The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has organised a roundtable to discuss the draft biodiversity guidelines that would guide individuals and organisations on how to preserve and conserve their ecosystems or environment.
Biodiversity is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable.
Participants including business community as well as those from both the private and government sectors are to discuss the guideline and make appropriate recommendations and inputs that would culminated into adoption of acceptable document that would help halt the loss of biodiversity in Ghana.
Ghana’s direct annual cost of environmental degradation has been estimated at 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with land degradation alone, estimated between a range of 2.9 and 6.3 per cents, Mrs Veronica Aidoo, Senior Legal Officer at the EPA announced on Tuesday.
She said land degradation alone, particularly, erosion, led to annual loss of 166 million dollars to Ghana in 2011.
Mr Ebenezer Appah Sanpong, Deputy Executive Director in charge of Technical, EPA, said the roundtable was therefore to draw attention to the overwhelming importance of biodiversity to the development of the country.
The private sector was also being provided the opportunity to embrace biodiversity conservation considerations as an integral way of doing business in a sustainable manner, while participants discuss ways in which the employment of offsets could help stem the rapid trend of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the country.
Mr Sanpong said though the biological resources constituted the bedrock of the human livelihood and wellbeing, Ghana’s development model has resulted in much more rapid loss of biodiversity and ecosystems services that are being regenerated.
He said while unsustainable cultivation practices, logging and surface mining has considerably reduced significant biodiversity areas, there remain about 2.4 million hectares of forest cover and 16 legally constituted wildlife reserves, covering about 5.35 of the total land area of the country.
He explained that the international biodiversity convention which Ghana has signed and ratified, also calls on parties to develop national strategies for conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources into national development strategies.
Hence, the EPA decided to partner institutions like the John Agyekum Kufuor (JAK) Foundation, and National Youth Conference on Biodiversity (NYCOB) to introduce the Advocacy for Biodiversity Offsetting in Ghana (ABOG) in 2015, providing new resourceful platform for broader stakeholder consultations and consensus building for actions to reduce biodiversity loss in Ghana.
“Through the biodiversity business offset scheme, we hope to evolve new approaches to promote sustainable business, enhance livelihood, while maintaining the needed balance between resource utilisation and conservation,” Mr Sanpong said.
Biodiversity offsetting is a system used predominantly by regulatory authorities and developers to fully compensate for biodiversity impacts associated with economic development, though the regulatory process. Offsets are part of a suite of environmental mitigation measures used in the management of environmental impacts.
Professor Baffour Agyemang-Duah, Chief Executive Officer of the JAK Foundation, said the global role of the Founder and Chairman of the Foundation, former President John Agyekum Kufuor as a UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, led the Foundation to notice the immense need for promoting biodiversity and its offsets in Ghana through regulatory bodies.
He said ABOG was therefore developed and funded by the Foundation and the BUSAC Fund with the aim of developing biodiversity offset guidelines for Ghana through stakeholder-consultative processes, using roundtable meetings and campaigns.
He commended the EPA, Forestry Commission and the Ghana National Biodiversity Committee (GNBC) for driving the processes of the ABOG and urged the private sector to become full and active partners in the process.
“We expect the private sector to direct their full actions towards critical concerns of biodiversity that need to be considered and addressed for the benefit of the nation and humanity at large,” Prof Agyemang-Duah said.