I have heard comments from the Deputy Transportation Minister, Alhassan S. Tampuli, about plans to acquire electric buses for state transportation as a small step toward meeting SDG 7. In as much as this is a lead-by-example strategy for encouraging the use of electric vehicles in Ghana, I’m not sure if it will result in a CO2 reduction of more than 10% and I wonder if our energy capacity is sufficient to accommodate 40% of electric vehicles. We must examine the data on Ghana’s GHG profile and approach this issue holistically.
While researching Ghana’s emerging oil and gas industry with a focus on environmental challenges and management frameworks, I discovered that agriculture and/or forestry is the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions at 54.4% – mainly driven by changes in land use or forest land.
The energy sector is the second-largest contributor to GHG emissions with transportation and fuel combustion constituting 39% and 29% of its total emission respectively. Carbon dioxide constitutes 66% of GHGs emitted in Ghana, and Abokyi et al. (2019) attribute this mainly to activities of the petroleum industry.
The rapid industrialization of our economy highly depends on the operations of the petroleum industry, thus NOW is the opportune moment to discuss a clear legislative framework to control our country’s oil and gas activities, as well as a smart public transit system framework to reduce single-occupancy vehicles on the road.
According to studies, one public bus can replace 30 single-occupancy vehicles, hence improving ambient air quality by reducing traffic congestion and emissions. The approach to accelerating patronage of public transportation and implementing policies that aim to restrict or regulate the flow of private vehicles is one of the most effective strategies to cut emissions and save our environment.
Many cities have been able to cut CO2 emissions by up to 50% with this approach and so can we. This, in my opinion, is the approach we should take. The procurement of electric buses without an effective public transit system framework will be meaningless.
Furthermore, electric vehicles do not emit zero carbon. This is not only an unjustified path, a Ponzi scheme disguised as CO2 reduction to plunder the suffering coffers.
Moreover, it is only prudent that we place a greater emphasis on sustainable agricultural and land-use practices to reduce emissions from 54.4% to net zero.
If we want to achieve SDG 7, effective integration of renewable energy into our national grid (first) can be pursued to cater for increased capacities, policies and legislative instruments can be enforced to govern activities of the oil and gas and make renewables mandatory, land use planning, agricultural and other relevant sectors.
Funding can be provided to graduate research focused on GHG emission reduction within our country and, lastly, encourage and invest in the application of circular economy within our various industries.
As a sector minister, your goal should be to emphasize the importance of a public transportation system that encourages commuters to take the train or bus to work by providing effective and comfortable public transportation along important routes, hence, improving air quality, and lowering fuel consumption.
These environmental benefits also translate into health benefits, such as fewer cases of respiratory diseases, asthma, and cancer, which will save our hospitals nearly 42% in air-related treatment illnesses, and finally, how a great public transportation system leads to a city with a higher quality of life.
This should be your contribution to the National Energy Transition agenda first before thinking of procuring electric vehicles. If the aim is to achieve clean energy, we have to be holistic and critical about the measures we take.
The writer is Alhaji Fawan Issah Iddi, a Policy Analyst (Petroleum and Sustainable Energy Transition at Africa Institute for Renewable Energy Policy and Advocacy), Sustainable Energy Advocate and a Youth Activist. He is currently a PhD candidate at M.S. Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, India. Also, he is a Northern Regional NDC Youth Organizer Hopeful.