Ghana: Roadmap for resilient infrastructure in a changing climate



As a result of climate change, Ghana is expected to experience more acute climate hazards such as flooding, as well as more frequent and intense droughts. This has the potential to threaten the socio-economic development that has helped strongly position Ghana as a middle-income country. Climate-related extreme events have the potential to put years of progress toward growth and development targets at risk.

This has specific implications for advancing toward the development objectives integrated in Ghana’s national policies and frameworks, including its commitments under the Paris Agreement, and to making progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, social and economic outcomes on themes such as gender equality – a government priority and focus area within Ghana’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – may be hampered by climate impacts.

Adapting to the expected harmful impacts of climate change will be an essential part of Ghana’s progress towards the SDGs, Paris Agreement, and other national sustainable development objectives. This includes adaptation of key infrastructure sectors, which form the backbone of Ghana’s economy and society and play a central role in underpinning its future development. This study, developed under the leadership of Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), in collaboration with the Global Centre for Adaptation (GCA), the University of Oxford, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has quantified, for the first time, Ghana’s climate adaptation needs across the energy, water and transport sectors. Based on these needs, government stakeholders have identified a prioritised ‘roadmap’ of investments and policies and accompanying financing options to meet adaptation needs.

The study has been developed using state-ofthe-art methodology and tools made available by the project partners. This allowed for a novel geospatial assessment of 156 nationally significant built and natural infrastructure assets, 4 different hazard types, and 11 areas of the enabling environment, across the infrastructure lifecycle. Central to these methods and tools is a ‘systems’ approach to detailed infrastructure adaptation planning that builds on previous work undertaken by the government and various development partners, and addresses some of the limitations inherent within traditional approaches. The methodology adopted in this study includes: (i) quantifying infrastructure adaptation needs geospatially and at the asset scale; (ii) evaluating adaptation investment and policy options exhaustively within the built, natural and enabling environments; (iii) developing a roadmap of prioritised adaptation investment and policy options for meeting the quantified needs and contributing to national development priorities (the SDGs, NDCs and Gender impacts); and (iv) identifying potential sources of financing for the adaptation options identified.

Central to the study was a participatory stakeholder engagement process led by MESTI that included over 119 individuals, across 20 Ministries, agencies, and organisations. Participants in this process contributed to the evaluation of adaptation needs and prioritisation of adaptation options in the roadmap. This approach was chosen as a means of creating the necessarily broad “ownership” of climate adaptation solutions across the different parts of government responsible for infrastructure development and operation, which will help to ensure effective implementation of the various adaptation options.

Within Ghana’s energy sector, geospatial risk analysis reveals that the main climate risks to service delivery are exposure to drought and flooding that threatens major components of the generation and transmission system: the top five exposed power plants provide electricity to 16.3 million people (Akosombo, Sunon-Asogli, Bui, Kpong, Cenpower), while the top five exposed substations (Ga West, Hohoe, Ga South, Greater Accra, Sefwi Bibiani-Anhwiaso Bekwai) provide electricity transmission to 3.9 million people.

Many mostly rural parts of the country rely on the natural environment for household energy generation through wood fuel. However, increased droughts in these parts threaten future energy availability to over 242 thousand people in the top five exposed districts alone (Wa East, Banda, Sissala West, Lawra, Wa West), with disproportionately large impacts on women and girls who are often responsible for fuel collection. Key institutional gaps in the sector, identified through detailed analysis, include: a lack of integration of climate adaptation in national policy and planning instruments; a lack of climate risk assessment in sector planning, locking in climate risks due to long asset life; unsuitable design standards that are not relevant to the national context; and insufficient maintenance funding for retrofitting, rehabilitation, and expansion of existing power generation.

Within the water sector, the priority climate risks include drought and flooding exposure that affects major water assets such as dams, the five most exposed of which have a total capacity of approximately 4.8 billion cubic metres (Akosombo, Bui, Tono, Vea, Weija). In addition, parts of Ghana rely on the natural environment (rivers and other water resources) for water abstraction for household use, often in smaller, rural districts. However, an increase in droughts will reduce river runoff, affecting up to 1.3 million people across the country, with large impacts on women and girls who are often responsible for water collection.

