Mr Muntaka Chasant, a researcher and climate change activist, has suggested to the government to consider instituting a national action plan to protect Ghana’s peatlands and mangrove ecosystems as a nature-based solution to climate change.
“It is important the government considers an action plan to protect peatlands, mangroves mitigate climate change,” he said
Mr Chasant who was speaker at the back of the just ended COP 27 held on from November 6 -18, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, repeated his appeal he made prior to the meeting, saying such a national action plan should address sustainable use and protection of peatlands and mangrove habitats for the longer term.
“With a sequestration capacity twice as much as the world’s forests, peatlands act as carbon sinks by capturing and storing atmospheric carbon for thousands of years.”
A peatland is an area of land consisting mainly of waterlogged soil layer made up of dead and decaying plant material. It acts as carbon store, habitat for wildlife and helps in water management.
“Degrading them risks releasing hundreds of years of stored greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, worsening the climate crisis,” he maintained.
At COP 27, governments and civil society groups were expected to take action towards achieving the world’s collective climate goals as agreed under the Paris Agreement and the Convention.
The United Nations Environmental Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature say peatlands are the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock.
Mr Chasant pointed tothe Ellembele and Jomoro districts as home to some of Ghana’s peat swamp forests, explaining that the swamps around those areas were under threat as there appeared to be lack of knowledge about their importance.
“Unprotected, the vast peat swamp forests around Nzema are under anthropogenic pressures. They are under threat from oil and gas activities and land-use change, including logging and drainage for agriculture,” he said.
According to the Climate Change activist, those practices shifted the carbon-rich forests from net carbon sinks to net carbon sources — meaning more carbon are leaving than being brought in.
Referring to mangrove deforestation, Mr Chasant drew the government’s attention to the degradation of mangrove habitats in the Ankobra River and Volta Delta through illegal mining (galamsey), making a case for an urgent national policy that would protect mangroves as well.
“Galamsey has not only polluted the Ankobra River, but has also deprived communities that rely on it for jobs and food of their livelihoods,” he said.
“Mangrove forests are key weapons in the fight against climate change but are under threat worldwide,” Mr Chasant said.
“With fisheries in decline, many people had resorted to cutting down mangrove trees to sell as firewood, he said, adding“It’s the same scenario in the Volta Delta, where mangrove logging is a major source of livelihood”.
“Many families lay claims to coastal mangrove habitats, appropriating these landscapes as personal properties, which has encouraged coastal deforestation”.
“But they are national resources by their geography.
A national Action Plan should address ownership claims to protect these critical habitats from degradation,” he added.
Mr Chasant called for the consideration of a wider national climate action policy by clearly identifying the role of forests in emission mitigations.
“Recent studies have identified tropical forests as net sources of carbon emissions. While climate change itself may have an impact on the carbon fluxes of both peatlands and mangrove habitats, direct human activities are seen as having a much greater role in accelerating release,” he said.
“We worsen global climate change by not protecting Ghana’s vast peatlands and mangrove habitats from direct human disturbances.
In addition to regulating climate the government owed it to future generations to protect those carbon storage powerhouses to serve as buffer to slow global warming,” he said.