Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those already doing it”
For the past few weeks, we (Ghana Youth Environmental Movement) have been making noise about campaigning for a Price for Pollution in Ghana in 2013. We have been dead serious about it and very clear in details. As our theme for this year- ‘Our Year of Environmental Power Shift’ suggests, we believe that a price for pollution is the most ambitious and strategic campaign we can ever embark on in this country at this present time to shift power towards our future.
This article serves to explain in very simple terms, what a price for pollution campaign means, why the future of young people in Ghana depends on it and why every person reading this piece and all young people in this country must support it.
So what is a price for pollution?
What we are saying is that industries must pay for polluting the environment. A price could be in the form of tax prescribed by a government’s authority. We are making this a big moral issue. The argument is that if it is morally wrong to pollute the environment and/or wreck this planet, then it’s equally immoral to benefit from that pollution and wreckage without paying for it.
We know the groups that pollute – individual citizens, companies, industries, institutions, etc. We all pollute in this country and as such may feel guilty and defensive. However, as much as it is very fair to say that everyone pollute in this country, it is equally fair to also say that not everyone who pollute benefit from that pollution and use their riches and power to block progress towards clean and renewable energy. So our campaign is naming the villains – plastics, mining and oil companies – to avoid any misinterpretation of the basic principles that birthed it.
In addition, we believe that activating this topic of paying for pollution automatically activates the broader perspective of the issue at hand – liquid waste from industries, hospitals and faeces been dumped into the sea without treatment, illegal mining (galamsey), the massive air pollution by the burning of e-waste and the importation of these e-waste to flood this country. These are other aspects that the campaign would touch, but we can only start from where we have the strategic capacity to make our voice heard.
Why do we want a price for pollution in Ghana?
1.Plastics, mining, oil and other heavy polluting companies and industries currently do not pay for pollution and that is unethical.
They may compensate communities for destroying their habitats as part of their Social Corporate Responsibility, which might not even reach the real beneficiaries. Our argument is that this money should be centralized by an authority for such community rehabilitation and the progress of such projects be tracked to ensure maximum transparency and sustainability. Every oil pipeline is bound to spill and so it is only fair that even before oil companies drill a single barrel of oil, they pay a price on that barrel. We might not understand all the economic issues involved and that is why we are making this a moral issue and not an economic one.
2.It will provide more green jobs and create excitement around plastic waste collection
Every time a country decides to go green, that decision results in the creation of more jobs. There are 1,000s and millions of green jobs that exist in only recycling. In Columbia, plastics are being used to make chandeliers and in our own Ghana empty water bottles to build a couch. The fact is that government knows going green is good but their excuse to cover up the lack of political will has been the fact that there is no budget for that. And so we are saying that charge a price for pollution and use that money to set up the recycle plants in communities.
CHF International with partnership from the government ended its 3 years Youth Engagement in Service delivery (YES) project in 2012, which saw the construction of 4 ‘Buy back’ centers for the gathering and buying of pure water sachets to recycling companies for recycling. (http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2012/12/20/chf-international-ends-three-year-ghana-youth-project/)
The plants are situated in Avenor, Nima, Ga Mashie and Alajo. The project costs thousands of US dollars and currently provides employment for young people in those areas. What we are saying is that we don’t have to wait for CHF in order to create jobs and ensure good sanitation in our own country, let us do it ourselves!
3. In the short term, it would encourage investment in renewable energy and provide competition for fossil fuel corporations. In the long term it will divest fossil fuel companies and save our planet.
Renewable energy from sources like solar and wind tend to be expensive and as such they need subsidies to make them affordable to consumers. Our position is that the government should price pollution from these fossil fuel companies and use that to provide these subsidies and not taxes from ordinary Ghanaians. This will make it attractive for investment.
Africa’s largest solar power plant of 155MW is to be constructed in Ghana in 2015 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/04/africa-largest-solar-power-plant-ghana) by a British company called Blue Energy through a feed-in tariff that would be borne by our taxes. This is reported to increase our energy mix from renewable from 1% to 10%.
4. It will inspire fossil fuel companies and other industries to shift towards green energy and be careful about pollution.
Industries know what to do prevent or minimize pollution but they won’t do it. A price will make them think twice. Plastic manufacturers would make sure they have recycling plants constructed before they start production. Technology transfer has now ensured that fossil fuel companies can do what we call carbon capture and storage to cut their emissions. Once we strip their social license, they would be responsible!
5. It will decentralize waste management in Ghana as a community responsibility and initiative. This will empower households and communities to manage their waste effectively and improve upon sanitation.
One reason why waste management has become a failure in this country is that we have privatized it wrongly. Communities must be empowered with the capacity and logistics to handle their own waste. A price for pollution when executed strategically with transparency and accountability could reasonably build a recycling plant per community per year. This is not a dream, it is a possibility, and it can work. Communities would take care of their own space and it will provide more jobs.
Government should rather engage private waste management companies in very ambitious waste-energy technology. Sweden runs a wildly successful waste-to-energy program, generating 20 percent of the nation’s district heating and generating electricity for a quarter-million homes. But Swedes just aren’t producing enough garbage for the program and have found a unique solution: importing trash from neighboring Norway.
Norway pays Sweden to take its trash, Sweden gets the heat and electricity, and Sweden exports the burned debris back to Norway. Swedes aren’t producing enough garbage for their successful waste-to-energy program. (http://edition.myjoyonline.com/pages/science/201212/99153.php).
If Ghana decides to run an ambitious waste-to-energy program, within only 12months, all the waste we have in this country won’t be enough to sustain our plants and we would end up importing more waste to generate more power. This is reality, this is happening. If the government doesn’t have money to run such systems, what we are putting on the table is that a price for pollution can raise revenue to start something now.
How do we get there?
We will campaign and campaign till our voice is heard, till we are listened to. One of the alternatives that we are putting on the table is that there should be an authority to calculate, demand, enforce and run this price for pollution. There is a Ministry of Communication in addition to a National Communication Authority, why can’t we have such thinking for the environment.
We believe that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier” and above all the impossible is the un-attempted. “Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those already doing it” .
By: Campaigns Team, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement- GYEM