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Ghana Becomes First African Nation to Join Ambitious Partnership to End Plastic Pollution

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The Government of Ghana formally joined the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) today, becoming the first African nation to combine forces with this ambitious new initiative dedicated to eradicating plastic waste and pollution worldwide.

Ghana is the second country to partner with GPAP, a public-private platform dedicated to fostering action to combat the plastic pollution crisis. In Ghana, it will work closely with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) to develop a national roadmap for sustainably managing and reducing the country’s plastic waste challenge, while continuing to boost its economic growth.

The Ghana National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) was announced by His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, at a gathering of more than 250 policy-makers, business leaders, sustainable development advisers, waste management experts, entrepreneurs and youth representatives – all of whom have carried out successful work in different sectors to combat the country’s plastic waste and pollution.

“With this partnership, Ghana is taking a historic step forward in our environmental stewardship, our sustainable growth, and our vision for the future,” said the president. “Our nation is flourishing with an extraordinary wealth of expertise, knowledge, innovations, social enterprise, and willpower to take on this issue. Throughout every sector and level, from local government to waste management pioneers and young student leaders, Ghanaians are actively contributing to the fight against plastic pollution. We are pleased to partner with the Global Plastic Action Partnership to bring together existing efforts, scale up these highly successful initiatives, and fast-track our progress towards a collective goal – to achieve zero leakage of plastic waste into our oceans and waterways.”

The Ghana NPAP will support the country’s public, private and civil society sectors in transitioning to a circular plastics economy, which directly addresses the root cause of plastic pollution by fundamentally reshaping the way plastics are produced, used and re-used. A parallel engagement is currently under way in Indonesia, the first GPAP country partner.

“We are deeply honoured that the Government of Ghana, under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo, has chosen to partner with GPAP in a collective effort to drive forward the country’s plastic action agenda,” said Kristin Hughes, Director of the Global Plastic Action Partnership and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “As one of Africa’s leading political and economic forces, Ghana has the potential to not only dramatically reduce its own plastic pollution, but also to spark off a wave of unprecedented plastic action across the African continent. We are confident that the findings and achievements from this highly meaningful partnership will serve as a model of success for the rest of the world.”

The Ghana NPAP will also be supported by the Global Environment Facility, which sits on the Governing Council of GPAP and co-chairs the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, a public-private collaboration mechanism dedicated to driving the global circular economy transition.

“The growing menace of plastic pollution is being felt all around the world,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility. “I want to commend Ghana for its leadership in being the first African nation to join the Global Plastic Action Partnership. Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and its support for a circular plastics economy is an important signal to others across the continent.”

As part of broader strategic efforts to accelerate the reduction of plastic waste and pollution in Ghana, the NPAP will work in close alignment with two key initiatives. The first, a National Plastic Management Policy, championed by MESTI, will transform the management of plastics throughout the value chain, injecting sustainability and reusability into every step of the plastic life cycle.

“By putting standards and policies in place to guide the transition towards a circular plastics economy, we will achieve myriad positive outcomes for Ghana,” said Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. “We will see the creation of new jobs in the sustainable waste management sector; the protection of women, children and other vulnerable communities from the damaging effects of mismanaged plastic waste; and accelerated progress towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

At the same time, the Ghana multi-stakeholder ‘Waste’ Recovery Platform, facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will accelerate these efforts by creating a one-stop shop solution platform (both in-person and digital) for stakeholders to exchange data, solutions, and technological innovations on waste recovery.

“We are delighted to join forces with the Government of Ghana and the Ghana NPAP to amplify our collective impact,” said Silke Hollander, Resident Representative a.i. of UNDP Ghana. “The ‘Waste’ Recovery Platform is very much owned and driven by traditional and non-traditional stakeholders in the waste management sector and beyond in Ghana. By leveraging the incredible entrepreneurial initiatives underway and creating a space where people can connect, exchange knowledge and share good practices, as well as co-design and partner to find solutions, we are confident that the Platform will help Ghana move towards the circular economy and reduce plastic pollution in the near future.”

