FoE-Ghana demands sustainable clean energy production. In support of the global Reclaim Power Day of Action, Friends of the Earth-Ghana held a press briefing and discussion on 9 October 2015. More than 20 participants from the media and CSOs joined us. Mr. George Ortsin, National Coordinator for the UNDP Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, opened the forum with a statement highlighting current issues in Ghana’s energy sector. He also outlined the climate change impacts already being felt in Ghana, which are having catastrophic consequences for Ghana’s subsistence farmers who are the backbone of the nation’s food security. These worrying impacts include increasingly severe and frequent floods and droughts resulting in declining crop yields by as much as 7 percent. Energy production, health and sanitation have also been negatively affected, while the serious flooding has caused the loss of many lives and homes.
FoE-Ghana’s Amos Nkpeebo outlined the demands of ‘Reclaim Power’, the civil society movement across the world that wants to:
- Ban new dirty energy projects
- End government subsidies and public handouts to dirty energy
- Divest from fossil fuel corporations
- Ensure universal access to energy
- Stop excessive energy consumption by corporations and global elites
- Swift and just transition to public and community renewable energy systems (read more here about Reclaim power).
The discussion that followed shows Ghana has a long way to go to fulfill these demands. Ghana continues to suffer frequent blackouts that have caused anger at the loss of jobs, businesses and livelihoods, as well as frustrations of no power in homes for hours at a time. Because of this, the government is keen to increase Ghana’s energy production capacities at great speed and – seemingly – with complete disregard for the external costs on people and the environment. Consequently we have deep concerns about the direction of Ghana government’s energy production choices. In a country with ample free resources of solar and wind power, it seems incredible that the Ghana government has chosen to agree investments for a US$1 billion gas-fired power plant in Ghana and, even more worryingly, a US$1.5 billion 2000MW coal fired power plant (though the estimated costs and capacity do change frequently). Besides coal being the dirtiest form of energy production known to humans, building coal fired power stations in Ghana seems particularly ludicrous when Ghana does not have even a single coal deposit. The power plant is likely to use around 2 million tons of coal a year, expected to be shipped from South Africa into a new coal port built especially for the purpose.
Besides this, coal is known to have significant negative impacts on human health, the air, water, soil and oceans, and also damages crops that are critical for Ghana’s food security. Air and water pollution from toxic substances resulting from burning coal cause serious damage to human health including respiratory, nervous system and heart damage as well as lung cancer. In South Africa in the area around Eskom’s coal-fired power stations, it’s estimated that 51% of all hospital admissions and deaths due to outdoor air pollution can be attributed to emissions from Eskom’s power stations. Even in the US where pollution regulations are much stronger, particulate pollution – emitted when coal is burned – contributes to an estimated 24,000 deaths every year. What will be the impact on Ghana’s population living around the proposed coal-fired power station?
If the environmental and human health impacts were fully accounted for when calculating the total costs of coal-fired power it would be far more expensive to produce than power from renewable sources. At the same time as Ghana plans to import coal, huge investments are being made in Ghana to grow plantation wood to export for biofuel pellet production to feed European power stations so that the EU can meet its goal of 20% energy from renewable sources by 2020.
We believe that, instead of building power stations to run on an imported and extremely damaging fuel source, the Ghana government should be showing concern for the health of its people and environment by encouraging investments in renewable indigenous natural resources, especially solar and wind power, and even very small-scale hydro-power where the capacity exists. Ghana is in a position to lead the way in sustainable energy production, but instead the government has decided to take a big step back into the past.
A recent development… It’s well known that big energy companies have been destroying the environment, oceans, biodiversity, our health and the air we breathe…all in the pursuit of profit. Yet they have determinedly and consistently denied any links between climate change and fossil fuel burning. But now one big oil company – Exxon Mobil – has been exposed: new research has proved that Exxon has known for decades about oil and climate change, yet it chose to cover up evidence and deny the links so its profits would be protected. Had their findings of almost 40 years been shared at that time, we would not be facing the crisis before us today. And that crisis is far more severe in southern countries that have had the least share in causing it. Instead of alerting us to the dangers that lay ahead, Exxon Mobil actually sought to benefit by purchasing oil leases in areas around the poles that they knew would soon become ice-free.
We need to stand together in global solidarity to fight the big dirty energy producers, to stop them building polluting energy projects, to show them the real clean and environmentally friendly alternatives, and to advocate for government to follow a path of sustainable decentralized energy production. In the long run it will be far less costly on consumer’s energy bills, on people’s health and on the environment. Join with FoE-Ghana to demand our government cleans up its act.
27 Oct 2015: President Anote Tong of the Republic of Kiribati and Pacific Island nations have called for a moratorium on all new coal mines and coal mine expansions, and they have just got support from 61 prominent Australians who are urging the French President “to put coal exports on the agenda at the 2015 Paris COP21 climate summit and to help the world’s governments negotiate a global moratorium on new coal mines and coal mine expansions”. When this moratorium is in place, it could be difficult for large coal fired power stations such as the one planned for Ghana to import enough coal to keep the power station running. FoE-Ghana and FoE-I warned it was not safe to rely on unpredictable supplies of gas from the West African Gas Pipeline, and our concerns have been borne out. Relying on coal imports could bring the same problem. Read more here about the demands for a moratorium on new coal mines and expansions.