The President of Ghana HE John Dramani Mahama has been appointed together with the Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg as a Co-Chair of a group of sixteen influential global figures to support the UN in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The appointment, welcomed by many Ghanaians as a testimony of the country’s apparent commitment to sustainable development, was also received with utmost shock by environmental activists, considering that the sub-Sahara African country has advanced plans to build a coal-fired power plant.
The project named as the 2x350MW Supercritical Coal Fired-Power Plant would commence in August 2016 and see a future expansion to a 2000MW plant in four (4) years with between 1,800,000 and 2,050,000 tons of the dirty fuel being imported from South Africa per year. The project is estimated to cost $US1.5bn with partners from China based Shenzhen Energy Group.
The contradiction of the President’s new role and the country’s investment in a coal plant to be situated in Ekumfi Aboano, a village in the Central Region of Ghana with a population of 1,900 of which 55.9% are children (GSS, 2014), lies in the fact that Goals 7 and 13 of the SDGs call for Affordable & Clean Energy and Climate Action respectively.
This seems to present a conundrum to President Mahama in articulating his commitment to the SDGs without addressing his leadership over a project that doesn’t only pose severe environmental and public health risks to vulnerable people and communities but also usurps a global just transition from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. Indeed the Ghanaian leader was a vocal figure in supporting climate action at the Conference of Parties (COP21) held last December in Paris under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Earlier this week, the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) with its allies—Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC), Hipsters of Nature and Green African Youth Organization (GAYO-Ghana), among others called for Government to abandon plans to invest in coal power with an online petition because of the “devastating health, environmental and social impacts the plant will cause to communities housing it”. Activists also indicate that investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure such as coal shows a betrayal and lack of commitment and leadership towards fighting climate change.
Organizers from key youth-led environmental organizations are mobilizing for coordinated nationwide actions that would culminate in a mass anti-coal rally to reject coal in Ghana. Meanwhile, the Volta River Authority (VRA), Government’s lead institution in implementing the project with its Chinese partners Shenzhen Energy Group have made public a 120 page Scoping Report that sets out and validate the extent of the Environmental & Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the project and ascertain the significance of the impact of potential key areas.