The European Union (EU) and its member states are committed to supporting the conservation, sustainable management and use of natural resources, as well as the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems.
These include forests, oceans, coastal areas, river basins and other ecosystems for the provision of ecosystem services.
In line with international commitments, they have committed to tackling illegal logging and its associated trades - land and forest degradation, desertification, drought and biodiversity loss - and also promoting co-benefits from sustainable management, including enhancing climate resilience and adaptation.
They enhance the integration of sustainability in all cooperation sectors and raising the profile of environmental issues in dialogue with their partners.
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The union and its member states also support better governance and capacity building for sustainable management of natural resources, including the prevention of illegal exploitation of forests.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic at his office in Accra, the EU Ambassador to Ghana, Mr William Hanna, noted that Ghana was the first country in the world to sign a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Scheme.
Ambassador Hanna noted that a new online wood tracking system had been rolled out, enhancing the Forestry Commission’s capacity to enforce regulations and manage forests sustainably.
He expressed the hope that the government would push strongly for the attainment of the FLEGT licensing which will mark a significant milestone in Ghana’s progress towards her ability to issue legality licences to all timber exports.
The ambassador said Ghana would then become the second country in the world after Indonesia and the first in Africa to do this.
“These licences are expected to offer markets the assurance that the timber products they are buying from Ghana have been harvested from forests where all environmental obligations have been respected, social obligations to local communities have been met, health and safety standards in the mills have been enforced and all taxes and payments have been made.
The FLEGT Action Plan which was adopted by the EU in 2003 sought to address illegal logging and the social, economic and environmental harm it causes.
The plan included activities in the EU and tropical countries that exported timber and timber products to the EU; and the measures included a regulation that prohibited EU businesses from importing or trading in illegal timber.
He said the EU welcomed Ghana’s ratification of the Paris Agreement last year and was working with the country to meet its nationally determined contributions.
The ambassador recalled that recently, the EU drew attention to Ghana’s vulnerability to climate change and global warming and pointed out that wood fuels remained the primary energy source for millions of citizens and Ghana had one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.
Nana Akufo-Addo in Brussels
Ambassador Hanna said on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s first visit outside Africa as President of the country, he visited Belgium and Germany.
The EU ambassador said in Brussels, President Akufo-Addo attended the European Development Days where he gave a talk as co-chair of the advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ambassador Hanna said the President also witnessed the signing by the European leaders of a new “European Consensus” which sets out how the EU and its member states intend to meet the SDGs.
He noted that in the “European Consensus”, the EU and its member states maintained that they were committed to a life of dignity for all that reconciled economic prosperity and efficiency, peaceful societies, social inclusion and environmental responsibility.
Here in Ghana, the Ambassador said the EU, through its delegation and the embassies and member states, had been working to translate the words of the consensus.
EU diplomats, others in clean-up
He was happy to note that on July 15, the EU diplomats in<\p>Accra, in conjunction with a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) known as Hipster of Nature and with support from the Mayor of Accra,
Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, and the Minister of Environment, Prof. Frimpong Boateng, as well as the private sector and schoolchildren, took part in a massive operation to clean up the Korle-Na beach.
He said a total of 140 tonnes of refuse was removed from the beach, after the exercise which was designed to raise awareness of the dangers in throwing away plastic.
The ambassador explained that the European Consensus on Development frames the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in partnership with all developing countries, taking due account of the framework provided by the Lisbon Treaty. In addition, the Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy (the Global Strategy) provides an overall vision for a joined-up, credible and responsive engagement in the world.
He noted that the consensus was the cornerstone of the EU’s development policy, which is part of the overall EU response to the 2030 Agenda. The primary objective of the EU development policy, as laid down in Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty.
The implementation of the 2030 Agenda required comprehensive national sustainable development strategies that factor in the SDGs and their interlinkages, he noted, adding that national governments have the primary responsibility of implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Mr Hanna said political dialogue was an important way to advance development principles and also had a preventive dimension, aiming to ensure that EU values were upheld.
The EU and its member states, therefore, seek to integrate the respect of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality into their political dialogue, which will be a major platform for action, where a shared understanding will be promoted, progress will be regularly reviewed and appropriate supporting measures identified.
He said gender equality was at the core of the EU’s values and was enshrined in its legal and political framework. It is vital for achieving the SDGs and cuts across the whole 2030 Agenda.
In line with the principle of leaving no one behind, the EU and its member states will give special attention to those who are in disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised situations, including children, older persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples.
He observed that, “An estimated one billion people across the globe have a disability, of whom 80 per cent live in developing countries,” adding that the EU and its member states will take into account the specific needs of persons with disabilities in their development cooperation.
The ambassador said migration was a complex, global, long-lasting phenomenon requiring a carefully designed, balanced, evidence-based and sustainable policy response which should respect national competences.
Mr Hanna stressed that migration had become an even more pressing issue for both developing and developed countries, adding that in some situations, migrant populations were being denied human rights and access to health and education, and risked becoming victims of forced labour and human trafficking.
“Strengthened engagement will help to facilitate the safe, orderly, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies,” he assured.