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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Crop scientists in Ghana grow “seed yams in the air”

Seeds constitute about 25 percent of the cost of yam production in Ghana and other African countries.

Local farmers are denied the benefits of their harvests as, traditionally, they will save about 25 percent of their yam harvest for the next planting season.

Access to good quality planting materials is therefore a major limiting factor to the expansion of yam cultivation in Ghana, says Dr. Emmanuel Otoo, a Yam Breeder.

“Once you tackle and you are able to take away that limitation posed by the seed system, the sky is the limit,” he noted.

Ghana is the world's second-largest yam producer after Nigeria. However, yam production is declining in some traditional producing areas due to declining soil fertility, increasing pest pressures and the high cost of labor.

Researchers at the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) want to shift from saved seed yams to growing seed yams in the air, using aeroponics technology.

“Normally people don’t plant yams with the vines, so we realized that we can do that and actually increase the multiplication ratio from 1 to 240 and now what we are doing is aeroponics, the first of its kind in the country; we’ve planted yam vines not in the soil, [but] hanging in the air, gave them nutrients and they’ve started bulking,” said Dr. Otoo, who heads of the Yam Programme at the CRI-CSIR.

According to him, one plant can yield about 1,000 seeds and “with this technology you can plug the yam seed like you are picking pepper”.

The Aeroponics System (AS) is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil – the novelty is for rapid multiplication of clean seed yam tubers in large quantities by directly planting vine cuttings in AS boxes to produce mini-tubers in the air.

Some selected farmers have been engaged by the researchers to appreciate the system whilst having hands-on-training on yam seed propagation techniques.

One of such farmers is 56-year old Kwasi Benyado, from Atebubu, a predominantly yam producing community.

“There are times you run-out of yam seeds and you have to buy but with what we’ve learnt here, we can nurse our own seeds to save money,” he said.

The new system is being promoted to the farmers and commercial seed producers, who would have the benefit of generating “true-to-type” planting materials.

Research Scientist, Patricia Oteng Darko, is excited to be working on the project.

“Aeroponics doesn’t demand so much space…with an enclosed system like this you’re sure to eliminate the diseases and then you get a lot out of a small space,” she said.

The yam producers have also identified access to water as another challenge in production.

“Definitely it’s a matter of climate change; we know that the rains are not coming in time and they come in quantities that you don’t expect them to, so we are trying to develop materials that can tolerate such conditions,” said Dr. Otoo.

The yam seed developing systems is funded under the West African Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) and also supported the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Listen to audio report...


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Stakeholders in forestry seek avenues to improve off-reserve logging

Ghana’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union seeks to support a wide range of governance initiatives.

The aim is to provide Ghanaian timber exporters with access to all EU markets for legal timber in line with the EU timber regulations.

Legal timber can be harvested from both reserve and off-reserve lands. Off-reserve forests are largely on community lands and these communities are required by law to be part of the process of identifying and granting off reserve areas to timber logging firms.

But there are challenges.

The Sustainable Forest Management Partnership – Ghana (SFMP-G) is implementing a project on “improving off-reserve logging to support a functional voluntary partnership agreement”.

Project Coordinator, Gustav Adu, says the project is to support the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) VPA implementation in Ghana, including community right to benefits in ORL.

“Landowners and farmers on whose lands timber is harvested if informed will negotiate reasonable compensation values as well as carry out effective monitoring of logging operations,” he said.

A multi-stakeholder dialogue in Kumasi set the tone for the project implementation.

Mr. Adu is hopeful the project will come up with recommendation to tackle challenges in the off-reserve logging.

“ORL could be maximized for farmers and community land owners, by the timely provision of information to them on the economic value of damaged crops and other land assets prior to negotiating fair compensation for such assets, including those damaged,” he noted.

Godwin Phylix Cudjoe, Programme Officer, responsible for the EU-FAO FLEGT Programme, has identified illegal logging, timber smuggling and trade of illegally sourced timber as major problems posing serious risks to the integrity of forest landscapes, climate change and negative economic impacts.

“The outcomes of this pilot project will contribute to the promotion of a multi-sectoral dialogue between the various stakeholders,” he said. “This dialogue and subsequent cooperation among the stakeholders will facilitate and improve forest law compliance and governance in the forest sector”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kumasi Poly adds 2,500 graduates to the employment market

Ghana’s employment market has an additional 2,500 students joining from the 2014 year group of Kumasi Polytechnic.

