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A greater need to focus on environmental ecosystem restoration

ecosystem restoration

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang, an Environmental Communicator

The celebration of World Environment Day, this year is at a time, the world’s ecosystems are being ravaged at an alarming rate and billions of hectares of land are degraded. This is said to be affecting almost half of the global population and thereby threatening half of its GDP. Rural communities, small holder farmers and the extremely poor are the hardest hit. The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen describes the situation as a period, the world is facing “a worrying intensification of the triple planetary crisis.

These are climate change, nature and biodiversity loss and the crisis of pollution and waste. In a press statement ahead of the international celebration of the Day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Miss Inger emphasized that land restoration can reverse the creeping tide of degradation, drought and desertification. Every dollar invested in restoration can bring up to US$30 in ecosystem services. Restoration is crucial, because it boosts livelihoods, reduces poverty and builds resilience to extreme weather conditions.

Additionally, restoration increases carbon storage and slows climate change. Land restoration, which refers to the process of halting degradation or rehabilitating degraded land, typically through activities like reforestation, soil conservation and the protection of natural processes is another way to go in the fight against degradation and the effects on the environment. It aims to enhance biodiversity, restore ecosystem services, and mitigate climate change impacts.

Currently, nations including Ghana are working hard to implement their defined climate actions, geared towards comprehensive green growth and improved resilience of infrastructure and services. These are known as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement of December, 2015. Subsequently, nations were expected to revise their NDC’s to make them more action and result oriented. In 2020, Ghana’s NDC’s were updated under the leadership of the Acting Director of the Climate Change Unit of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Daniel Benefo and his team of experts. Dr. Benefo, noted with the updated NDC, Ghana is implementing nine unconditional actions that would result in 64 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions reduction by 2030.

The country therefore needs to invest in green technology to create jobs, boost economic growth and cut emissions to contribute to addressing global warming. These efforts, in a way, will also prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, which is the agenda of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, launched in July 2021 and to end in 2030. Obviously, there has never been a more appropriate time to revive damaged ecosystems than now. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent mass extinction of species. It is worthy of note that in addressing ecosystem degradation, land degradation is addressed simultaneously. Actually, the two go together and so can be referred to as landscape restoration, since forests, wildlife, water bodies and the activities that go on in and round them are all on land.

In the light of this, the various programmes, projects and legislations being implemented by government and Civil Society, to improve the health of the landscape is commendable. These include the Ghana REDD+ Strategy 2016 to 2035, which is meant to serve as a guide and framework for pursuing a broad set of actions to tackle deforestation and forest degradation at the landscape level. Through its activities, Ghana has become the second African country to receive payments from a World Bank Trust Fund for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) paid Ghana approximately $4.9 million for reducing 972,456 tons of carbon emissions for the first monitoring period under the programme from June to December, 2019.

The country is eligible to receive up to $50 million for 10 million tons of carbon emissions reduced by the end of 2024. Another is the Ghana Forest Plantation Strategy, 2016 to 2040, which is pivotal in driving the country’s landscape restoration efforts and transforming her forest plantation sector while contributing significantly to Ghana’s economic development. Then, there is the Northern Restoration Initiative by Civil Society, in collaboration with public institutions. It seeks to effectively increase tree cover, restore land health and community resilience in Northern Ghana.

There is the Lands Commission Act 2008, Act 767, with the objective of promoting the judicious use of land by the society and ensuring that land use is in accordance with sustainable management principles and the maintenance of a sound eco-system. The Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), is of course a product of the revision, harmonisation and consolidation of the laws on land, to ensure sustainable land administration and management, effective and efficient land tenure, among others. The provisions are excellent and ongoing implementation would eventually result in a sector wide turnaround that will impact positively on all the other sectors of the nation’s economy. The challenges including indiscipline in both the traditional and formal set ups, are impeding progress. These need to be addressed going forward.

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