The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with Advocacy for Biodiversity Offsetting Group (ABOG), have held a dissemination forum on a pilot testing of Biodiversity Offset Business Scheme (BOBS) developed for Ghana.
The goal of BOBS was to create a framework that would provide guidance for instituting a private sector led offsetting programme in Ghana and also to drive innovation in relation to earlier stages of the mitigation hierarchy, incentivize land owners and communities to protect species or habitat value for their lands and enhance the efficiency of the EIA.
The project was co-funded by the John A. Kufuor Foundation and the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC).
Mrs Jewel Kudjawu, an official of EPA presenting the report said Ghana had a rich stock of biological diversity within the three main bio-geographical zones which provides beneficial ecosystem services that maintain the life support services.
She said the ‘IPRES Global Assessment’ report showed that biodiversity was being lost in all ecosystems worldwide. Thus Ghana’s total forest cover was reported to have reduced from 32.7 per cent of total land area as at 1990 to 21.7 per cent in 2019.
She indicated that although some measures were introduced to reduce degradation including the Environmental Assessment Regulations (EAR), aggregate, pressure from human activities was resulting in the continues loss of biodiversity.
Mrs Kudjawu said the agency and ABOG, with support from the JAK Foundation and BUSAC then developed the “BOBS” which adopted a market based approach.
The BOBS was also to create a real time online portal which was used to facilitate biodiversity credits, trading and tracking through the life cycle, with actors including providers, undertakers, assessors, offset brokers and agents.
She said officials tested two sites, the Bui Power Enclave and the Songor Ramsar Site and Biosphere reserve within two ecological zones to validate its utility in calculating the loss and gain to biodiversity as a result of a development activity.
“At Bui, it observed that the vegetation on site was similar to what was reported in literature, most of the land scape was in a fairly good condition, there was minimal impact of the project on the water body which was also used for transportation to surrounding communities and nomadic activities were taking place within the area,” she said.
The pilot at Songor observed that most of mangrove stands were patchy with replacement going on in some areas, the bird population had reduced with smaller villages springing up in the area and water weeds had also colonized sections of the estuary.
There were lots of hospitality facilities and the only natural mangrove had been protected through an MOU between the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission and the family land owners.
Dr. Yaw Osei Owusu, Chairman of ABOG explained that biodiversity loss was a national menace which had received much public attention in recent times with numerous causes, interrelated and complex in nature just like the interventions that have been implemented to address these challenges.
He said unfortunately, some of these interventions have achieved limited and often disappointing results.
He said biodiversity offsetting was a system used predominantly by planning authorities to fully compensate for biodiversity impacts associated with development and were only appropriate for projects which have applied the mitigation hierarchy framework, a widely accepted approach for biodiversity conservation.
He said the impact of offset process on the economy is related to the measures undertaken for habitat expansion (creation) and habitat restoration, thus thee BOBS was a market based approach towards addressing the country’s biodiversity loss and provides for monetary returns for conserving biodiversity on private lands.
He urged the government to speed up the mainstreaming of the guidelines and the scheme into the national processes to allow economic activities to happen while assuring a no loss or a net benefit for biodiversity.
Professor Baffour Agyemang Duah, Chief Executive Office JAK Foundation said each creation had a role to play in the sustainability of the earth and as such guidelines must be provided to ensure that those who touch the earth do so by following the guidelines.
He commended the EPA and ABOG for the good job done and advised the public to desist from destroying the biodiversity of the country saying ‘in our haste to modernize we must not destroy the very things that sustain us’.