The 10th Congregation of the Polytechnic graduated students who have pursued and completed various programmes, including business administration, procurement and materials management and computerized accounting.

A Special Congregation held earlier graduated Bachelor of Technology (B-Tech) students and others who enrolled in the Polytechnic’s non-tertiary programmes.

Education Minister, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang, is not unconscious that both the public and private sectors cannot employ all the graduates.

“Self employment is therefore the way to go,” she says and has encouraged the graduants to “explore self-employment as an option to public sector jobs which are non-existent”.

The Polytechnic has placed premium on entrepreneurship training and already several graduates of the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (IEED) have set up their own businesses.

Rector of the Polytechnic, Prof. Nicholas Nsowah-Nuamah, says the school’s Institute of Technology has been established to specifically “facilitate the reform of the informal sector apprenticeship training system by introducing short training programmes in the application of modern technologies”.

The Institute currently has partnership with three organizations in the training of electronic gadget repairs, auto-mechanic, CCTV installation and solar system design as well as training in aviation, computer animation, driving and fleet management.
The Polytechnic has also had discussions with industry giants to establish mutual working relations.

But whilst the graduates strive to be gainfully employed, the institutions of higher learning are also hardest hit by the government’s freeze on employment.

According to Chairman of the Polytechnic’s Council, Prof. Kwasi Obiri-Danso, the policy on recruitment has made it difficult for the polytechnics to recruit new staff or replace those who have retired or died.

He has reiterated a recent call by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, for the government to grant a special dispensation for them to fill vacancies of academic staff.

This has become more crucial as the Polytechnic is pursuing the goal of becoming the foremost technical university in Ghana.

“I will not be surprised if Kumasi polytechnic is the first or one of the first polytechnics to be converted into a technical university next year,” said the Education Minister.

The first batch of polytechnics to be converted into technical universities will be announced in 2016 when discussions on the criteria are concluded.

As part of its strategic plan, the Kumasi Polytechnic has acquired a 301-acre land at Kuntenase for the establishment of the main campus of the Technical University of Kumasi (TUK). This is in addition to another 200-acre land at Piase – close to Kuntenase – to serve as the Entrepreneurship Village of the institution.

The focus in the new order, according to Prof. Obiri-Danso “will be not to duplicate what traditional universities are doing but to remain as a true hands-on practical training institution where graduates will be trained to acquire state-of-the-art skills for industrial growth and development”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

$1 million Healthcare Innovation Award 2015 launched by GSK and Save the Children

GSK and Save the Children have launched of their third annual $1 million Healthcare Innovation Award that rewards innovations in healthcare that have helped to reduce child deaths in developing countries.

From the 15 July–7 September 2015, organizations from across developing countries can nominate examples of innovative health approaches they have implemented.

These approaches must have resulted in tangible improvements to under-5 child survival rates, be sustainable and have the potential to be scaled-up and replicated.

With millions of people still lacking access to basic healthcare, this year, there will be a special focus on innovations that aim to strengthen developing country health systems and have proven to help increase access to public healthcare for pregnant women, mothers and children under five.

Strengthening health systems for everyone in developing countries is an integral element of GSK and Save the Children’s partnership, which champions universal health coverage to help ensure equitable, accessible healthcare for all.

“Poor health systems lead to millions of children dying from preventable illnesses,” said Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Director of Programme Policy and Quality at Save the Children. “The Ebola crisis has taught us that failure to address this problem could easily lead to a global public health crisis. It isn’t enough to focus just on single interventions such as fixing hospitals and clinics, providing vaccines or medicines, recruiting and training more health staff – we have to look at all these things together including how they are financed and governed. By making good health systems the norm in poor countries rather than the exception, millions of lives will be saved. Ambitious ideas are needed to solve this challenge and we hope this year to find proven ideas that we can help take to scale.” 

Last year’s Ebola epidemic was one example of the need for new solutions and approaches to address the systemic challenges that weaken healthcare systems. 

Ramil Burden, vice-president for Africa and Developing Countries at GSK, said: “Robust healthcare systems are the backbone of thriving communities but too many countries still lack the trained health workers and facilities they need to manage everyday health challenges, let alone crises like the catastrophic outbreak of Ebola.  Through this year’s award, we hope to identify and support those innovations that are most effectively helping to strengthen health systems so that mothers and children are better able to access the care they need, when they need it.” 

