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Climate change is critical foreign policy issue — Ayorkor Botchwey

BY: Kate Baaba Hudson
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway (with microphone) speaking at the Berlin Climate and Security Conference. On her right is Mr John Kerry and Maja Gopel (right), the moderator of the conference
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway (with microphone) speaking at the Berlin Climate and Security Conference. On her right is Mr John Kerry and Maja Gopel (right), the moderator of the conference

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, has stated that climate change is a critical foreign policy issue because its multifaceted impacts such as desertification, land degradation, deforestation, forced migration due to resource scarcity, among others, affect international peace and security.

She observed that foreign policy could enhance multilateralism and influence the inclination of nations to engage in international climate change efforts.

“Foreign policy enhances development cooperation and facilitates the provision of global assistance to those vulnerable to climate change, mostly in developing countries, to enable them to deal with the effects of climate change,” she noted.

She said “It is through foreign policy that progress had been made in developing global initiatives like the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Climate Change Agreement, to enable countries to fashion a common front to deal with climate change.”

Ms Botchway made these remarks in Berlin, Germany, where she was invited by her counterpart, the German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Heiko Maas, to participate in the Berlin Climate and Security Conference.

The foreign minister, who took part in a high-level panel discussion on Political Responses to the Threats Climate Change poses on International Peace, noted that foreign ministers could play a greater role in convincing the citizenry that ambitious action was an investment in peace and stability.

Awareness creation

An official who is part of the foreign minister’s delegation told the Daily Graphic that the minister stressed that this could be done through awareness creation about the negative impact of climate change on livelihoods, including deforestation, land degradation and drought, which affected crop yields and brought hardship to farmers.

Awareness creation will also enhance ownership on the part of the citizenry in addressing climate change issues, she added.

Ms Botchway supported the call for foreign ministers to use their influence in championing the climate change agenda by leading global coalitions on ambitious climate change mitigation initiatives, adding that lessons could be learnt from the Group of Friends on Climate Change and Security in developing such a coalition.

With regard to changes in international approach to addressing climate change, she indicated that there was the need to take a closer look at the non-binding nature of international frameworks in addressing climate change and strengthen compliance mechanisms.   

Prioritise climate change issues

She said it was important to prioritise climate change issues in national, regional and continental foreign policy engagements, adding that beyond the various initiatives to address climate change like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement on climate change, much more attention needed to be focused on enforcement of these protocols by states.

The foreign minister said it was also important for the United Nations Security Council to play a key role in addressing climate change by prioritising it on its agenda and taking action through resolutions to address the climate security nexus.

She observed that in the past, foreign ministries were passive about climate change issues, saying, however, that in recent times climate change and its related issues had been brought to the front burner by them in all major international fora.

“Foreign Ministries now place high priority on climate change in the formulation of their foreign policies and actively participate in negotiations on same,” she added.

Ms Botchway thanked the German government and partners for organising the ninth edition of the climate and security conference and mentioned that Ghana was pleased to be part of the event.

She said Ghana and Germany had had friendly and wide-ranging political relations which dated back to 1957 when the two countries established diplomatic relations.

Since 1957, she said, Germany had allocated over 1.5 billion euros for Sustainable Development in Ghana, adding that for instance, bilateral support for the country amounted to 141.1 million Euros from 2015 to 2017, while cooperation between Ghana and Germany was governed by a Technical and Economic Cooperation Agreement which was first signed in 1961 and reviewed in 1975.

Climate Diplomacy

The Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Mr Heiko Maas, spoke on Climate Diplomacy and Preventive Security, while the keynote address was delivered by a former United States Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry, on Climate and Security on the Foreign Policy Agenda.

The panel discussion on Political Responses to the Threats Climate Change poses for International Peace had the Secretary General of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), Maja Gopel, moderating.

The panellists included the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Mr Didier Reynders, while there were opening addresses by Prof. Johan Rockstrom and Prof. Ottmer Edenhofer, Directors of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).