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The role of energy and economic growth towards sustainable environment through carbon emissions mitigation


Promoting environmental sustainability to secure and protect the ecosystem has been a major concern to many nations and nongovernmental organizations. Energy is considered one of the main contributors to carbon emissions which destroys the quality of the environment. Therefore, the study uses Two-stage least squares to examine the effect of energy (renewable and fossil energy) and economic growth on carbon emissions in Ghana. To ensure the quality of our result, Robustness Least Square and Generalized Method of Moments are employed as a robustness check. The data for the study is from 1990 to 2018. The result of the study indicates that renewable energy and fossil fuel cause carbon emissions in Ghana within the years under review. Economic growth has no relevant effect on carbon emissions. To promote environmental sustainability in Ghana, measures should be put in place to encourage the use of cleaner energy. The government should establish cooperation with countries with high renewable technologies to benefit from their innovations to improve on their renewable energy consumption.


Environmental degradation is one of the most important global concerns created by rising carbon emissions, which can have a negative influence on people’s quality of life while posing a serious threat to the global climate system [1]. Natural and anthropogenic sources, such as the combustion of fossil fuels, production, poisonous gases, and other activities, all contribute to these emissions [2]. Land-use patterns, soil nutrient quality, aquatic ecosystems, and the gaseous composition of the atmosphere have all been affected by climate change [3]. Such disturbing data have sparked interest in environmental pollution research in recent years. As a result, many governments have made numerous initiatives to limit CO2 emissions. The 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [4], are two enormous efforts that promise a better environment and future for everyone by 2030. These ideas deal with human civilizations meeting current needs without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet their own [5]. Ban-Ki-Moon, the United Nations immediate past Secretary General said, "Development is not feasible without energy, and sustainable development is not conceivable without sustainable energy," [6]. Thus, it’s critical to invest in sustainable energy systems like renewable energy, emphasize energy-efficient practices, implement clean energy technology and infrastructure, and encourage the usage of alternative energy in public buildings [7].

Integrating clean energy sources through renewable energy production is one strategy to remove the threat of climate change. Between 2010 and 2020, it is estimated that CO2 emissions will be decreased by 0.4–0.9 billion tons as a result of the deployment of renewable energy sources [8]. In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, which advocated at least 80% penetration of renewable energy sources by 2050 to combat climate change’s ongoing negative effects [9].

Ghana, for example, has attempted to fulfill its pledge through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). As a result of increasing population, economic growth and globalization, Ghana has recently experienced major energy supply issues. Energy consumption has largely contributed to the country’s economic growth, with fossil fuel energy consumption previously dominating [10]. Ghana’s reliance on imported fossil fuels stretches back to the discovery of the Jubilee field in 2008, followed by the discovery of further fields. Through the WAGP [11], the country imports natural gas from Nigeria to generate electricity.

Furthermore, Debrah et al. [12] found that even if Ghana decides to use 80 percent of its existing natural gas reserves for electricity generation, a 1,200 MW combined cycle power plant with a heat rate of 7,800 BTU/kWh will only be enough to provide electricity for 25 years. So, in order to fulfill rising energy demand, the country’s generation capacity must be diversified [13]. Ghana, being a developing country with enormous development needs, must consume a lot of energy. Nevertheless, while total energy consumption (TEC) has increased over time, GDP and CO2 emissions have also increased in lockstep, according to studies (Ehrlich Paul & Holdren John, 1971; Y. Wang, Zhu, & Geng, 2013). Ghana, as a developing country, is endowed with abundant renewable energy resources therefore the need for steering energy use in the direction of these renewable energy resources [5, 14]. Moving towards encouraging renewable energy use in Ghana’s energy mix is intended to lessen Ghana’s over-reliance on increased pollutant emissions from fossil fuel use, and can be a creative alternative to Ghana’s energy solutions in a low-carbon economy [15].

Several studies have already been undertaken on the relationship between CO2 emissions and economic growth, utilizing econometric models to examine the impact of using renewable energy sources. To the best of our knowledge, none of these researches used the fossil fuel consumption rate as a primary element in an extended sampling period of more recent data in Ghana to separate energy into renewable and non-renewable energy. Therefore, the study adds to the already existing literature in three ways. Firstly, the study examines the possible role of renewable energy and economic growth in lowering carbon emissions in Ghana. Secondly, the study extends its data to a more recent data which makes the study peculiar to previous studies. The data for previous studies are not up to date due to data unavailability. However, this study is able to update the data to more current one. Lastly, since global warming has become a global problem studies on climate change are of high demand for policy implications. Therefore, the study would help enrich the already existing knowledge on renewable energy, economic growth, fossil fuel, and carbon emissions.

