Ghana’s accession to global environmental decision-making dates back to 1924, well before the country attained independence from British colonial rule in 1957. However, it was not until 1971 that the first Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) was ratified, with the objective of creating international offices to control contagious diseases found mostly in animals.
The transition from three fitful military regimes to a more stable constitutional democracy in 1992 has provided Ghana with the ‘fertile ground’ to participate in decision-making at international levels. For example, environmental decision-making at the country level took a positive turn in 1994 following the enactment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act (ACT 490) to replace the 1974 Environmental Protection Council (EPC) decree, which was but an advisory body with a limited role to make decisions on environmental matters. Unlike the EPC, the EPA was not only established to provide a broad range of environmental advice to decision-makers, but also to make decisions that affect the environment, see to their enforcement, and conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on activities that could negatively impact the environment.
The EPA was established in line with the 1992 Rio Declaration to which Ghana is a signatory, and its comprehensive action plan under the AGENDA 21 programme, which requires countries to cooperate to take action on environmental and development issues and to undertake EIA of all proposed environmental activities that are likely to affect the people and the environment.
Other agreements include the 2015 Paris climate change agreements (COP15), and the twenty-sixth (COP26) sessions of the conference of the parties to the Paris climate change agreement in Glasgow, to which Ghana submitted its updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the 2020 to 2030 period as part of the country’s pledge to undertake various environmental activities to address the impact of climate change on the
economy and its vulnerable citizens.
In addition to this, Ghana also signed on to several regional environmental agreements, including the revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the African Mining Vision (AMV), which seeks to provide a framework for sustainable mining to address potential social challenges such as the “poverty paradox” commonly associated with countries rich in natural resources, and the 2003 Revised Maputo Convention, which seeks to crystalise the continent’s response to global issues on the environment and to promote collaboration among states to address environmental concerns under the Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR).
The CBDR establishes a principle in international environmental law, that allows countries to take coordinated action to address environmental issues by leveraging on the experiences of other countries. On the bilateral level, Ghana also signed the 1999 Minamata Convention on Mercury to control the importation, sale, and use of mercury in gold mining.
Despite Ghana’s active participation in international environmental agreements, their implementation at the domestic level has remained ineffective over the years partly due to factors such as inadequate qualified personnel, bureaucratic and administrative procedures, lack of clarity relating to the role of the EPA, the non-binding nature of environmental agreements and institutional fragmentation.
The 1992 constitution of Ghana provides for a broad spectrum of legislation which guides different facets of domestic policymaking, including the environment. Under this law, the power to negotiate and sign treaties is the prerogative of the president. However, the power to ratify international treaties is the duty of parliament. As a result, any bill seeking to implement an international agreement must first originate from the president’s cabinet, which is then forwarded to parliament for ratification after which a copy is deposited at the embassy of the host country for further transmission to the depository under which the agreement falls. This process can take approximately six months, making it difficult for the prompt implementation of international environmental agreements at the country levels.
Source: Prince K. Bansah. University of Lincoln, England (MSc, MPhil/PhD Student).
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