A forestry expert has said that Ghana is on track to mainstream the Forest Investment Programme (FIP) into her development activities. He, however, adds that there is need for consensus on Tree Tenure and Carbon Rights.
Ghana is developing a comprehensive Low Carbon Growth plan that will address Climate Change as part of national and sectoral development strategy.
"Who gets the carbon rights? We need a dialogue on it to come to consensus to build in our forest strategy. We've got to have a system that we can have some reliable baseline data, for instance, on deforestation rate," Mr. Musah Abu-Juam, Technical Director at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, stated at a workshop in Accra by Civic Response on the various forest initiatives in Ghana including the enhanced form of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and FIP.
Organizers said the meeting was necessary to update civil society organizations on the international discourses around REDD+ and give them chance to exchange views on FIP.
Under strategic climate funds, multilateral development banks are to mobilize new and additional financing for adaptation and mitigation programmes to address Climate Change that are country-led and designed to support sustainable development and poverty reduction.
Thus, the purpose of the FIP includes, among other issues, to support developing countries' REDD efforts, provide upfront financing for readiness reforms, contribute to multiple benefits such as biodiversity conservation and contribute to poverty reduction and rural livelihoods enhancements.
Some of the objectives involve initiating and facilitating steps towards transformational change in developing countries' forest related policies and practices. It also includes facilitating the leveraging of additional financial resources for REDD, through a possible United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) forest mechanism, leading to an effective and sustained reduction of deforestation and forest degradation, thereby enhancing the sustainable management of the forest.
The scope include institutional capacity, forest governance and information management, investment in forest mitigation measures including forest ecosystem services and investments outside the forest sector necessary to reduce the pressure on forests.
"Full effective and continuous participation of indigenous people and local communities in the design and implementation of FIP investment strategies is a priority."
"Operational principles, funding modalities and governance should be developed through broad, transparent consultation with indigenous people."
According to Mr. Abu-Juam, REDD plus readiness plan provides basis for Ghana's FIP and the process is led by African Development Bank towards preparation of government of Ghana investment strategy.
"By November Ghana should have the strategy or else we may have to start negotiations with other countries next year; so it is very important."
He outlined that Ghana's FIP principles include ownership and national strategies, contribution to sustainable development, measureable outcomes, early integrated and consistent learning efforts and cooperation with other actors and processes.
He noted that annual rate of deforestation and forest degradation in Ghana between 2000 and 2005 averaged 115,000 ha, representing approximately 2% of the forest cover annually with an estimated loss of 85% of the forest area in the last century.
Also, baseline estimates of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Ghana currently underway may reveal a declining capacity of forests as a carbon sink and the country may emerge as a net emitter of GHGs.
"What it means is that when the forest is too open you can't have better carbon."
Mr. Abu-Juam was however hopeful of Ghana's strengths for mainstreaming FIP investment. He said that favourable conditions exist in Ghana for sustainable forest management based on long history of forest management and new community forest management initiatives despite many challenges.
Again, he stated that Ghana recognizes that a properly planned and executed FIP pilot aimed at significantly reducing deforestation and forest degradation should address macro-economic, demographic, technological and governance-related drivers of deforestation.
"Such efforts should be augmented by plans to implement sustainable forest management, forest conservation, enhanced forest carbon stock and sustainable agroforestry systems, while protecting biodiversity and supporting rural livelihood."
On the country's preparedness, he recalled that Ghana's Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) was formulated through a multi-stakeholder consultation process and submitted to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) in 2009. This was approved in March 2010 by the participants committee of the FCPF.
He disclosed an amount of $3.6 million has been approved for early REDD+ activities over a four year period (2010-2013) and that although Ghana has institutional capacities and technical expertise to implement the R-PP, she would still need considerable capacity building and institutional strengthening to handle a FIP investment.
"The Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), a national inter-ministerial advisory body, provides integrated policy coordination regarding national environmental and natural resources issues. The Technical Coordinating Committee of NREG provides technical support on FIP, REDD+, VPA, NLBI, etc."
He emphasized that FIP is not about government, but all relevant stakeholders. Therefore with commitment to address challenges, Ghana's FIP process should be very successful.
In an overview of REDD+ finance mechanism options, Saeed Abdul- Razak explained there are three schools of thought on the type of mechanism to be employed, namely, fund system, carbon trading (offset) and hybrid approach.
He said that whereas proponents for hybrid system say that a fund system will start the implementation of REDD+, especially the readiness phase, then the market will kick in later on in the life of the implementation, UNFCCC discourses state decisions on the mechanism to finance REDD+ has not been decided.
"It is envisaged the fund system will include aid money for purpose, centralized system of public funds and to be managed by UNFCCC or a body set up by COP and not the financial institutions. Possible sources are system of taxes and levies such as financial transaction tax and climate debt according to the principle of polluter pays."
Promoters say it will allow for greater focus on actual drivers of deforestation and degradation (D&D) and improved forest governance and also can be applied to wider areas such as tenure reform or supporting communities affected by D&D.
Meanwhile, carbon experts argue that carbon markets exclude citizens of the South from their lands and futures without offering any appreciable progress towards a system of alternative energy.
According to them, carbon rights created as part of carbon offset constitute individual separate enforceable rights for the 99 year duration of this agreement, depending on the contract.
They say supporting offsets allows pollution to continue in the north and impoverish communities. Thus in the long run developed countries, national elites in developing countries and project developers / carbon brokers will be the winners.