The need for a more focused and concerted climate change action has been given an extra boost by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is according to Dr. Bob Offei Manteaw, a Research Fellow at the Center for Climate Changes and Sustainability Studies at the University of Ghana.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of the official launch of the National Climate Adaptation Planning Readiness Project in Accra, Dr Manteaw said the project was timely and important and stressed the need for a cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaborations.
He said the pandemic, currently ravaging havoc on countries and communities all over the world, had exposed the fragility of planetary health and the extent of human vulnerabilities.
“COVID-19 has not only exposed planetary fragilities; it has also given us a fair idea of the nature of the climate crisis and the imperative for focused responses”.
Dr Manteaw who is a Senior Foresight Analysist for Foresight Planners Africa, and a member of the National Steering Committee of the project pointed out that the COVID-19 exacerbates a number of climate change risks which work together to increase human vulnerability, as well as deepen conditions of poverty particularly in places like Ghana and other developing regions of the world.
“The impacts of COVID-19 on economic systems around the world have been far-reaching. Ghana is no exception as people, especially the poor and the venerable, are currently suffering from its evolving impacts, he added”.
He said there was an urgent need for the world and of course Ghana to build new economic systems that value nature as a central source of human wellbeing and environmental health in a Post-COVID-19 world.
The Climate Change Adaptation Knowledge Brokerage Specialist said governments in all countries and at all levels must take cues from the current pandemic to respond to the growing climate crisis accordingly.
He said there was certainly a correlation between the pandemic and climate change and that the source of COVID-19 as learnt was from human interactions with animals and nature, adding, "clearly biodiversity and ecosystems come in as both risk and vulnerability factors.”
“Such interactions, I mean human dependence on ecosystems, are normal and are going on here in Ghana and at great environmental cost. The reality is that not many people know and understand the complexity of such relationships. This is why committed climate action is critical and it is also the reason why the launch of the National Adaptation Planning project is timely”.
Dr Manteaw also emphasized the need for nature and ecosystems-based adaptation solutions to climate change.
He said: “We need to help people understand human-nature interactions and what that means to our individual and collective survivability”.
“Just as COVID-19 has forced us to be mindful of social risks, that is who and how we interact with, so should we be mindful of biophysical and socio-ecological risks. Safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is therefore a requisite to reducing future health risks and to create resilient communities”.
Dr Manteaw was emphatic about the fact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had animated the critical importance of intentionality and mindfulness among people at all levels and in all places.
He said: “Mindfulness is the new normal and should be applied not only in health emergencies such as the current pandemic, but also in the climate change fight which is also a silent emergency.
“While the current pandemic manifests as a health emergency, it could be more accurately framed as a planetary health emergency and in ways that capture the multiplicity of associated risks and impacts”.
The Research Fellow at the Center for Climate Change said the launch of the National Adaptation Planning project was timely, and would provide new opportunities and avenues to educate, create awareness and build individual, community and institutional capacity to provide the required leadership for climate action.”
"That this is what we do at the Climate Change Center at the University of Ghana. We train people,” he added.
Dr Manteaw said: “We build capacity through research, training and knowledge dissemination and as a researcher and practitioner, who has just been given opportunity to play a role in this project, my hope is to do all I can to help the project achieve its set objectives”.
He said the challenge now was for all stakeholders to get on board and that it was time to reflect on COVID-19 as an environmental emergency with significant implications for how we approach the climate change crisis going forward.