“The scope and depth of this partnership in Ghana truly represents a new and remarkable way to tackle the world’s most pressing issues,” added Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “It’s clear that no single institution or sector can take on the plastic pollution crisis alone. In Ghana and across the world, GPAP is bringing together government, business and civil society organizations – and it’s also working closely with local entrepreneurs, women and young people to ensure that their voices and initiatives are heard. This is how we can achieve an equitable and sustainable future.”

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Serving up sustainable food

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Along with a vow to return to exercise, upping personal intake of fruit and vegetables tops the list of New Year’s resolutions for many. But what if this year’s resolution didn’t end with the eating – and extended to reducing the amount of healthy, nutritious produce that gets trashed?

That’s a commitment that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is banking on to help achieve the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Global estimates suggest that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year. Those 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, grains and roots are lost through spillage or spoilage in the harvest-to-market chain, or to spoilage and discard once products hit retailers and, eventually, consumers.

In a world where malnutrition is a contributing factor to roughly 45% of deaths of children under age five in developing countries, and where consumption of highly processed foods is pushing obesity rates ever higher, remaining accountable to those New Year resolutions isn’t just personal – they’re critical for humanity.

They are also critical for the survival of the planet. Food production, consumption and waste – and how they impact the environment – will be a key topic of discussion at this year’s United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-5), taking place online on 22-23 February 2021.

UNEP and partners are developing the world’s most comprehensive data analysis and modelling on food waste, which will be launched at the Assembly. Titled the ‘Food Waste Index’, the document will be released at UNEA-5. It offers new estimates of food waste at household, retail and food service sectors at country level, and provides a methodology that enables countries to measure and track progress on Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which aims to halve retail and consumer food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.

Food systems for the future

Agriculture and the pressure to produce cheaper, faster commodities are among the primary drivers of biodiversity loss. Resource-intensive food production that depends heavily on the use of inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides and complex irrigation and energy systems means fewer wild spaces for the other creatures we share nature with, whether it’s birds, mammals, insects or microbial organisms. Meanwhile, political and economic structures are pricing farmers off their land.

“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the obstacles and blockages in our global food system. We have a timely opportunity to build back better and redesign the way we grow, harvest, sell and eat the bounty of nature’s production,” said Clementine O’Connor, from UNEP’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme.

Transforming our food systems will not only help restore biodiversity and habitat but can also strengthen market opportunities for smallholder farmers – many of whom are women on the road to economic self-sufficiency through sustainable production of fruit and vegetables.

A fruitful year?

At UNEA-5, the virtual convening of representatives of UN member states, the private sector, civil society, scientists and other leaders will be an opportunity to share and adopt best practices for transforming food systems. Momentum toward sustainable food production and consumption that is generated by the Assembly will be built upon going forward in 2021, with the historic first-ever UN Food Systems Summit.

The year 2021 has also been marked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021 to highlight the role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition, livelihoods, food security and health.

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2020, one of three warmest years on record

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The COVID-19 pandemic was not the only long-term crisis the world will remember from 2020. In terms of climate change, the year was also one of the three warmest on record, and rivalled 2016 for the top spot, the UN weather agency said on Wednesday. 

“The confirmation by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that 2020 was one of the warmest years on record is yet another stark reminder of the relentless pace of climate change, which is destroying lives and livelihoods across our planet”, said Secretary-General António Guterres

He pointed out that at 1.2 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels, the world is already witnessing unprecedented weather extremes in every region and on every continent.  

“We are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius this century”, he warned. “Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top priority for everyone, everywhere.”  

Powerful force 

La Niña, which began in late last year, is expected to continue into the early-middle part of 2021.   

“The exceptional heat of 2020 is despite a La Niña event, which has a temporary cooling effect”, said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.  

La Niña and El Niño effects on average global temperatures are typically strongest in the second year of the event. 

“It is remarkable that temperatures in 2020 were virtually on a par with 2016, when we saw one of the strongest El Niño warming events on record”, he added. “This is a clear indication that the global signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature”.  