The Healthcare Innovation Award was announced following the launch of GSK and Save the Children’s ambitious new partnership in May 2013, which aims to save the lives of 1 million children in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Co-chaired by Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, and Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, a judging panel, made up of experts from the fields of public health, science and academia, will award all or part of the funds to one or more of the best healthcare innovations.

As well as providing funding, this year’s Healthcare Innovation Award will provide a platform to review and evaluate new approaches to health system challenges, to recognise those that are having an impact, and share their learnings with the wider global health community. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Artisanal millers access new equipment for training and lumber processing

The Forestry Commission Training Center (FCTC) has installed a modern wood processing equipment to support the training and operations of artisanal millers.

The LT 40 Wood Mizer, purchased at a cost of 200 thousand Ghana Cedis, is supported by the EU-funded chainsaw project on ‘Securing the integration of legal and legitimate domestic timber markets into Voluntary Partnership Agreement’.

The project is implemented by Tropenbos International (TBI) Ghana and partners.

TBI Programmes Director, Samuel Kwabena Nketiah, says the machine is to help upscale the training of artisanal millers who want to supply legal lumber to the domestic market.

The goal, he says, is to curtail the illegalities and conflicts associated with chainsaw milling, whilst addressing livelihood issues.

“With this machine and the whole concept, we have managed to get a replacement for illegal chainsaw milling. The other side of the project also looked at alternative livelihoods because we realized that to stop people from their livelihood activities, without giving them a substitute, will serve no purpose,” said Mr. Nketiah.

Through a series of multi-stakeholder discussions under the EU Chainsaw project, artisanal milling has been accepted as an alternative to illegal chainsaw milling for supplying legal timber for the domestic market.

The small-medium scale milling of timber from specified legal sources is capable of recovering at least 50percent of dimension lumber from logs for the domestic market only.

Director of the FCTC, Joseph Boakye, says the installed equipment would be beneficial in the training of former chainsaw operators who want to formalize to legal artisanal milling.

“We will also be interested in assisting members of DOLTA – Domestic Lumber Traders Association – who can purchase their own logs and we’ll process it for them… and those who have their own plantations, if they harvest, can bring it here and we’ll process if for them and charge reasonable prices,” he added.

The piloting of artisanal milling started in 2012 and the concept to help institute and make it operational was finalized in 2014.

The capacity of potential millers were built in the areas of group dynamics and leadership, the techniques of timber milling and business management and marketing.

Five artisanal groups in the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions have been linked with forest concession holders for legal timber to feed their mills and are producing for the domestic market.

Alexander Amoako Boadu, Director of Operations at the Forestry Services Division of the Forestry Commission, says any means to train chainsaw operators to formalize their activities is critical to deal with the challenge of illegal tree felling.

“But the bigger picture lies with the communities that we’d expect to assist us in protecting the forest because stay very close to the forests and they see those who come in and go out,” he noted.

More artisan millers are expected to be trained to join the pilot process after which the project will be institutionalized as a major means of feeding the local markets with legal lumber in the light of Ghana’s VPA implementation.

But to achieve holistic outcomes, challenges would have to be addressed in the areas of access to raw materials, elite capture of artisanal milling, abuse of system, corruption and dwindling timber resources.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

People vs. Corporations – Africa pitch stance in Paris climate negotiation

The vociferous “polluter must pay” campaign of climate justice activism is reaching its crescendo as the United Nations gathers the world in December to sign a legally binding agreement to reduce global carbon emissions and commit to adaptation investments in developing countries.

The new climate agreement will, however, be heavily informed by Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which, as a political and technical task, will serve as building blocks of the Paris agreement.

It should be possible for African countries to submit their INDCs by September ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Summit (COP21).

Once countries have submitted the INDCs, it should not be difficult for the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) to push forward the interest of the continent in the negotiations.

"Our negotiators are well qualified and we have plenty of expertise in the African group of negotiators including people who are in the meteorology services, hydrology, agriculture and forestry," says Fatima Denton, Director of Special Initiatives Division in the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

But for African Civil Society, support from polluter countries in the implementation of the INDCs, once concluded, is of topmost priority to developing countries.

“Yes Africa will submit the INDCs but will they [developed countries] delivery their side of the bargain?” queried Robert Chimambo of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).

The climate impact

Climate change affects the poor of the poor, especially farmers, whose only source of income comes directly from the land, yet most have no idea of what they can do to adapt to climate change.