Flooding also threatens dam infrastructure and communities downstream. Key institutional gaps that were identified in the sector include: a lack of coordinated integrated water resource management (IWRM), resulting in a reactive approach to hazard response; limited guidance on incorporating nature-based solutions (NbS) into the design process; and a lack of proactive asset management that leads to faster deterioration of assets.

Within the transport sector, the analysis revealed pronounced climate risks due to flooding and landslide exposure that affects roads, including major highways, with the potential to cause up to 3.9 billion USD in damages on a national scale in a likely 2050 flooding scenario – triple the estimated 1.3 billion USD Ghana invested in transport infrastructure in 2019. As a result of expected flood damage, many districts in the Eastern, Central and Western regions may see over 80 percent of their population effectively cut off from healthcare services, which especially affects women, who access healthcare more often than men. Key transport hubs such as airports and ports, which contribute to economic development and local and international mobility, are also at high risk from floods – over half a million passenger trips in the top three exposed airports (Tamale, Ho, Takoradi) and 1.7 million in the top five exposed inland river ports (Makange, Yeji, Dambai, Dodolkope, and Kete Krachi). Key institutional gaps that emerge from detailed assessment of the sector include: a lack of integrated planning that accounts for the impacts of climate change on road and rail construction; inadequate integration of climate risk into feasibility studies and designs; limited maintenance funding for roads and emergency repairs; and uncoordinated asset management that is not climate risk-informed.

In response to these climate risks, 35 adaptation options have been identified and prioritised based on their suitability for addressing the identified risks, the government’s prioritised needs, their ability to provide co-benefits that contribute to broader sustainable development objectives— including SDG targets, the NDCs and gender equality-related outcomes—and their economic, technical, political, and social feasibility.

The identification and prioritisation of adaptation options was accomplished through:

  1. Desk-based research to define a comprehensive list of potential infrastructure adaptation options in the built, natural, and enabling environments;

  2. Participatory stakeholder workshops with wide representation from across the Government of Ghana and its Ministries, agencies, utilities, and other organisations.

Based on the consultations with stakeholders, a final list of adaptation options was assembled, and project concept notes were developed for each one, which together form a resilient infrastructure roadmap to specifically address identified adaptation needs and build wider systemic resilience in Ghana. This includes 16 adaptation options that involve investment in the natural environment, 15 that involve investment in built infrastructure, and 13 that involve enabling environment components, with 9 solutions transcending these areas. Furthermore, 11 solutions are cross-sectoral or have application to more than one sector. The project concepts provide wide geographical representation across Ghana and include interventions in urban, rural, coastal, forest, and other environments.

In some instances, these options aim to capture Ghana’s natural resource potential and harness NbS to provide wider adaptation benefits, such as flood absorption and slope stability. A number of catchment-level solutions provide a means of protecting all assets in a region exposed to a certain hazard, with some solutions focused on adaptation in urban settings. The development of cross-sectoral technical and institutional capacity can help to create the enabling environment for strong and proactive adaptation action in the future.

Proposed options respond to specific gaps and vulnerabilities identified in the needs assessment part of this study, including:

• Protecting critical energy or water supply facilities and natural resources;

• Safeguarding critical transportation infrastructure that underpins the economy and provides access to essential services;

• Supporting districts particularly vulnerable to climate impacts; and

• Building institutional capacity that aligns with and complements existing government policies, plans, and initiatives.

The project concept notes developed for this roadmap communicate key information that is essential for engaging potential sources of finance. Roadmap financing options are defined, including where public and private sector resources can be mobilised, alongside finance from traditional sources. An assessment of Ghana’s financing landscape reveals that the Government of Ghana has access to 82 infrastructure-related funds, of which it has had existing relationships with 36 (44 percent) within the past 10 years. In total, 78 funds (95 percent) provide funding for projects in the built and natural environments, whereas 58 (71 percent) provide funding for enabling environment activities.

Lastly, 51 funds (62 percent) were identified as being able to provide project preparation financing – an important area to develop full bankable project proposals – necessary to engage private sector finance into climate adaptation in the country.

This study forms part of the Government of Ghana’s integrated approach to building systemic climate resilience, and ultimately aims to support and accelerate the mobilisation of finance for climate resilience in Ghana through engagement with financing partners after conclusion of the study. The project partners will continue to work together to identify means of implementation for the adaptation options identified in the roadmap.