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Opinions of Saturday, 12 September 2015

Columnist: Abubakari, Farida

Long term goal is not only desirable but necessary for climate agreement

The climate science is clear: to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and keep global warming well below 2 or even 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to phase out emissions from coal, oil and gas until mid-century.
The only way to get there in time, while still securing energy access for all, is a transition to clean and affordable renewable energy.
Some countries and many regions are already ahead of the game in phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewable energy. Some have adopted targets and plans for their power systems to reach 100% renewable energy as early as 2020. Costa Rica is planning to go 100% renewable by 2016 and carbon neutral by 2021. The African island state Cape Verde intends to meet 100% of its electricity and transportation energy needs with renewable energy by 2020. Denmark is the only first OECD country that is committed to achieve 100% renewable energy in electricity and heat generation by 2035 and to be totally fossil-free by 2050, whiles Scotland intends to reach 100% renewable energy in electricity generation by 2020.
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides strong scientific backing for the 100 plus countries that are pushing for emission cuts that will limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below.
Many others support the idea of a global long term goal of “zero emission” somewhere in the second half of the century. This would significantly reduce the chances of the world limiting emissions below the two degrees target.
According to the IPCC, any delay could put the world’s health in jeopardy. If global emissions were cut to zero by 2075, they predict that we would only have a 66% chance of keeping global temperature rise within two degrees.
Transition to a renewable energy system would create new jobs, assures healthier lives and bring along savings in fuel costs.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, just doubling the share of renewable in the global energy mix to 36% by 2030 could create 900,000 additional direct jobs in the energy sector, save global health-related costs of USD 200 billion annually, and result in overall savings of up to USD 740 billion per year by 2030.
The Path to Zero emission
Farmers and farm workers who depend on the weather for their daily bread are feeling the impact of climate change in Ghana and will continue to feel if measures are not put in place. Crop failures, drought and death of livestock have become more frequent, leading to economic losses, undermining food security and contributing to higher food prices.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the three main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases (GHG) observed over the past 250 years have been fossil fuels, land use, and agriculture. Ploughing field’s releases carbon dioxide (CO2) in the soil, and rice cultivation and livestock breeding both emit large quantities of methane (CH4). Fuel powered farm equipment and fertilizers also release GHG.

Climate smart agriculture Such as the use of drought-and heat tolerant crops and improved irrigation systems, agro-forestry can help alleviate the above problems by increasing productivity, resilience and adaptation, as well as contributes towards reducing the emission of greenhouse gases-leading to overall food security and nutrition in the face of climate change.
Ghana has the highest rate of deforestation. The illegal act of felling trees has become one of the commonest offences in Ghana today, some culprits are caught by the law, the fortunate ones are never caught, while others are sometimes deliberately let go by guardians of the law.
Laws should be passed against felling of trees and more trees should be planted especially in the northern part of Ghana because desert is encroaching to curb disasters such as the recent twin flood and fire disaster on June 3rd which claimed over hundred lives in the country.
Zero emission is the best guarantee of ensuring that the poor and vulnerable are spared from ever more threatening impacts.
“A target of net zero emissions by 2050 are not only desirable but necessary. This is the time to redouble our efforts and further accelerate progress to decarbonize our economy. This is not going to be easy, but the earlier we act the greater the economic opportunities will be.” said Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever and B Team Leaders.

Transition towards 100% renewable energy can help Ghana achieve the goal of providing universal access to electricity or energy. It will help her meet the energy needs of the poor who live in remote villages and depend on kerosene for light and biomass for cooking, risking their health while businesses and farmers resort to using diesel generators sets to power electrical equipment such as irrigation pumps.
“Modern energy services are crucial to human well-being and to a countries economic development and yet globally over 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are without clean cooking facilities. More than 95% of these people are either in sub-Saharan African or developing Asia and 84% are in rural areas” International Energy Agency reported.
Ghana’s intention to import coal, not establishing the renewable energy fund and going for nuclear energy is not a good move towards zero emission.
The Paris Protocol must mark the end of the fossil fuel era. It must reject alternatives-such as nuclear energy-they are too expensive, centralized and risky to be considered a solution to climate change.
Ghana’s short-term emission reduction commitments must be aligned with the long term goal and support transformational change, fairness and solidarity. Rich countries must reach zero emissions well before mid-century and provide poorer countries like Ghana the financial and technological support to mitigation and adaptation actions be it through carbon markets or public finance to achieve a 100% renewable energy supply by 2050.
Until Paris this year, things have to change. Transition to clean energy needs to happen much faster, deeper and broader than at present. Governments must face the truth that we are no longer in the business of managing carbon pollution: emissions must be phase out.
By
Farida Abubakari, Ghana
Global Ambassador for Youth and Enlightenment and Welfare (YEW) Ghana
and a Climate Tracker for the Adopt a Negotiator program. Email: uniquefarida@live.com