“Due to climate change, agriculture and food systems will be affected as climate change has a multiplier effect on already degraded natural resources and ecosystems,” observed Sindiso Ngenhya, Secretary General COMESA. “This, in turn will affect production systems in unprecedented ways, as well as the livelihoods of those that depend on them”.

He shares the aspiration that “climate change is a trade issue, climate change is a human right issue, climate change is a gender issue, climate change is an agriculture issue, climate change is an MDG issue and will be an SDG issue, and indeed climate change is a case of survival”.

According to civil society, the INDCs must be a total package that takes into account all the elements of adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building and means of implementation.

Africa’s people first agenda

At the Paris negotiations, Africa will be presenting a common front, prioritizing the interest of its people.

“The negotiators from the West are negotiating for the interest of corporations to continue to make money; corporations have no regard for people,” said Mr. Chimambo. “We’re going there trying to defend the interest of our people; the small holder farmer in Ghana, in Zambia, in DRC; that is the oneness phase of our negotiations getting into Paris”.

He added that “it is only Africa and Asia that are going in there to negotiate for the lives and livelihood of our common people”.

Mr. Chimambo, however, has hope of a turnaround for the “global common people” to demand protection of citizens against the impacts of climate change.

“The tide is turning,” he said. “Ordinary people in the West are also realizing that they are being used… nobody wants to die and people are realizing that we are all in trouble with this phenomenon”.

The quality of Africa's negotiating positions will be a game changer if the continent is to make a difference in the talks towards a binding climate change agreement.

Veteran negotiator, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, is conscious of this and has stated that "our negotiators need more than diplomacy because the world has changed and so has the pattern of engagement".

As African countries communicate their INDCs to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it is expected that African governments maintain their unity before the international negotiations so as to secure the best outcomes for African citizens.

“In this struggle to ensure the new climate change agreement to be concluded in Paris in 2015 is responsive to African aspirations and realities, our voices should be amplified,” said Mithika Mwenda, Secretary-General of PACJA. “We need critical mass to drive our agenda at global level. We need unity and commitment to stick on what we agree as African civil society organizations in particular and global civil organizations in general”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Microfinance industry recapitalization will call for mergers – GAMC

The Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies (GAMC) has welcomed the Bank of Ghana’s directive for the recapitalization of the industry.

The BoG wants to quadruple the minimum capital requirement of microfinance institutions and rural banks. According to the directive, microfinance firms will have to increase the present capital of ₵100,000 to ₵2million by 2018.

National Chairman of GAMC, Collins Amponsah Mensah, says the additional capital injection should make the institutions stronger and improve their operations.

“Government wants them to increase their capital to make them stronger to be able to protect depositors’ funds and protect it very well, which we’re all looking up to,” he noted.

The GAMC Chair, however, has concerns about the ability of the companies to raise the capital as, he says, most of them are presently not making profit.

“I think that it’s going to help the institutions but as to how they are going to raise it [the capital] is another question,” he observed. The [microfinance] market is reserved for Ghanaians, so as it is, you can’t go for equity from outside and if you borrow, which is debt, it’s rather increasing your debt stock. But there is only one source that institutions can increase their capital, that is making more profit but these institutions are not making the profits that they expect,” said Mr. Amponsah Mensah.
The burst of the microfinance industry boom has left a good number of firms collapsing in the past couple of years. In the Ashanti region, only 58 of the over 150 firms are presently in operations.

Though Mr. Amponsah Mensah says there is stability in the industry, there are fears of further fold ups when the new capitalization takes effect.

The GAMC expects the industry regulator and the government to support the MFIs to capitalize whilst members are enjoined to explore strategies to survive.

“We are advising our members not to look at collapse but to look at consolidation; if ten of the institutions can come together and can raise that and become one institution stronger, it’s better than the individuals existing on their own and unable to raise the required capital,” stated Mr. Amponsah Mensah.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Academia adopt gKudi banking software for training

Ghanaian IT solution provider, Logiciel Limited, has signed a partnership agreement with the Kumasi Polytechnic to offer qualitative training in local banking software solution.

The intent is to build the requisite human resource capacity to support Ghana’s microfinance institutions and others in the financial services industry.

Kumasi Polytechnic, together with five other affiliates – Bolga, Tamale, Takoradi, Cape Coast and Sunyani Polytechnics – is signing onto the gKudi software as a training course in addition to its existing applications.

