Climate change and forests workshop in West Africa
BirdLife’s regional office for West Africa, in collaboration with the Ghana Wildlife Society (BirdLife Partner), has organised a four-day workshop on climate change mitigation and forest biodiversity conservation for protected area managers from five West African countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana).
The workshop aimed to raise awareness of emerging conservation opportunities to mitigate climate change impacts, such as carbon finance (trading), Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG).
The workshop was organised under the framework of a project funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, which aims to sustain and secure capacity for biodiversity conservation in the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa. Extending from Guinea to Togo, this is one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots, with more than 15 endemic bird species.
“cutting down of forests is now contributing close to 20% of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere” —IPCC
But centuries of human activities has led to the loss of more than 70% of the overall forest cover. The remaining forest is highly fragmented, restricting habitats to isolated patches, and threatening the ecosystem’s unique flora and fauna. Without effective intervention, climate change impacts on the remaining forest will be catastrophic.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the cutting down of forests is now contributing close to 20% of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. Forest degradation also makes a significant contribution to emissions from forest ecosystems.
“REDD and carbon finance mechanisms to mitigate climate change are yet to yield any substantial fruits, especially in developing countries in Africa”, said Dr Ngeh Paulinus - BirdLife’s regional coordinator for West Africa. “This is partly due to a general lack of public awareness, limited expertise and technological know-how, hence the need for this workshop”.
He added that since most of the pilot projects, being business ventures, have been located in protected areas where risk is low, protected area managers are critical to the success of these initiatives. “Their understanding and mastery of these initiatives will significantly facilitate implementation and local community engagement and effective participation in the climate change battle.”
Over the four days, the participants shared information, knowledge and experiences, including the efforts of their governments to combat climate change, and the implementation of these initiatives in their respective countries. Emphasis was laid on the need for effective participation of local communities in these initiatives, good and transparent governance, and capacity building.
“… local community engagement and effective participation in the climate change battle” —Dr Ngeh Paulinus, BirdLife’s regional coordinator for West Africa
Participants agreed to create a clearing house mechanism to facilitate communication on these initiatives and other related biodiversity conservation issues in the Upper Guinea Forest.
The technical Director of Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, in a speech read on behalf of the Minister, Hon. Collins Dauda, stated that the cross-cutting impacts of climate change on all sectors of the economy and the population left the government with no choice but total commitment to the fight against climate change. The government of Ghana has secured funds from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and is now developing a REDD readiness plan, which outlines what activities could be undertaken within the National Strategy on REDD in Ghana.
Dr Ngeh emphasised the need for governments to create enabling conditions, through policy reforms, for the effective implementation of these initiatives. “Without the requisite capacity and technological know-how, resources secured for the implementation of these initiatives might eventually find their way back to the industrialised North, where they came from in the first place, through payment for expert services and procurement of necessary technology.”
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