In a position of leadership, all actions/inactions have a meaning – even a wink does!
Mr. President, notwithstanding your position as a Co-Chair of Eminent Advocates on ALL Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), you ‘discriminate’ against SDG 13. That cannot be unintentional. I think why, is a fair question to ask.
Sustainable Development Goal 13 (SDG13) focuses on climate action. It is one particular SDG set in response to (less arguably) the greatest development challenge of all times, climate change (or if you like global warming). The reality of climate change is in no doubt. Even as the whole of Africa contributed only just about 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change, the United States of America alone contributed about a third! The sad thing, however, is developing countries, most of which are African countries, of course, are ‘doomed’ to suffer severe forms (nature, scale and frequency) of climate impacts on agriculture, human health, settlement and ecosystems. Same is Ghana’s key economic sectors (agriculture, forestry, energy and health). This is attributed mainly to under development, weak adaptive capacity, weak infrastructure and weak institutions evident in many of these developing countries.
In all these, advocates of climate actions are rightly reminded that, the pursuit of climate action has to be in synch with economic growth and poverty reduction. Yet indeed, attainment of all other SDGs will be severely undermined if less/no attention is paid to climate change (SDG 13). It is therefore very strange, your Excellency, President Nana Akufo- Addo, that you usually fail to appreciate the nexus between climate change and development – throughout your political campaigns (just as other aspirants also failed to do), your presidential speeches and not even on the international stage in your role as a Co-Chair of Eminent Advocates on SDGs.
No case for ‘climate’ or ‘climate change’ and clean energy in your speech at the just ended 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Meeting in New York?
Mr. President, by several basic definitions of a good speech, I will adjudge your speech delivered at the 72nd UNGA as a great one, although others prefer to see it as substandard. What is however clearly evident in that speech, is the deliberate effort not to even hint at the issue of climate change to the extent that where you even committed yourself to list or repeat all the 17 SDGs, you excluded SDG13 (Climate Action), same as its ‘close relative’, SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy).
“As I watched and listened, along with the rest of the world, it occurred to me that, all put together, the SDGs are, indeed, a worthwhile set of goals for the world. They bear repeating: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and topped up with partnerships for the goals. We should work hard to achieve these goals. “The world will be a much better place”
Mr. President, this does not appear to be an omission. Mr. President, in the same great speech, there are evidences you cited about flooding for instance, that has a lot to do with climate change. They were all attributed to nature, which is understandable.May be, notbecause of ‘Trump-scare’ or ‘Trump- appeal’ at the UNGA as others have suggested.
“And, every day, something happens to bring home to us, the inhabitants of this planet, that we are in it together. There is no better dramatic indication of this truth than the images that have recently dominated our television screens of devastation caused by floods in Houston Texas, in Dhaka Bangladesh, in Mumbai India, in Palpa Nepal, in Dominica, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Martin, all in the Caribbean, and in Niamey Niger.
One of the most modern cities in the richest, most powerful nation on our earth, was suffering the same fate as Niamey in the Sahel region of Africa, one of the poorest parts of the world. At the height of the raging waters, one thing has become clear: it does not matter if you are in the richest or poorest part of the world, the awesome power of nature was on display, and we, humans, came across as the same sad creatures at the mercy of nature”
In times past - except for your June Facebook comment on UN Ocean Conference in New York, US - you hardly show any concern about the issue of climate change. Indeed, your sustained fight against galamsey and general environmental issues has been laudable. Yet, Mr. President, what is your personal (yes personal) position on climate change issues?
Mr. President, this article is not intended in any way to challenge your competency for the role of a member and a Co-Chair of Eminent Advocates on SDGs.However,considering the intricate nexus between climate change and all other development issues (SDGs), knowing your position on climate change will show if you are honestly in the position to sustainably (or let me say, fairly) champion the SDGs.Your failure to acknowledge climate change suggests that you might not appreciate the integrated nature of the SDGs – and raise awareness about same as Eminent Advocates are required to do. How do you then foster the engagement of new stakeholders in the implementation of the SDGs? And again, as your mandates indicated as SDG Advocate, how will your lack of recognition of climate change generate momentum and commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030?
Mr. President, if you chose to continue to side-line SDG 13, just as Trump, this should be of worry to the U.N. Because, among other things, your position as a Co-Chair has influence on the rest ofEminent Advocates. At least, the tendency is that advocacy on climate action will likely lack momentum among the Eminent Advocates. That (continued inactions or lack of advocacy on SDG 13) will have succeeded in rather putting all other SDGs in danger!
Returning to the Trump-scare or Trump-appeal: Mr. President, will you place political alliance above development issues or make non-parochial good use of it?
Trump’s opposition to climate action and migration is clear.Your Excellency’s is unclear. However, it has been suggested that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has close links (sympathises) with the Republican Party in the US. As such, NPP or it leaders will like to be in the good books of Trump (Trump appeal), a Republican US President. It is curious therefore to read that while your speech presented the problem of international migration in a manner one can say is balanced and largely Trump-acceptable, you completely shy away from just mentioning the word ‘climate’ even though it was clear you needed to.
Mr. President, something is amidst. This is what we do not understand. It is really strange! Mr. President, as president of one of the developing countries highly susceptible to climate change impacts, it is hoped that a combination of your position as a Co-Chair, the alliance between the NPP and the Republican Party (if there is) and the speech itself present a formidable tool to capitalise on to advocate, impress on Trump to rescind his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. That was not so at the all-important 72nd UNGA. Mr. President, was that politically impossible to have communicated?Or Do you personally have any reservations against the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA)?
We need to appreciate that the issues and the design of the One District, One Factory Initiative, Planting for Food and Jobs; One Village, One Dam and Inner City and Zongo Development transcend primary issues to do with SDG 8 (Decent Jobs), SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities) toaddress core climate issues both to deal with emission reduction and adaptation. As such, there exists enormous opportunity to augment funding for these laudable initiatives through available climate finance opportunities – especially the Green Climate Fund (GCF), that Ghana is even yet to benefit from. Mr. President, if you appreciate the integral nature of climate action in the SDGs, why will you then miss out on great opportunities to give the much-needed recognition to the climate issues and to impress on Developed Parties to honour their pledges towards the GCF?
Moreover, Mr. President, our baby (Free SHS) – SDG 4 - cannot thrive where there are persistent extreme heat, floods and droughts affecting agriculture and daily life. We cannot leave these issues to nature. It has little to do with nature (as your speech suggests). A lot of it is human influence on nature and we humans can do something about it. We need to act now!
Time is not on our sight – all research point to that. An Eminent Advocate on SDGs cannot afford to be missing out on great opportunities to give the needed recognition to the climate change problem and most importantly, the climate solutions. Let alone, be seen as using the prominent position of Co-Chair to undermine some SDGs due to some unknown reasons.
It is evident that climate change issues are not strongly advocated on the huge campaign platforms in African political landscape. It will however, not be helpful to maintain the same as President and Co-Chair of Eminent Advocates on SDGs. Enough advocacy on climate change is what is needed to get all onboard to act.
I honestly wish you the best and I am confident, you can be the next Kwame Nkrumah. God be with you and God bless our homeland Ghana.
The author is a Research Fellow with the Earth Systems Governance and a Climate Reality Leader concerned with solutions to climate crisis and climate compatible development.