Feature: Shall we talk Sustainable Cities? 

Mohammed Adjei Sowah

REAL ESTATE MINUTE: With Cyril Nii Ayitey Tetteh

In Accra these days, all it takes is for the heavens to open up for just 30 minutes of downpour and voila, it’s a “swimming party”! Flooding has become a perennial problem for the city’s inhabitants and even if you live in some of the safer neighbourhoods, you aren’t really shielded from the effects of flooding, once you have to commute daily to and fro. The need to recalibrate the city in line with the objectives of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is to have sustainable cities that provide opportunities for all, including access to basic services, energy, housing and transport, is very much a relevant discussion.

In this special recap of the sustainable cities session at the 3rd Ghana Green Building Summit, the Mayor of Accra, Hon. Mohammed Adjei Sowah, presented some of the efforts of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to tackle some of the challenges of the city, flooding included as well as other efforts to make Accra green, comfortable and livable. In a part 2 of the session, the mayor was joined by Holger Adam, Head Real Estate Development, Clifton Homes, Ghana;  Songo Didiza, Green Economy Expert, Founder, Green Building Design Group (GreenBDG) – South Africa; Rasmus Frisk, CEO and Partner at Arki_Lab – Denmark to discuss creation of pandemic resilient cities. The session was moderated by Enoch Yeboah Agyepong, Sustainable Development Consultant & Mechanical Engineer (Director, REAG -Ghana).

Hon. Mohammed Adjei Sowah provided a clear picture of the strategic thinking approach to making Accra a resilient city. The Mayor provided a snap shot of Accra’s profile; 2 million commuters into the city; High population growth rate of 5.3% per year; 25% of the urban population live in informal housing; after which he shared some of their key efforts in making Accra a resilient city, excerpts of which are captured below.

History of Resilience Thinking and Planning

From 2018 when a comprehensive study on the City’s vulnerability to flooding was completed till 2020 with a planned Climate Action Plan and Accra’s GPC-compliant GHG inventory Review in 2021, Accra is positioning itself to become resilient and sustainable. Under the Climate Action Plan and air quality management plan, there will be intense monitoring to identify sources and concentration of bad air.

Baseline Indicators

To strategically position itself, there are certain baseline indicators that will inform the strategic actions. Some of the relevant indicators include:

  • 26% of Accra’s total GHG emissions in 2015 comprised of Stationary energy of which buildings form a part, the subject matter of the Summit. (Transport: 30% and Waste 44% make up the others)
  • Residential (13%) and industrial (10%) energy drive emissions from stationary energy
  • From stationary energy, residential buildings are the main energy emissions source, contributing to about 50% of the emissions.

The Mayor also noted that Accra emits 15% of Ghana’s total residential fuel combustion and having determined the locally determined contributions, it is aligned to the NDCs (National Determined Contributions) because ultimately, it is Ghana that will be showcased.

Accra’s Resilience Goals

These were created with the aim to make the city robust and mitigate the stress and shocks that come with the size of a city like Accra as well as control the unplanned growth and sprawl of the city by developing a compact city that will offer efficient services in all the communities.

The goals are summarized as follows:

  • Create a City that is poised to anticipate, mitigate and respond to whatever acute or chronic

challenges that we may face now, and in the future

  • A city that is capable of transforming the challenges with which we have long grappled with,

into new opportunities to achieve inclusive development

  • Developing Compact Cities

Tools for promoting a “Green Accra”

The key highlight amongst several interventions designed to “Green Accra”, the Mayor revealed that the Assembly has introduced an incentive package to incentivize developers to build green by offering rebates on property rates and building permits (30 -50% off) and as well as a set-up of an Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund.

 Accra’s Resilience Strategy Actions (Three Pillars & Twenty-Seven Actions)

1st Pillar:  An Integrated Approach to Infrastructure Planning & Service Provision

Goal 1.2: Design and adapt infrastructure to maximize co-benefits (address flooding, waste, sanitation & climate challenges)

Goal 1.3: Incentivize energy efficient and renewable energy generation (sustainability focus)

The Panel Session

Holger Adam introduced the element of urban fabric into the conversation. According to Holger, for cities to thrive in a sustainable manner, there was a need to look at the urban fabric, which in essence informs how our cities are planned, built, charged with activities and other elements that make the city livable and enjoyable.

Rasmus Frisk urged a rethink of city design by recommending a flipping of our mindsets about urban planning and about urban fabric as recommended by Holger, his co-panelist earlier. According to Rasmus, in their approach to rethinking urban planning, they focused on 5 main elements; infrastructure; culture and history, space, life and the building itself. He also recommended focusing on small communities which then dovetail into a bigger master plan.

Songo Didza reiterated that for a city to be fully sustainable, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be the overarching guide to development. She also mentioned how the SDG framework is designed in a way to track the progress of each country. Being South African, she recalled how her country started their sustainability journey borne out of an electricity crisis in 2007.

The crises jolted their entire industry, resulting in a focus on energy efficiency and green initiatives and thereafter, the introduction of the mandatory energy efficiency code in 2008 and the establishment of the South African Green Building Council. She also recommended that cities interact by sharing data and tracking their progress through the innovative open source data.

PRESENTED by Mayor of Accra, Hon. Mohammed Adjei Sowah; Holger Adam, Head Real Estate Development, Clifton Homes, Ghana; Songo Didiza, Green Economy Expert, Founder, Green Building Design Group (Greenbdg) – South Africa; Rasmus Frisk, CEO and Partner at Arki_Lab – Denmark and moderated by Enoch Yeboah Agyepong, Sustainable Development Consultant & Mechanical Engineer (Director, REAG -Ghana).

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