“They are now starting with close to 600 students for the initial pilot phase and we hope it will extend to other polytechnics, so that officially this software will be taught in schools and by the time they leave school, they already know how to use the solution and they’ll be adapted into the microfinance space,” stated Derrick Dankyi, CEO of Logiciel Limited.

The gKudi platform is a relatively low-cost real time integrated web/cloud based micro-banking platform which enables microfinance companies and other financial institutions to manage their client’s information and back office operations while providing a critical source of aggregate financial data on the informal sector.
In 2013, Logiciel signed an agreement with the Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies (GAMC) to provide mobile and cloud software solution to MFIs in the country.

Over 200 firms – representing about two-third of microfinance companies – are currently on the gKudi platform.

Collins Amponsah Mensah, National Chairman of GAMC, is enthused at the ability of MFIs on the platform to keep proper records of customers and improve accountability in fund mobilization.

“Most of us were using different solutions but we realized that we were not getting the needed results that we required from those solutions; we also realized that there was the need to start standardizing our operations,” he explained the reason for hooking unto the gKudi platform.

Mr. Amponsah Mensah is hoping more members will subscribe to the solution, emphasizing that “it’s going to help the industry because we have to send data to government and most especially ease submission of Prudential Returns to the Bank of Ghana”.

The Association has endorsed the Logiciel-Kumasi Poly collaboration as important to provide the needed support to the industry.

“I believe that with this partnership, we are going to have readily developed young men and women who will be the backbone of the industry to provide that technical and managerial support,” said the GAMC Chair.

K-Poly and affiliates currently run Diploma programmes in Computerized Accounting, Banking Technology, HND Accounting with Computing and B-Tech.
The banking applications are critical to deliver essential training to the students.

Rector of the Polytechnic, Prof. Nicholas Nsowah Nuamah, has described the partnership with Logiciel as a win-win for the polytechnic and the IT firm.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Africa needs climate finance, but capacity to access funds is critical

Access to technologies for small irrigation facilities is on the hearts of smallholder farmers in Ghana and other parts of Africa to enable them contain drought and rain failures.

According to the Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen, its members can practice climate smart agriculture when they are able to stand the severity of the weather.

Abraham Tetteh of the farmers’ group says in recent times, most farmers have had to wait for the rains before planting and those who plant in anticipation of the rains get disappointed as they lose crops.

“In Ghana now, agricultural funding is becoming a problem, even how to access bank loans is a problem; we don’t get funds anywhere, so if we can get some funds, then it will be a step up to move into climate-smart production,” he said.

African civil society regards the provision of finance as central in ensuring the continent confronts the climate crisis on the basis of justice, due to the vulnerabilities of people on the continent.

In the view of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), an umbrella body of African CSOs, the ‘climate debt’ should be repaid by those most responsible for causing climate change.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is the United Nations’ premier mechanism for funding climate change-related mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, donors agreed to mobilise 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. The Fund currently has about $5.5 billion of the $10.2 billion pledged mainly by rich developed nations, with the rest expected to come by end of year.

The GCF board, at its recent meeting in Songdo, South Korea, approved a $200 million pilot phase that would fund up to 10 projects via test procedures for allowing national bodies to approve.

At least four would have to be from countries classed as ‘least developing’, small island developing states or African.

“We expect to see high quality proposals at our next meeting that will have strong climate impact, and that will set the precedent for other developing countries which approach the Fund,” said Henrik Harboe, one of two Co-chairs of the Board. “The commitment of developing countries over the next three months is essential to what happens with this Fund,” he added

The GCF is expected to launch a request for proposal (RFP) process inviting projects to bid for funds early next year.

But the most critical concern, perhaps, is the capacity of developing countries to tap into the opportunity to access the funds.

The African Union’s NEPAD Agency, for instance, has for the past two years being disbursing a €3.6million fund for adaptation of agriculture to climate change.

Projects attract up to €200,000, but a country like Ghana has not benefitted from the fund because the processes are highly competitive. 

“For Ghana to be able to access the fund, it’s important that the quality of the proposals that are developed meet these targets,” said Kwame Ababio, Coordinator of the NEPAD Climate Fund.

There is increasingly a number of funding opportunities for both public and private sector institutions to access in climate adaptation and mitigation.

However, low capacity in proposal development – bankable projects that offer value for money – is an emerging challenge in the quest of developing countries to tap into climate funds.

