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MPs approve Environment Protection Bill

Members of Parliament (MPs) have passed into law the Environmental Protection Bill 2023 which seeks to promote climate mitigation actions in the country and introduces a Pesticides Management Fund.

The legislation will re-enact the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control and Management Act of 2016, consolidating it with additional provisions for climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts in the country.

The bill mandates the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tackle issues, including illegal mining activity (galamsey) and air pollutants.

Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, moved for the bill’s second and third readings on behalf of the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie.

Background

The Environmental Protection Agency Act of 1994 (Act 490) was enacted 29 years ago to regulate environmental issues and to coordinate the actions of organizations concerned with practical and technical elements of the environment.

Prior to Act 490, the Environmental Protection Council Decree, 1974 (N.R.C.D. 239) created the EPA as the Environmental Protection Council. The Council advised the government on environmental issues but had no enforcement powers. With the passage of Act 490 in 1994, the Council became an Agency with regulatory powers.

Act 490 mandated the Agency to advise the Minister, coordinate, regulate, control, collaborate, educate, promote studies and research on the environment as well as investigate and promote effective planning in the management of the environment.

In exercising this mandate, the Agency has been confronted with several challenges, particularly in view of the fragmented environmental protection management provisions in other enactments across other sectors and the complex emerging environmental challenges, among others.

The government said it was difficult for the Agency to exercise general oversight over the environment.

Institutions such as the Forestry Commission, the Petroleum Commission, the Fisheries Commission, and the Ghana Maritime Authority, among others, have some environmental provisions in their enabling enactments and exercising oversight over these institutions is not clearly provided for in Act 490, the government said.

MPs also said the inadequate treatment of developing issues, including plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change; air quality, upstream petroleum, and illegal mining, among others of Act 490, makes enforcement extremely difficult.

This is despite the fact that the EPA has included these environmental challenges in its expanded area of activities, hence the need for a new bill to address this challenge.

The legislators said climate change, evidenced by the long-term changes in temperatures and shifts in weather patterns, is considered the most pressing issue facing humanity today.

This phenomenon, they argued, if not efficiently addressed, would, in the long run, completely alter the ecosystems that support human and animal life.

They identified human activities as the main drivers of climate change.

“Energy use, industry, transport, buildings and agriculture are the main causes for the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” they intimated.

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