Despite the myriad benefits of tackling air pollution and climate change together, developing and implementing a national plan that integrates them is an expensive and complicated process, particularly for a developing country. This work involves a complex analysis of all of country’s emissions to determine the most promising interventions and then intricate collaboration across government ministries to agree upon and eventually implement those measures. Support from the CCAC SNAP Initiative not only helps streamline a process that can easily become convoluted, it ensures that work on climate change and air pollution isn’t being duplicated across government ministries that aren’t communicating with each other.
One goal of the initiative is to increase awareness of the link between the two throughout national and local governments. As is common throughout the world, many Ghanaians thought of action on climate change as a future benefit for the globe, rather than one that could directly and quickly benefit Ghanaians.
“We were very much surprised by the extent to which, when these policies are implemented, the benefit that you can get locally for Ghana, that was a very interesting surprise for us,” said Daniel Benefor from Ghana’s Environment Protection Agency about knowledge gained through the CCAC SNAP Initiative.
Being able to translate these benefits into language that individual citizens understand is an important tool for government officials to build support from their constituencies for these kinds of policies.
“Emissions from the cookstoves will not immediately change the climate, that’s not going to happen today or tomorrow, [instead] it will contribute to long term climate change reductions,” said Dery of how everyday Ghanaians might think about one example of these measures. “But in terms of indoor pollution, people’s health will immediately change and that’s more convincing to an ordinary person on the street.”
Of course, it isn’t just cookstoves. Another issue that affects the lives of Ghanaians every day while also having a strong link to climate change is transportation. Over three decades, the urban population of the capital city of Accra has more than tripled, from 4 to 14 million people. As a result, the city’s traffic congestion is increasingly oppressive. In response, Ghana is focused on revitalizing its public transportation sector to draw cars off the road. However, the city’s current, outdated bus system is a major contributor to air pollution. In another example of the effects of this kind of integrated action, Ghana has decided to buy a new fleet of soot-free buses. While the initial replacements will be much-greener compressed natural gas buses, the next round of buses will be electric.
Another important goal of the SNAP Initiative is helping countries to coordinate between different government departments working on air quality and climate planning. It’s an aspect of the work that many involved found to have significant unanticipated benefits.
“The whole spectrum of the process requires us to use existing teams that are multisectoral, it means that you have to bring everybody who matters to the table and the value addition here is that everyone is part of the process from the outset: The Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, the National Development Planning Committee, the Ministry of Finance—these are all key stakeholders,” says Benefor. “It’s important to build consensus from the beginning.”
Integrating action on climate and clean air, it seems, can have ripple effects by helping to unite disparate government ministries under a single goal.