Nana Osei Bonsu, Chief Executive of the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF), the apex body for private businesses in Ghana, has acknowledged there has been limited knowledge among the local business community.

“We’re trying to identify business opportunities in climate change impact,” he stated. “The capacity will certainly come when there is an opportunity because you don’t invest in something when you don’t see the end zone, so the capacity building will come if we identify the opportunity and the technical skills necessary to take advantage of the opportunity”.

It is on this basis that the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) on finance to be submitted ahead of the December 2015 UN talks in Paris, should define and agree on the various instruments for providing support from developed countries.

Kwame Ababio believes Ghana, like other African countries, would have to build capacity in proposal development and project implementation to tap into the available climate funding opportunities.

“We are looking for proposals that give value for money; we want proposals that are having direct impact on people and livelihoods,” he said.

The 'Third International Conference on Financing for Development' in Addis Ababa already has a panel discussing the linkages between climate finance and sustainable development, reflecting on how to best activate GCF's potential and financing.

As African CSOs prevail on polluter countries to commit more funds for climate adaptation, it is hoped the continent will have the capacity to source the financial resource for sustainable development.

In this way, a farmer like Abraham Tetteh can afford to have a small irrigation facility on his farm to produce all seasons.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Scientists affirm need for long term gas emissions goal

Scientists meeting at a major international gathering in Paris have said that humanity must achieve a state of zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this century in order to hold the global average temperature rise to a maximum 2° Celsius.

In a joint statement at the end of the “Our Common Future Under Climate Change” conference, the scientists said the world needed to reach a long-term vision of climate neutrality and seize the obvious benefits of clean energy and sustainable development in order to stay below this 2° defense line against the worst impacts of climate change.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, welcomed their closing statement and said "the world's leading researchers on climate have underlined the crucial importance of nations focusing on a long term goal--call it zero emissions, net zero or climate neutrality. The overwhelming consensus is that Paris 2015 needs to send an unequivocal signal that the world will take a path towards a steep and deep decline in greenhouse gas pollution by the second half of the century."

The leading scientists’ call comes less than five months before the UN climate change conference in Paris, at which governments will conclude a new universal climate change agreement which aims to  put the world on a firm pathway towards an early peaking of global emissions, followed by a very rapid decline towards a net zero goal.

The joint statement from the conference said: "Because warming from carbon dioxide persists for many centuries, any upper limit on warming requires carbon dioxide emissions to fall eventually to zero. A two in three probability of holding warming to 2°C or less will require a budget that limits future carbon dioxide emissions to about 900 billion tons, roughly 20 times annual emissions in 2014. To limit warming to 2°C, emissions must be zero or even negative by the end of the 21st century."

The Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Paris meeting, and director of the US Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology Chris Field said: “We are moving to a post-carbon era, where climate change mitigation and adaptation are combined with goals to build a sustainable future”.

Laurence Tubiana, French Amabassador for the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21) said: “Scientists are working, with many partners, to develop long-term pathways at the scale of cities, economic sectors like agriculture and national economies, with strong focus on making solutions operational. We need COP 21 to be the political answer to that work, and show that the transition to a decarbonized and climate-resilient economy is not just necessary, but also that it is feasible (politically, economically and technologically); and even beyond that, that it is inevitable, and underway.

Earlier in the conference, International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol noted that not only visions, but specific targets will be critical to send the signal for greenhouse gas emitters like the energy sector to meet ambitious goals, including an emissions peak in 2020.

Around 2000 scientists from almost 100 countries attended the Paris science conference, which showcased evidence-based ways to both reduce emissions and build resilient economies.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Global Commission finds better economic growth can close emissions gap

A new report released by the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate has identified ten key economic opportunities that could close up to 96 percent of the gap between business-as-usual emissions and the level needed to limit dangerous climate change.

The report calls for stronger cooperation between governments, businesses, investors, cities and communities to drive economic growth in the emerging low-carbon economy.

“This report shows that success is possible: we can achieve economic growth and close the dangerous emissions gap,” said former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Commission. “Today’s report shows us that a goal we once thought of as distant is within our reach. We can achieve global prosperity and secure a safe climate together. The low carbon economy is already emerging. But governments, cities, businesses and investors need to work much more closely together and take advantage of recent developments if the opportunities are to be seized. We cannot let these opportunities slip through our fingers.”

