Ghana’s forests, and the communities that live close to them, may be about to get a lucky break as the world scrambles to find reliable methods to fight the growing threat of climate change.
The country is on course to receive up to 75 million US dollars from international donors to lay the ground work for new, forest friendly strategies designed to slow global warming. But some long standing challenges in the forest sector need to be addressed urgently to avoid this exciting possibility becoming another missed opportunity. This is the message of a new report released today by The Forests Dialogue (TFD) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), titled "REDD Readiness Requires Radical Reform".
The failure, last December in Copenhagen, to reach a binding international agreement for curbing emissions of greenhouse gases had at least one silver lining: negotiators managed to outline most of the conditions necessary to begin conserving and restoring tropical forests as a key contribution to combating climate change. This paves the way for tropical countries to receive payments in return for safeguarding their forest resources, thereby preventing additional emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This mechanism is commonly known as REDD or Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.
“Ghana has been at the forefront of the REDD movement,” says Robert Bamfo, Head of Ghana’s Forestry Commission’s Climate Change Unit, “and we are amongst the first tropical countries to be awarded significant financial support to help conserve, manage and restore our forests”.
However, despite good initial progress, if REDD in Ghana is going to fully deliver then it will be necessary to work through some well understood challenges in Ghana’s forest sector that have proven resistant to change.
“We now need to invest more in getting information out to local communities and district authorities on what REDD actually involves and find ways to address forest governance reforms that protect and advance community rights including clarifying land and tree tenure issues” says Emelia Arthur, District Chief Executive of Shama District.
The report stresses the urgency of putting in place an adequate framework that will allow REDD benefits to flow efficiently to communities and land‐owners.
“For REDD to work there must be contractual certainty between those whose actions safeguard trees, and the carbon they contain, and those who are willing to pay for avoided emissions”, says James Mayers, Head of the Natural Resources Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED),“this means that there is a pressing need to clarify and secure once and for all the rights that communities, farmers and land‐owners have with respect to naturally grown and planted trees in Ghana”.
“Ultimately the success of REDD will hinge on whether sufficient funds flow to those who rely on forests to sustain their livelihoods, yet many REDD candidate countries have not even started to contemplate what constitutes a fair and efficient distributional mechanism” says Stewart Maginnis, Director of Environment and Development at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),“Ghana now has an unique opportunity to take a lead on this matter, learning from its previous successes, and short‐comings, of forest‐based revenue distribution.”
“Partnerships between government, communities, private sector and the NGOs will be critical in addressing these long standing challenges in the forest sector” says Kwabena Nketiah, Team Leader of Tropenbos International‐Ghana,“the good news is that Ghana already has an established track record in this respect and can easily build on the successful experience of promoting collaborative arrangements to address illegal logging”.
More than 50 Ghanaian and international stakeholders from government, NGOs, forest communities and the private sector have been involved in preparation of the report, facilitated by TFD. The report attempts to reflect the main points of broad agreement among these stakeholders on additional measures required to help Ghana get ready for REDD. Similar processes led by TFD and IUCN have also taken place in Brazil, Guatemala and Ecuador with strong Ghanaian participation in each case.
Armed with these recommendations, Ghana is positioning itself as an international leader by creating the conditions that will ensure REDD makes a tangible contribution to combating climate change while working for both Ghana’s people and its forests” says Raphael Yeboah, Executive Director of the Forest Services Division at the Ghanaian Forestry Commission.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
IUCN Ghana: Wale Adeleke – firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: +233 244 358 076
The Forests Dialogue: Gary Dunning – email@example.com; tel: +1 203 432 5966
Report Authors: James Mayers ‐James.firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: +44 131 624 7041
Stewart Maginnis – stewart.maginnis@iucn...; tel: +41 79 477 1205
Emelia Arthur – email@example.com; tel: +233 24 446 9015