On 14 September, the Climate Parliament hosted a virtual parliamentary roundtable with legislators from Ghana to discuss the potential of developing and passing a Climate Change Law in their country. We were joined by Rep. Sam Onuigbo, Chairperson of the Climate Parliament group in Nigeria, and Dr. Nkiruka Maduekwe, National Coordinator of the Climate Parliament in Nigeria, who were both influential in passing their countries’ Climate Change Law and gave invaluable advice to the Ghanaian MPs.
Sam Onuigbo introduced the session by explaining the thorough process he followed to get the Nigerian Climate Change Law passed. He encouraged the Ghanaian MPs to involve, as early as possible, all the stakeholders in a process of dialogue to make sure everyone understands the stakes and the urgency of acting against climate change. Rep. Onuigbo also advised the MPs to try and get wide support not only from their own chamber, but also from the other house of Parliament, as well as from their speakers, and to make sure the bill draft receives multi partisan support right from the start. He mentioned that the Nigerian MPs encountered resistance from agencies who were afraid that such a law would take away their prerogatives, and insisted on the importance of raising awareness to overcome bureaucratic blockages. In her opening remarks, Nkiruka Maduewke also emphasised the importance of working closely with civil society organisations. She acknowledged the role that Climate Parliament played convening a capacity-building workshop for these organisations and the staff of relevant agencies and ministries, to take them through the law and help them visualise how it can be implemented.
The Ghanaian MPs asked Sam Onuigbo for advice on the best way to introduce a Climate Bill in Parliament. While a law sponsored by government can help speed up the support behind it, the potential downside is that a bill drafted by the executive can also turn out to be too timid. As climate change is a cross-cutting issue involving several government departments, such as the Ministries of Transportation, Energy, Environment, Agriculture and others, power struggles can occur that water down the content of the law. Before involving the executive in the sponsoring of a climate bill, one must be sure it is ready to commit to a meaningful and impactful law. On the other hand, individual MPs can navigate the political ecosystem with greater ease, and aim for a more ambitious law. As Sam Onuigbo pointed out several times, the ideal option is for an individual MP to initiate a bill, and make sure it receives enough multi-partisan support in Parliament to then rally the executive. An interesting feature of the Nigerian law is that the chairperson of the Climate Change Council it establishes is the president of the country. As such, the president is able to define a clear vision of his country’s climate ambition, and has all the power to enforce it.
The group of Ghanaian MPs declared that they will organise an in-person meeting in October to find a way of getting official recognition from their Parliament and from their Speaker. Once approved, the group will identify all the climate change stakeholders in Ghana and engage with them on a potential Climate Bill. The Ghanaian MPs highlighted the importance of drafting a realistic law and avoiding the temptation of creating a superstructure too expensive for the State, which could not be effectively implemented due to limited resources. They expressed their gratitude to their Nigerian colleagues and their will to study closely the climate laws also passed in Kenya and Uganda, to make sure they do not replicate the pitfalls experienced by their African counterparts.