The new report, Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate, shows how recent trends in the global economy – such as the dramatically falling cost of clean energy, the continuing volatility of oil prices, and the worldwide growth of carbon pricing – are building momentum for low-carbon development.

“More and more countries are committing to integrating climate action into national economic plans, from the recent G7 statement on the need to decarbonise the economy by the end of the century, to the development of low-carbon and climate resilient growth strategies in a number of developing and emerging economies”, said Lord Nicholas Stern, leading economist and Co-chair of the Commission. “Strong economic growth that is also low-carbon is going to be the new normal.”

The Commission’s 10 recommendations include: 

Scaling up partnerships between cities, like the Compact of Mayors, to drive low-carbon urban development. Investment in public transport, building efficiency, and better waste management, could save around US$17 trillion globally by 2050.

Enhancing partnerships such as REDD+, the 20x20 Initiative in Latin America, and the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance to bring together forest countries, developed economies and the private sector to halt deforestation by 2030 and restore degraded farmland. This would enhance agricultural productivity and resilience, strengthen food security, and improve livelihoods for agrarian and forest communities.

Governments, development banks and the private sector should collaborate to reduce the cost of capital for clean energy, with the goal of investing US$1 trillion in developed and developing countries by 2030.

The G20 should raise energy efficiency standards in the world’s leading economies for goods such as appliances, lighting, and vehicles. Investment in energy efficiency could boost cumulative economic output globally by US$18 trillion by 2035.

Action to reduce emissions from aviation and shipping under international treaties and from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol could reduce emissions by as much as 2.6 Gt in 2030. In shipping alone, higher efficiency standards are expected to save an average of US$200 billion in annual fuel costs by 2030. 

The Commission calculates that its recommendations could achieve up to 96 percent of the emissions reductions in 2030 that are needed to hold the rise in global temperature to under 2°C, the level which governments have pledged not to cross. 

The report finds that businesses are already driving a growing US$5.5 trillion global market for low-carbon goods and services. It calls for new business partnerships to open new markets, share costs, and reduce concerns about the international competitiveness impacts of climate policy. 

“Businesses are already preparing for a low-carbon future, and in many ways are ahead of the curve. For instance, companies representing 90 percent of the global trade in palm oil, including ours, have committed to deforestation-free supply chains by 2020”, says Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. 

The Commission argues that the actions identified in Seizing the Global Opportunity would enhance the national pledges (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” or INDCs) already being submitted by countries to the UNFCCC for the Paris climate conference. It urges INDCs to be seen as “floors, not ceilings” to national emissions reduction targets. 

“We know that the current INDC pledges are not likely to get us to the 2°C world we need. But this report shows there is significant room for stronger action that is in countries’ economic self-interest,” said Michael Jacobs, Report Director, New Climate Economy. “It is therefore vital that the Paris climate agreement sets in motion a regular process for strengthening national commitments, on the way to the long-term goal of reducing emissions to near-zero in the second half of this century.” 

“This report highlights the huge opportunity countries now have to scale up climate action while also driving growth and development,” said Helen Mountford, GlobalProgramme Director of the New Climate Economy. “Global economic growth and carbon emissions are beginning to be decoupled: last year, for the first time in decades, emissions held steady while the global economy grew. But the pace of change needs to be accelerated if we are to meet our development goals and also reduce climate risks.” 
Seizing the Global Opportunity is a follow-up to Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report, which was released in September 2014. The Global Commission is made up of 28 leaders in the fields of government, business and finance from 20 countries. 

Find out more, read the report and executive summary, here: http://2015.newclimateeconomy.report/

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Methodist Church commits to shift investment away from dirtiest fossil fuels

Coal producers, fossil fuel lobbyists and companies that provide mining equipment to extractive industries were put on notice as the Methodist Church voted to shift investment away from the dirtiest fossil fuels.

Christian Aid’s Senior Private Sector Advisor, Ken Boyce, praised the Methodist Church for showing leadership and recognising the wider impact of those involved in promoting the burning of the most polluting fuels.

“On the heels of the Papal Encyclical it is great to see the Methodist Church joining the growing movement of organisations that recognise the harm of coal and tar sands and want nothing to do with them.  Climate change and its global effects on the poor is a moral issue and faith groups are rightly responding to that reality,” he said.

“The Methodist Church is also right to identify some of the less obvious contributors to climate change. By taking into account companies’ lobbying activities and by equating mining equipment firms to ‘the companies they serve’ the Church is rightly seeing the big picture when it comes to investment.

