The defining challenge in the 21st century is undoubtedly the debacle of climate change. There is abundance of evidence that climate is changing as a result of our unsustainable use of natural resources.
Human needs are insatiable and endless. Our unbridled quest for accelerated economic growth, industrialization and motorization to enhance “living standard” for ever increasing population has led to destruction of forest cover (carbon sink) and greater greenhouse emissions. The increasing consumption of fossil fuel for power generation and in transportation sector have become a major source of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.
Placing profit over people and planet wellbeing by capitalists is unacceptable and new paradigm must be found to save our collective habitant (planet). Deployment of more renewable energy and the use of electric cars and trains are one of the surest ways of combating the climate change. The effects of which are “rain bombs,” rainstorms, drought and global warming. The recent heavy downpours and its resultant flooding in the country is one of such effects of climate change.
Lifestyle changes are required at individual, society and Leadership levels if we are to reverse the climate trends. Unfortunately, Ghana government’s target of achieving 10% of renewable energy in the generation mix has eluded the country. A missed target on several counts over the years. Even though there is injection of solar energy at Navrongo and other places into the generation mix, the share of renewable energy sources is still barely 5%. President Nana Akufo Addo’s administration should therefore enhance its Commitment towards renewable sources of power. The policy deficit must be rectify if the country will want to take Leadership role in climate crisis in the sub- Region.
Various governments have short term view in energy sector policy formulations. Three factors are crucial in selecting a power source; environmental efficiency, security of supply and economic growth. However, many governments in Africa have been fixated on the latter. Environmental factors have always been least considered in choosing an energy source. For example, Ghana has shifted to thermal power sources in recent years due to it tendencies to propel her economic growth. Therefore, when the country discovered oil with associated gas in commercial quantity, it came in handy and every policy by successive governments is geared towards thermal. Hitherto, our electricity consumption was largely satisfied by hydro sources: Akosombo and Kpong hydro plants.
The first attempt at introducing thermal plants was by the late president, Jerry John Rawlings in the late 1990s. Currently, about 90% of the energy consumption is from fossil sources which have been accused to be responsible for climate change. Meanwhile, the country has huge potential for mini hydro dams, solar and wind energy sources.
The danger in this power generation shift from hydro dominated power sector to thermal power sources is in four-folds: availability of fuel feedstock to keep thermal plants running, high cost of generation and expensive tariff. Perhaps, the most dangerous effect is its resultant greenhouse emissions. I consider this shift as policy retrogression, giving that many countries are decommissioning their thermal plants for environmental reasons. Norwegian only thermal plant that was constructed at Tysvaervag has recently been abandoned, pending decommissioning.
Our transportation sector is largely fossil fuel driven. Very little focus is given to electric transportation by policy makers in the country. However, many advanced countries are keeping to their targets. Norway for instance, has a target to face out fossil driven vehicles by 2025. Plans and strategies are advanced to achieving this feat. Subsidized electric vehicles have been deployed in the country. Trams and trains have been retrofitted to take advantage of the national policy.
In the housing sector, Ghana’s architects have bigger role to play. Many housing units in Ghana are not environmental friendly. They are energy intensive ones. Going forward our architects must assist to designing green buildings in both public and private apartments. Constructions in tropical areas especially should not be energy intensive.
We therefore, need collective effort and Commitment to stem the tide of climate change. Individuals also have significant role to play. Energy efficiency and conservation are the way to go. These strategies have the potential of reducing high cost of electricity as well as saving the environment. Investors and financial institutions should give a booster to green energy sources. We can do it together!
As over 200 world leaders head to Glasgow for COP26 Climate Summit in Scotland, it is an opportune time to eschew rhetorics and take real and concrete actions for the collective good of humanity as well as safeguard generation yet unborn. “The reality we now face implores us to act.” Al Gore. It is time to get real.
The writer is an Energy Policy Analyst