The extent to which the continued cooling effects of La Niña this year may temporarily diminish the overall long-term warming trend remains to be seen.  

Following atypical patterns  

WMO pointed to sustained heat and wildfires in Siberia, diminishing Arctic sea ice and record-breaking hurricanes in the Atlantic as being among the climate events that most stood out in 2020.  

The UN weather agency also reminded that temperature is just one climate change indicator. Greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean heat content, global mean sea level, sea ice extent and extreme events are also factors. 

Backed by science 

WMO’s consolidated global temperature update incorporates information from five leading international sets of data.  

It also uses datasets that combine millions of meteorological and marine observations, including from satellites, with models to produce a complete reanalysis of the atmosphere.  

“The combination of observations with models makes it possible to estimate temperatures at any time and in any place across the globe, even in data-sparse areas such as the polar regions”, according to WMO.  

Looking to the future  

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels. 

However, the global average temperature in 2020 had already approached the lower limit of the temperature increase that the Agreement seeks to avert.  

Moreover, there is at least a one-in-five chance that the average global temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 °C by 2024, according to WMO’s Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, led by the United Kingdom’s Met Office. 

The 2021 Met Office annual global temperature forecast also suggests that next year will again be one of the earth’s hottest years.  

Updating its provisional December report, WMO will issue its final publication in March, which will incorporate temperature figures, information on all leading climate indicators and selected climate impacts. 

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Step up action and adapt to ‘new climate reality’-Report

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Though countries have made progress in planning for climate change adaptation, there are significant financing shortfalls in getting them to the stage where they provide real protection against droughts, floods and rising sea levels, a new UN environment report has found. 

According to the 2020 Adaptation Gap Report, released on Thursday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as temperatures rise and climate change impacts intensify, nations must urgently step up action to adapt to the new climate reality or face serious costs, damages and losses. 

“The hard truth is that climate change is upon us,” Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, said in a news release announcing the findings. 

“Its impacts will intensify and hit vulnerable countries and communities the hardest, even if we meet the Paris Agreement goals of holding global warming this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing 1.5 degree Celsius.” 

Global commitment needed 

Annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion, but the figure could reach up to $300 billion in 2030, and $500 billion in 2050. Almost three-quarters of nations have some adaptation plans in place, but financing and implementation fall “far short” of what is needed, according to the UNEP report. 

Stepping up public and private finance for adaptation is, therefore, urgently needed. 

“As the Secretary-General has said, we need a global commitment to put half of all global climate finance towards adaptation in the next year … this will allow a huge step up in adaptation, in everything from early warning systems to resilient water resources to nature-based solutions,” Ms. Andersen added. 

Adaptation is a key pillar of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It aims to reduce countries’ and communities’ vulnerability to climate change by increasing their ability to absorb impacts.  

Nature-based solutions 

The UNEP report also underscored the importance of nature-based solutions as low-cost options that reduce climate risks, restore and protect biodiversity, and bring benefits for communities and economies. 

Its analysis of four major climate and development funds: the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Adaptation Fund, and the International Climate Initiative (IKI), suggested that support for green initiatives with some element of nature-based solutions has risen over the last two decades.  

Cumulative investment for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects under the four funds stands at $94 billion. However, only $12 billion was spent on nature-based solutions, a tiny fraction of total adaptation and conservation finance, it added. 

Cutting emissions will reduce costs 

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the impacts and costs associated with climate change, according to the report. Achieving the 2 degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement could limit losses in annual growth to up to 1.6 per cent, compared to 2.2 per cent for the 3 degrees Celsius trajectory. 

UNEP urged all nations to pursue the efforts outlined in its December 2020 Emissions Gap Report, which called for a green pandemic recovery and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that include new net-zero commitments.  

“However, the world must also plan for, finance and implement climate change adaptation to support those nations least responsible for climate change but most at risk,” the UN agency added. 

“While the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to hit the ability of countries to adapt to climate change, investing in adaptation is a sound economic decision,” it said. 

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