Environmental sustainability is a prerequisite for economic growth and development. Concern for the environment is viewed by many as a rich-country luxury. It is not. Issues in natural and man-made environmental resources
like fresh water, clean air, forests, grasslands, marine resources, and agro-ecosystems provide sustenance and foundation for social and economic development.
According to the Ghana Country Environmental Assessment report prepared and published by the World Bank, the costs of environmental degradation have been estimated at 10 percent of GDP annually. The report stated that natural resources degradation, depleted soils, insufficient water, rapidly disappearing forests, and collapsed fisheries threaten the health of millions of people. This has resulted in rising intensity of storms, forest fires, droughts, flooding and heat waves.
Over the last century, Ghana’s total forest cover of 8.2 million hectares has reduced to about one million by the end of the last century, resulting in the country’s forest resources being considered as one of the highest degraded in the world. It is known that 2-3 percent of the country’s forest is lost every year, largely due to unsustainable farming practices, firewood, charcoal burning and as lumber. If this trend continues, there will be no forest in 30 years. The UN reported in 2004 that 40 percent of all carbon emissions in Ghana are due to deforestation, when the world’s average is 20 percent.
It is not enough to improve the quality of people's lives today; the country must ensure that short-term gains do not come at the expense of long-term benefits. In this sense, sustainable environmental management is an essential condition for long-term economic growth and lasting improvements in people's well-being.
Decisive and strong action is urgently to protect the environment; delay means greater risks and higher costs. The costs of taking action are modest relative to the costs of inaction. There is a huge potential income of carbon finance in conserving the forest. Avoided deforestation is better than re-afforestation. If deforestation is stopped, enormous benefits are obtained in a year, as against small drips of return if afforestation is undertaken. Unless emissions are curbed, climate change will bring high costs for human development, economies and the environment. The Institute shall partner with Ghana’s agencies to explore potentials in Clean Development Mechanism to provide private sector finance, technology transfer, and sustainable development.
To sustain economic growth in Ghana, there is an urgent need to preserve and enhance the ecological capital that enriches such growth. It is important that State agencies help protect the long-term productivity and resilience of natural resources and ecosystems on which people’s livelihoods depend.
The Institute will advocate on three broad areas where environment, quality of life, and development are strongly interlinked. It will promote better policy, regulatory, and institutional frameworks for sustainable environmental management; help improve safeguard systems and practices; and promote environmentally and socially sustainable private sector development. The private sector is becoming a major player in many areas previously controlled by the public sector.