“They are also right to highlight the irrationality of companies devoted to further exploration of dirty energy when we already know that a large percentage of the world’s fossil fuel reserves cannot be used if we are to meet our climate change commitments.

“This move by the Methodist Church is a step in the right direction but even greater action is needed to help the world’s poorest.  We hope to work with churches across the UK to help them speed up the world’s transition to a zero carbon economy.”

China pledge ushers in a “new era for climate politics” – Christian Aid

The chances of a successful global climate agreement received a major boost today as China submitted ambitious plans to cut its emissions, said Christian Aid.

By committing to peak its emissions by around 2030, increase it’s already growing renewable energy capacity to 20 per cent by the same date and reduce its carbon intensity by up to 65 per cent, China joins the wave of countries outlining their climate pledges ahead of December’s UN summit in Paris.

Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Change Advisor, Mohamed Adow, said “this is a huge step forward. China’s actions show just what a new political landscape we are now in”. 

China and the USA were criticized for holding back progress back in 2009 before the failed talks in Copenhagen.

“Now China is leading the way.  It shows that China is starting to do its bit. This is a new era for climate politics,” stated Mr. Adow.

The Paris agreement will be made up of the national pledges as in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). With China’s now on the table we have more than half of the world’s emissions covered.

“By cutting its carbon intensity by 60-65 per cent by 2030 is getting close to the sort of commitments we will need to keep global temperature rises to below 2 degrees,” said Mr. Adow. “Its commitment to scaling up renewables to 20 per cent of total output is particularly encouraging. It will soon deploy nearly as much renewable power alone as the total US energy sector.  It’s a game changer.
China’s pledge marks a significant shift away from a fossil fuel intensive development path to one focused on renewables on a scale the world has never yet seen.

“With developing countries like China moving in a bold direction towards a low carbon future, developed countries should be willing to do the same if they want to reap the benefits of being in the vanguard of the transition to new, cleaner, energy sources. As well as reducing their fossil fuel dependence, rich countries should also help the poorest countries tap into their own renewable power potential, leapfrogging dirty energy like coal and reducing global emissions in the process.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Domestic lumber market needs education to protect forests in Ghana

Tropenbos International Ghana has launched a set of communication and training materials on the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) to educate stakeholders on the importance and necessary preparation for compliance to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

The System is to monitor, control and verify management and use of Ghana’s forest resources to ensure only legal products are produced, sold and exported from Ghana.

Programmes Director of TBI Ghana, Samuel Kwabena Nketiah, says the materials are to particularly inform small and medium forest enterprises in the domestic timber industry on the TLAS component of Ghana’s VPA.

Ghana is among few countries to have added the domestic lumber market in the VPA with the European Union, which was signed in November 2009.

But attempts to restructure the domestic market have been challenging.

According to Rev. Samuel Fugah of the Anloga Carpenters Union, artisanal millers are best placed to supply the local lumber market.

“The smallscale millers can rightly supply the adequate lumber to the domestic market,” he stated. “If that is not done, then it means we’re building castles in the sky; so we should concentrate on the SMEs now, give them the necessary machinery to make sure that they get the access to the raw materials”.

Tropenbos International Ghana and partners, including the Forestry Commission, have devised innovative ways to address the dilemma of supplying legal lumber to the domestic market.
Interest groups, including the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, have endorsed the policy to eliminate illegal chainsaw operations and ensure sustainable supper of legal lumber.

Deputy Sector Minister, Barbara Serwaa Asamoah, says through the VPA, government has committed to trading in only legal wood both in the domestic market and for export.

She believes this will lead to equitable distribution of the benefits of forest resources.

Mr. Kwabena Nketiah, however, says the policy to protect interest of small-scale millers is yet to be activated.

“Definitely we have come very far but as you might realize policy processes are quite slow, so we are yet to get the full accent and promulgation of some of the policy instruments that we have together developed with the Ministry, even though there is a general government buy-in, making it official for wide scale adoption is still yet to be realized,” he said.

Ghana loses an estimated Gh₵25million annually in stumpage revenue from trees illegally harvested by chainsaw operators – illegal tree sales by farmers to operators are equivalent to about 38 percent of the amount.

There are plans to implement a wood tracking system in Ghana to ensure only legally acquired timber is exported under the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing regime.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 


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