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Opinions of Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Columnist: Abubakari, Farida

Why Ghana should goodbye fossil fuel for 100% renewable energy

While negotiations currently in Bonn, Germany have re-started at a slow pace, there is growing momentum that a long-term goal to reduce global emissions will salvage the UN climate talks in Paris.

Currently 127 countries support a long-term goal that would act to limit global warming to within 2 degrees. However, there is ongoing debate surrounding exactly how ambitious this goal will be, and what year it will aim for.

Many of the world’s most vulnerable countries- such as Samoa, Ethiopia and the Maldives -have shown strong support for rapid emissions cuts needed to get to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Many others support the idea of a global long-term goal of ‘zero emissions’ somewhere in the second half of the century. This would significantly reduce the chances of the world limiting emissions below the 2 degree target.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 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.

The countries currently most in favour of a global long-term goal are those who have domestic or national long-term goals already in place.

This includes large developed nations such as the UK, and the USA, who have long term goals of cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 83 per cent by 2050. However, there are many countries that have set out to get to zero emissions by 2050. These include Bhutan, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Maldives, Monaco, Norway and Sweden.

Bhutan, the country famed putting its Gross National Happiness ahead of its Gross Domestic Product, has also found that through a rapid switch to renewable energy, they can bring clean energy to the whole country. They have also looked into how to balance restricting their current source of income from mining, balancing job growth alongside sustainable development. They are now discussing schemes to cap mining industry emissions as well closely monitoring their carbon footprint.

Costa Rica is also aiming to be carbon neutral by 2021. By the beginning of 2015 this Caribbean nation had already become the first country in the world to be powered by 100% renewable energy for 75 days straight.

These investments in renewable energy have also enabled them to bring the energy price down by between 7-15 per cent in the past year.

They have also focused on improving their transport sector, the last significant emitter. In 1997 they began increasing taxes on petrol, using the added income to incentivize forest conservation and biodiversity management. This payment system has been so effective it has resulted in a dramatic reversal of what was once the fastest deforestation rate in the world.

Similarly, Denmark has committed to transform its current energy system. Currently, Denmark receives 19 per cent of its energy from renewable. However, there are now decarbonisation plans with checkpoints for 2020, 2035 and 2050. Initially, they aim to increase wind power and biomass to achieve a 33 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.

Alongside this, the city of Copenhagen has committed to carbon neutrality by 2025. They combine energy efficiency measures with the now 249 miles of cycle routes and a network of heating and cooling pipes in buildings that has reduces the systems carbon emissions by nearly 70 percent and electricity consumption by 80 per cent.

As Frank Jenson, Mayor of Copenhagen has argued, “we want to show that it is possible to combine growth and an increasing quality of life while reducing carbon emissions and meeting environmental challenges”.

This is similar to calls in neighboring Oslo, where its Mayor Fabian Stang plans to “move Oslo from a low carbon towards a zero emission city.”

Jenson and Stang however can’t do it alone. Here, Denmark has built on momentum in regional areas. This includes grassroots movements in areas such as Sønderborg which has reduced emissions by 25 per cent over the last 7 years.

This balance of national, urban and regional action has proven a powerful collective solution to reducing national emissions.

As Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Marshall Islands, argues, “National policies, and public and private sector investment decisions must be based on the premise that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end, and the renewable revolution is here to stay.”

This puts the pressure back on the international stage where de Brum believes we must build a long-term goal into both negotiations within the UN climate talks and the upcoming discussions on the Sustainable development goals.

Without a strong long term goal, the Paris negotiations could be seen by many as a failure. With it, the UN climate negotiations could regain its strength, and become a driving force of global efforts to end the reliance on fossil fuels.

Mr. Mulugeta Mengist Ayalew Associate Adviser, Office of the Prime Minister?Office of the Prime Minister

"Economic and social development is a primary objective, and emissions development is a co-benefit”

This strategy allows our "Emissions to stay at 2010 levels, but our economy will more than double”.

We are planning to “leapfrog to modern, efficient and renewable technologies”

Since we adopted the policy in 2010, we have actually increased the ambition of that policy. We have realized that we can actually significantly reforest many areas across Ethiopia"

“If we are able to do that, by 2025 we will not only have a zero carbon economy, but a negative carbon economy"

“We are spending significantly more spending on fossil fuels, and we hope to be able to save considerably on importing fossil fuels from abroad”

Much of the first investment will be needed for infrastructure over the first few years…but it is not insurmountable.

“The present citizens of Ethiopia are forgoing some benefits in order to protect the future”.

Simon richardson mayor of Byron shire

"Australia can become a renewable energy super power.”

"Australia's first regional city and community to commit to zero emissions over the next 10 years.

