Swiss Federal Councillor to visit Ghana

BY: Mary Mensah
Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga
Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga

The Former President of the Swiss Confederation and current Swiss Minister for Environment, Traffic, Energy and Communications, Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, yesterday started a working tour of Ghana and Senegal.

She arrived in Senegal yesterday and will stay until today, before visiting Ghana from tomorrow to Friday.

Top on her agenda, in both countries, will be climate protection. In Senegal, Sommaruga will sign a bilateral agreement on climate protection similar to the one already signed with Ghana in 2020.

The Switzerland Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Philipp Stalder, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said she would also take part in several bilateral meetings and a ministerial roundtable discussion in Ghana to examine joint initiatives to protect the climate and the environment. Both in Senegal and Ghana, she would visit several energy and environmental project sites.

Global pioneer

He said Switzerland was a global pioneer when it came to climate protection, setting a standard for international climate projects that respected both human rights and nature.

“In recent months, Switzerland has signed bilateral agreements with Ghana and Peru for carbon offsetting projects in these two countries and similar agreements are being prepared for other countries”, he said.

During her visit to Dakar, Federal Councillor Sommaruga and the Senegalese Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr Abdou Karim Sall, will sign the bilateral agreement on climate protection approved by the Federal Council on June 23.

Bilateral agreement

A similar bilateral agreement was signed in Ghana over six months ago. Discussions in this country will, therefore, focus mainly on measures to implement Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Ms Sommaruga will also attend a ministerial roundtable discussion to assess progress towards implementation. She will seek assurances that the private sector will be able to benefit from the carbon credits system laid out in the Swiss-Ghanaian bilateral agreement.

During her visit to Accra, Ms Sommaruga will also present SECO’s country strategy for Ghana, which is a SECO priority country for economic development cooperation. For the 2021-2024 period, Switzerland intends to allocate a total of 65 million Swiss Franc for economic development cooperation in Ghana.

Sustainable cultivation

In Ghana, she will also visit the Agbogbloshie electronic waste dump as well as a plantation and a factory specialised in the sustainable cultivation and production of cocoa. In Senegal, she will visit the largest wind farm in West Africa.

On February 28-29, 2020 Ghana’s head of state, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, visited Switzerland and in extending the invitation, the Federal Council acknowledged the extremely good and longstanding relations between Switzerland and Ghana.

Ghana’s President was received by Ms Simonetta Sommaruga who was by then the President of Switzerland.The main subjects addressed during official talks between the two leaders included peace and security policy, economic relations, and cooperation on environmental matters.

The official talks at the Bernerhof were attended on the Swiss side by President Sommaruga and Federal Councillors, Guy Parmelin and Ignazio Cassis. The Ghanaian delegation included Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey.

Strong commitment

The Federal Council delegation commended Ghana’s strong commitment to peace policy through the UN and the African Union (AU). Since 2006, Switzerland has supported the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) based in Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

Economic relations are largely driven by exports of gold and cocoa to Switzerland: Ghana is Switzerland’s largest supplier of cocoa beans, and the 10th largest country of origin in terms of gold.

The two delegations discussed ways in which social aspects and environmental standards could be given greater consideration in economic development and in the extraction of raw materials.

Federal Councillor Cassis and Ghanaian Foreign Minister Botchwey signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on environmental matters in the presence of President Sommaruga and President Akufo-Addo.

Paris Agreement

​Article six (6) of the Paris Agreement on carbon markets is an innovative voluntary instrument available to countries to mobilise finance and catalyse private sector investments for the implementation of nationally determined contributions.

The signing of the cooperation agreement does not only demonstrate the existing good relations between the two countries, but it also highlights the firm resolve of Ghana and Switzerland to take early action to mitigate climate change and contribute to the realisation of the desired global goal of two degrees temperature reduction as indicated by the Paris Agreement.

Within the cooperation between Ghana and Switzerland, the focus would be to increase renewable energy usage through the use of energy efficient cook stoves in homes and enhance waste management, among others.​