limitations. The 2007 flooding events in Northern Ghana, as well as in Accra (October 2011), demonstrate how persistent adaptation deficits at institutional and household levels could precipitate into disasters. The risk of slow-onset disasters, such as drought and desertification, particularly in marginal dryland areas, could not be discounted. More than 80 percent of the disasters in Ghana can be associated with extreme climate events.

The challenges posing threat to sustainable development in Ghana can be broadly classified into (1) degraded natural resource base; (2) carbon intensive energy supply and inequitable access to energy; (3) adaptation deficit; and (4) disasters. Government’s efforts to tackle these problems are constrained by lack of predictable finance, weak institutional coordination, low capacity to retain expertise with the government system, and the persistence of reactive management approaches.

UNDP proposes to tackle these challenges within a broader development context that would facilitate synergy amongst the five thematic areas of UNDP’s work: (1) disaster risk reduction, (2) climate change mitigation and adaptation, (3) energy, (4) chemicals management, and (5) biodiversity.  

In line with the UNDAF (2012-2016),  and in particular with Outcome 3 , UNDP will provide support to strengthen the capacity of Ghana to address energy and environmental challenges at national, regional, and local levels, by focusing on key priority areas, namely climate change, disaster risk reduction and biodiversity.

In the area of climate change mitigation and adaptation, the overarching aim of UNDP support is to promote Ghana’s transition towards a low-carbon and climate resilient society. UNDP will therefore scale up its support for integrating adaptation and mitigation strategies and practices into development policies, plans and programmes. Under the current UNDAF, UNDP capacity development programmes on climate change will be broadened to include policy development, coordination, and international negotiations. UNDP will also engage the public and private sectors towards strengthening their capacity to mobilize and absorb international climate finance. In addition, UNDP will support government’s effort to fulfill its international commitments, e.g. in the area of chemicals management.

Building on lessons learnt from several years of working alongside the Energy Commission , UNDP will contribute to achieving the Government of Ghana’s twin objectives of securing diverse energy sources, primarily by increasing the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix, and improving energy efficiency. This will be instrumental for Ghana to achieve its goal in becoming a middle-income inclusive economy in a sustainable way.

UNDP has been the Government of Ghana’s key partner towards shifting the national paradigm from emergency response to disaster risk reduction. In this connection, UNDP supported the development of the Ghana Plan of Action for Disaster Risk Reduction  (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (2011-2015) . Under the current UNDAF, UNDP will support the Government of Ghana in effectively implementing the plan and reinforce the institutional capacities of the National Disaster Management Organization  (NADMO) to better coordinate and implement DRR, preparedness, and response initiatives.

A new area of UNDP focus is on biodiversity with the current UNDAF emphasis on preservation of water bodies and afforestation. UNDP will provide support in strengthening policy and regulatory framework for mainstreaming biodiversity into national strategies.

The current UNDAF is in a strong position to advance sustainable development because it can leverage the wealth of lessons and experiences from the six trust fund-supported projects and programmes, which will be concurrently implemented within the current cycle. In addition, UNDP has also a long working relationship with institutions that should be inter-linked to achieve sustainable development, such as the Energy Commission, Environmental Protection Agency , Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, and the National Disaster Management Organization. Furthermore, partnership with the Forestry Commission  will be built to advance the work on biodiversity conservation.  

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