A group picture of participants
An International Conference on the theme, “Climate Change and National Development: Harnessing Research for Sustainability” has been held by the University of Ghana’s ‘Building Capacity to meet the Climate change Challenge, B4C-Ghana Project. The Conference which took place from 24 – 25 June, 2015 at the auditorium of the Centre for African Wetlands was supported by the Open Society Foundation.
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Honourable Ms. Sherry Ayittey said it was vital for Ghana to take climate change seriously. She added that high energy consumption and green gas emissions were some of the unavoidable consequences of Ghana moving from a low income country to a middle income one, and indicated that the cost of the response to climate change remained a serious hindrance to the increasing growth and energy concerns of the country, evidenced by the impact of climate change on the national economy with clear signs that the coastal zone often succumbs to flooding disasters every year.
Honourable Ms. Sherry Ayittey, Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture delivering her address
She stated that most development issues can be traced to or have their intensities magnified by climate change and the related costs are a serious threat to the progress of Ghana. She cited the floods of June 2010 resulting in 24 deaths, with more than a 1,000 homes destroyed, millions of dollars in property losses, 5,000 people evacuated in Tema and the collapse of a bridge linking Ghana and Togo. She also added that the more recent floods of June 2015, were more costly in terms of loss of human lives, properties, displacements, damage to road networks and other infrastructure. She said support for traumatized people and restoring damages would cost the government millions of cedis which have not been budgeted for. Other negative effects, she said, was the severe impact on our food security, the creation of slums (poor rainfall pattern and desertification in the north causing the youth to move to urban areas), and the creation of vulnerability in our society. These according to her are areas which researchers could take up and advise government.
(From left, Hon. Minister Ms. Sherry Ayittey, Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture,Prof. John Gyapong and Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu)
Prof. John Gyapong, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and Development), who chaired the opening ceremony, said in his remarks that enough information had been gathered by researchers to impact policy and there was therefore the need to actively engage in policy formulation. He added that academics needed to continue to engage in research but must also communicate their research outputs and engage with policy makers for implementation.
He stated that capacity building was the future of the University of Ghana and the conference theme was therefore very appropriate, as research capacity building was vital to meet the challenges of the times.
He mentioned that Climate Change is a major research platform of the university and the university is willing and pleased to support this process. He stressed the need for academics to acquire the necessary skill sets to mobilize social and political action for promulgating research. This he said would require advocacy and the engagement with policy makers, engagement with the media and for researchers to share ideas even among themselves, if they want to make an impact on public policy.
Prof Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, Chair of the Conference Organizing Committee, who gave a short overview of the B4C Project, noted that the Project’s main goal is to develop the University of Ghana as a centre of excellence in global environmental change, with capabilities to contribute effectively to Ghana’s ability to adapt to climate change
She added that the B4C Project had Three Work Packages namely: Strengthening Teaching and Training in Climate Change Adaptation, Enhancing Climate Change Adaptation Research Capacity and lastly, Outreach and Policy Advocacy.
She said that some of the key outcomes of the project included the development and implementation of the University of Ghana Master’s degree programme on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, the emergence of a critical mass of researchers working on climate change issues in four B4C themes and facilitating the establishment of the Ghana climate change and adaptation network (Ghana-CAN).
Participants at the Conference
In all, 27 researched papers were presented over the 2 day period of the Conference. A Poster competition was also organized at the end of which of Ms. Louisa Kabobah, a Climate Change and Sustainable Development student at the University of Ghana was adjudged the best poster presenter. She was awarded a prize of US$500.00 to assist her to convert her poster into a scientific publication.
Ms. Louisa Kabobah, (Student, Climate Change and Sustainable Development) who was adjudged the best poster presenter is pictured here explaining a point to a participant
The Conference ended with a Media Event which saw Researchers, Policy Makers, some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), students and the general public interacting with selected Media Houses on how to close the scientific information gap. The Media was challenged to come out with innovative ways through which they would work together with researchers to effectively disseminate important research findings.
This year’s conference, implemented by a consortium of three organisations, the University of Ghana, the Centre for African Wetlands and the Ghana Wildlife Society is the first of what is to become an annual event, focusing each year on a specific global environmental issue of high relevance to African nations. The sub-theme of the 2015 conference, “Harnessing Research for Sustainability” was selected to showcase results of the research studies carried out under the B4C Project over the past four years, but also to bring together researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders to deliberate on climate change issues across Africa and explore options for national development in the face of a changing climate.