The issue of climate change has not only become topical globally but also a very essential cross-cutting subject in all socio-economic sectors of the economy including governance. The issue therefore needs to be addressed by national institutions including religious organisations in Ghana.
Although the government may be in the forefront of addressing the concerns of climate change in the country, Faith- Based Institutions need to complement the efforts of government by reaching out to a wider section of the population especially those at the grassroots, with the climate change message.
One of the over-riding reasons why religious organisations should engage in this process is that the subject of Climate Change is a technical one, steeply embedded in scientific theories, calculations and research findings. Given the illiteracy rate of citizens, these concepts could not be easily understood by ordinary people if the subject is not further reduced to their level of understanding, through simple but effective awareness- creating messages. For this purpose religious leaders and agents themselves need to be well educated and informed on the subject of climate change before they could be able to translate the basic tenets of climate change and its effects to congregations.
In this way, the message of climate mitigation and adaptation which is very dear to Africa in her effort to finding solutions, would be simplified and readily assimilated by local people, who are also major stakeholders in the solution process by virtue of some of their detrimental practices in the areas of bush burning, and other harmful agricultural practices.
Advocacy is one area in which religious organisations are known to be very strong and effective. Advocacy is therefore highly recommended as a strategy and a working tool in the arsenal of religious organisations which should be deployed in the communication of basic information on climate change to rural communities.
In Ghana, not much education or sensitisation has gone on at the basic units of the population on Climate Change. The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology in a case study titled:
"Ghana's Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment" noted the following key lessons learned and which should be addressed:
. That, Ghana's economy is highly dependent on climate sensitive sectors which have to be watched closely;
. That, there is a strong relationship between climate and poverty levels;
. That, data and relevant information for facilitating the appreciation of climate change is woefully inadequate;
. That, policy makers and businesses need to consider climate change as a priority for poverty reduction programmes
From this National Vulnerability Assessment Report, which also identified 'Capacity Building' as a core focal area, there is the need for faith -based organisations to launch a vigorous campaign on climate change through awareness creation and massive education of the majority of Ghanaians in order for them to appreciate the negative effects of climate change on the environment and the urgent need to address them.
It is therefore recommended that religious leaders and their institutions take a position on the National Climate Change discourse and lead a concerted effort in a massive advocacy campaign locally and internationally that would lead to:
. Compliance with emission reduction measures and quotas by the polluting countries adopted by international conventions and protocols;
. Play a watch dog role by ensuring that national adaptation and mitigation projects are budgeted for and duly executed;
. Ensure that adaptation and mitigation policies and appropriate regulatory and financing mechanisms are formulated by parliament and adequately implemented by the state;
.n Advocate for the inclusion of Civil Society and Faith-Based Institutions in the implementation and monitoring of national projects;
. Advocate for the financing of capacity building programmes for FBOS and CSO's.
. Collaborate with all the relevant state Institutions and Development Partners like MEST, CSIR, EPA, MOFA, UNDP, WORLD BANK, EU and the Universities to advance the cause of climate change mitigation.
Though the Copenhagen Accord was not universally accepted and therefore not recognised by CSO's in Africa, because it fell outside the UNFCCC negotiating machinery, some African countries including Ghana signed up to it. According to the Ghanaian experts on climate change, there are a lot of opportunities even under the Copenhagen Accord which Ghana as a nation could take advantage of. These include climate projects on adaptation and mitigation, REDD and many others for which funding is being made available. The challenge rather for Ghana, they lamented, is the apparent lack of human resource capacity to even attract and manage these projects successfully and efficiently.
Many FBO's in Ghana have development departments that cater for the socio-economic needs of citizens. It is therefore in their collective interest to take advantage of whatever opportunities inure to the government whether under the present Accord or any future legally binding agreement sealed under the UNFCCC to improve upon the living conditions of Ghanaians. Development partners would do a great deal of good if they partner and collaborate with Faith-based Institutions in the planning and implementation of climate change policies and programmes. That will send a good signal to government that all stakeholders are indeed needed for the effort at finding a lasting solution to national environmental issues.
In so doing, the FBOS will become fully engaged in the process nationally and use their structures on the ground to efficiently disseminate and communicate the issues of climate change to majority of the citizenry. By that, the modest gains that have been achieved under the Millennium Development Goals would not be reversed but rather consolidated.
It is worthwhile for now to go for what we have in hand as a nation under the circumstances and try to make the best out of it for our people. The FBOs will anytime and day support the legally binding agreement sealed under the UNFCCC which the developing world and her allies in the north stand for by supporting any future effort by governments and Civil Society in Africa in that direction.
The writer, Charles Agboklu is Coordinator, Religious Bodies Network on Climate Change [Relbonet], Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana.