Ghana’s parliament passed a law to levy carbon emissions as part of the country’s so-called effort to combat global warming or climate change. The levy, according to officials, is expected to disincentivise Ghanaians from using combustion engines and to facilitate a transition to energy-efficient cars such as EVs.

While on the surface it this may sound very good, considering the threats of climate change to humanity, a further interrogation of the country’s entire attitude to climate change will show that the whole exercise amounts to a race in reverse. I must admit that I have yet to read exactly which areas in Ghana’s economy the levy will be invested in, and so I’m not in the position to pass a propriety judgment on the levy.

Having said that, let me explain why I describe this levy as a race in reverse. Trees offer the most important buffer and sink for carbon. It is not for no reason that we say when the last tree dies, the last man dies. The carbon that humans emit from our daily activities is usually sequestered by the trees. As we know, forests are the lungs of the earth, in that, we get oxygen from them and they take carbon from us. Our forests, thus, are buffer zones – which when comprised, could stifle attempts to contain emissions. This is a basic science that every person at the policy level knows or ought to know.

So why are we watching our trees being cruelly hacked and forests degraded as a result of galamsey, with the official complicity of state actors? Nobody can convince any sane Ghanaian that galamsey is not being done with the full support of state powers. To this end, I need to remind the government that taxes or levies cannot serve the purpose that forests serve. Levies are not trees to provide the buffer and sinks we need to contain emissions.

Exactly what are those levies going into? To fight galamsey? To plant trees? To restore degraded forest reserves? To build climate-friendly infrastructure? As I said earlier, I’m not privy to the full facts surrounding the collection and usage of the levies. But, with our history of brazen misapplication/misappropriation of ring-fenced levies and funds, there is a real question of government making the right investments with the emission levies!

That said, it’s absolutely ridiculous to go for COP after COP, adopt international climate resolutions, and pretend to be fighting climate change to the cheers of the international world, but ignore the stark, gangrenous reality of galamsey. No amount of taxes or levies can stop emissions. Simply put, you cannot tax your way out of emissions. That will be a pipe dream, never to be realised. The biggest test of government’s commitment to the fight against climate change is the complete eradication of galamsey, and not the imposition of levies!

Destroying your forests while taxing emissions is an exercise in futility and a race in reverse. You will achieve nothing except the burden of Ghanaians!

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