Ghana has lost a total of 1.41 million hectares of tree cover from 2001 to 2021, equivalent to a 20 per cent decrease in forest cover – a size bigger than the land area of the Western Region – in the last 20 years, with 740 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, a report by Global Forest Watch has said.
The report also indicated that the country’s deforestation rate is high and concentrated in the areas of high poverty with land use changing from forests to agricultural lands, causing close to 92 per cent of forest degradation.
Equally, data from the Ministry of Finance indicates that since 1900 Ghana has lost over 8 million hectares of forest cover – with almost one million hectares lost in the last few years.
Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta, speaking to the B&FT in Accra, said though Ghana is endowed with natural resources, the country’s holistic development risks being greatly impeded if authorities fail to succeed in adopting more sustainable and aggressive approaches to use and manage these resources which are critical to economic and fiscal wellbeing.
Since 1960, the average annual mean temperature – according to the Finance Ministry, has increased by one degree Celsius: the average number of hot days increasing about 13 per cent while the number of hot nights per year increased by 20 per cent.
In 2017 alone, the effects of environmental degradation were estimated at US$6.3billion with the population still increasing.
A study done by the International Growth Centre in 2019 indicates that it would cost approximately US$250million to reclaim lands and water bodies destroyed by galamsey activities in the Western Region alone.
“We face quite a risk as the rate of decline is scary, hence the importance of interventions to green Ghana,” Mr. Ofori Atta said, adding: “Globally, an estimated loss of over 10 million hectares of tropical forest was recorded in 2020 alone”.
Indeed, Ghana has been losing its forest reserves and farmlands to illegal mining – galamsey and chemical use being major sources of long-term contamination of soil and forest lands. However, the minister said the agenda of greening Ghana is one remarkable step to confront the menace of deforestation and environmental pollution.
A report by the AfDB shows that four in every five Africans rely on solid biomass for cooking, which causes an estimated 600,000 deaths per annum due to household air pollution in addition to the challenge of deforestation.
The report, according to the minister, is alarming and must serve as clarion call for every Ghanaian to take tree planting and preservation seriously. The report stated that the continent will need some US$3trillion in mitigation and adaptation by 2030 to enable African economies to implement nationally determined contributions.
Indeed, Africa suffers most from the climate crisis, though the continent is the least contributor to this phenomenon – comprising about 3.8 percent of the global volume for carbon emissions while the western world is responsible for 76 percent.