Byron is demanding to be part of the solition on climate change

We are the highest region for solar uptake in Australia and aiming to be the first regional solar retailer

Nicholas hern " Act 2015"

"We are developing a blueprint on a 2015 agreement"

"When it comes to net zero, The main question is when, and the second question is what you are looking at"

"The more we delay action, the harder it gets"

Irene Garcia - world future council

Morocco is set to host Cop22 - predictions suggest temperature will rise by 2 to 3 degrees by 2050

It is also set to suffer water scarcity by 2020-2030

Electricity demand is rising at 5.7% each year

Morocco has a plan to produce 47% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Why Ghana should not go for nuclear energy
Ghana generates electric power from hydropower, fossil fuel and renewable energy sources. Electricity generation is one of the key factors in order to achieve the developments of the Ghanaian national economy with aggressive and rapid industrialization; Ghana’s national electric energy consumption was 265kilowatthours of its generated energy and fossil fuels to other countries. The share of fossil fuel in Ghana is 25% and that of renewable energy is 75% (hydro, bio energy, thermal energy) and 1% (solar, wind energy) and greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation as of 2013 was 0.2Mt CO2.
In 2013, the Minister of Energy and Petroleum (Hon. Mr. Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah) made a pronouncement on governments plans to sooner or later, commence development and promotion of nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy supply to opt Ghana out of her increasingly high energy demands.

The government of Ghana decided to pass a renewable energy bill into law to effectively allow independent power producers (IPPs) to produce and sell to Government (in this case Volta River Authority) through a feed tariff regime and creation of Renewable energy fund.

I urge the government to reject the alternative-such as nuclear energy –

• Nuclear energy is too expensive, centralized and risky to be considered a solution to climate change and possibility of nuclear weapon proliferation. Countries like Germany have already started the bureaucratic and legal processes to walk out of nuclear energy by closing all nuclear plants by the year 2022 due to its environmental and health concerns. Why then a middle income country like Ghana should aimed at nuclearizing by 2022.

• Difficulty in managing radioactive waste

• The radioactive waste can possess a threat to the environment and is dangerous for humans. We all remember the Chernobyl accident where the harmful effects of nuclear radiation on human can even be witnessed today. Has the government of Ghana forgotten so soon what happen to Japan through devastation of nuclear plants in Fukushima? Nuclear is not at all a good way for Ghana to go now and in the future in terms of addressing her pressing energy needs.

Why Ghana should go for 100% Renewable

• Ghana should go in for renewable energies because as it is renewable, it is therefore sustainable and so will never run out as compared to fossil fuels.

• Also, renewable energy facilities generally require less maintenance than traditional generators. Their fuel being derived from natural and available resources reduces the cost of operation as it will also reduce the countries dependence on fuels and energy from foreign governments.

• They are the cleanest energy sources, stable price and very environmentally friendly due to zero carbon dioxide emission, promising energy source for future generations.

• Increasing the supply of renewable energy would allow us to replace carbon-intensive energy sources and significantly reduce Ghana’s global warming emissions.

• Wind and solar energy require essentially no water to operate and thus do not pollute water resources or strain supply by competing with agriculture, drinking water systems or other important water needs.

• Compared with fossil fuels technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labour intensive. This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuel.

The Need for Ghana to Push for a Long Term Zero Emission
Zero emission is the best guarantee of ensuring that the poor and vulnerable are spared from ever more threatening impacts such as heat waves, poverty, food insecurity, crop failures, floods and water shortages that will increasingly threaten their lives and livelihoods; continued, unabated emissions pose an unacceptable risk of pushing our climate system towards potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts to all sectors of society and human activities such as charcoal burning, bush burning, sand wining, gravel mining, disposal of waste and illegal mining and these activities are at its alarming rate and as a result there is high release of carbon dioxide and methane which pose a threat to the ozone layer and this also affect the ecosystem, farming activities or agriculture, human health, forest and game reserves, water sources among others due to the negative role these gases play in changing water pattern in climatic conditions.
Climate change is already a serious threat for the lives of many less fortunate, but even for the countries that do not belong to the group of the most affected by climate change, the climate crisis is seriously challenging the status quo at the economic and social level.
The IPCC report released on 27 September stated that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The report is also clear that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The answer to this report is “If we humans are the dominant cause of this observed warming, then definitely we have the solution and that solution is zero emission”.
The elimination of waste represents the ultimate solution to pollution problems that threaten ecosystems at global, national and local levels. In addition, full use of raw materials, accompanied by a shift towards renewable sources, means that utilization of the earth's resources can be brought back to sustainable levels.
This is why I am making a strong call to the governments of Ghana to push for a strong long term goal towards zero emission on a pathway to achieve zero net emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels in the second half of this century and Ghana needs to learn from the policies some countries are implementing to drive the investment and technology shift needed to break our dependence on fossil fuels and to highlight the stumbling blocks that will require strong political will to be overcome. The longer we wait and delay action, the more we will lock ourselves into higher risks and fewer solutions. I therefore urge the governments of Ghana to act now! For our benefit and for that of future generations, we must get rid of fossil fuels starting now and speed up the just transition towards a 100% renewable energy world today!

Fariya Abubakari is the Country Coordinator of End Ecocide Ghana,
Global Ambassador of YEW, Commonwealth Correspondence, Climate Tracker Activist for Adopt a Negotiator Program, Agricultural Economist and a soil scientist.,