The quest to promote a sustainable environment is an environmental challenge that many other imported-energy-dependent countries are facing. They are constantly striving to improve sector—based energy production to produce more reliable and less costly energy while also reducing carbon emissions (Greenhouse gas) and promoting economic growth [16]. Several studies have been made on the nexus of renewable energy, fossil fuel (non-renewable energy), and economic growth in the pursuit of a sustainable environment with emphasis placed on carbon emission mitigations. For a better appreciation of the study, literature review has been conducted on energy and carbon emissions, and energy, economic growth, and carbon emissions.

Energy and carbon emissions

A study on China from 1960 to 2007 on carbon emissions, economic growth and energy consumption using Granger Causality indicated that, there is a unidirectional effect from energy consumption to carbon emissions in a long-term [17]. This indicates that, carbon emissions has no effect on energy consumption. Research on 12 Middle East and North African countries from 1981 to 2005 shows there is a long-run positive significant impact of energy consumption on carbon emissions using Bootstrap Panel Unit Root Test and Cointegration [18]. A study on China, Brazil, India and Indonesia on carbon emission, population growth, economic growth and energy consumption from 1970 to 2012 using Autoregressive Distributed Lag (ARDL) bound test, showed that, when there is an increase in energy consumption and income, it significantly causes increase in carbon emissions within all the countries [19]. In a study on Pakistan using the ARDL model to examine the relationship among renewable energy consumption, forest, agriculture production and carbon emissions from 1990 to 2004, the result indicates in a long-run, renewable energy and forest significantly affect carbon emissions negatively, which means an increase in forest areas and renewable energy consumption would help reduce carbon emissions in Pakistan [20]. A study on United States which examines the effect of energy consumption and output on carbon emissions using Granger Causality indicates that, energy consumption causes carbon emissions in the long-run while income does not cause carbon emissions [21]. A research on Indonesia produced a feedback effect for energy consumption and carbon emissions using data from 1975 to 2011 and Vector Error Correction Model (VECM) causality indicating that, energy consumption causes carbon emissions and carbon emissions causes energy consumption [22]. Research on 19 European countries examining causal relation among carbon dioxide, energy consumption and economic growth using ARDL bound test, indicates there is a positive long-run elasticity estimate of emissions to energy consumption at 1% significant in Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Portugal [23]. A research on 19 developed and developing countries examines the effect of energy, economic growth and carbon emissions from 1984 to 2007 and the result indicates in a long-run, there is a significant negative relationship between nuclear energy consumption and carbon emissions while there is a significant positive relationship among emissions and renewable energy consumption. In a short-run, nuclear energy consumption plays a very vital role in carbon emissions reduction but renewable energy consumption does not contribute to carbon reduction [24]. A research on China from 1965 to 2016 indicated in a long-run and short-run, natural gas and renewable energy beneficially affect the reduction of carbon emissions and over a period of time natural gas mitigation effect on carbon emissions would weaken, but the important function of renewable energy would progress [25]. Research on biomass consuming countries indicated biomass energy consumption helps to reduce the rate of carbon emissions [26]. In another study on China from 1993 to 2016 using Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) and econometric technique, the result indicated nuclear energy consumption and renewable energy consumption in both long-run and short-run help in mitigating carbon emissions while fossil fuel consumption promotes carbon emissions [27]. A study on BRICK indicated that, the 1% increase use of renewable energy and natural gas will decrease carbon emissions by 0.2601% and 0.1641% respectively meaning both natural gas and renewable energy consumption help mitigate carbon emissions [28]. Research on the 10 biggest electricity generators within Sub-Sahara Africa from 1980 to 2011 using panel estimation techniques indicated an increase in nonrenewable energy consumption strongly causes pollution but not the same for renewable energy consumption [29]. Again, a study on Pakistan from 1970 to 2012 gives evidence of renewable energy reduces carbon emissions and nonrenewable energy promotes carbon emissions [1].

Khan et al. [30] used the dynamic fixed effect and Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) estimators to investigate how renewable energy affects carbon emissions (CO2) in 176 countries, finding that renewable energy improves environmental quality. According to Mohsin et al. [31], the ongoing use of renewable energy will help to alleviate environmental damage caused by economic expansion in 25 Asian countries. Rehman et al. [32] studies show that solar energy and wind energy are grassroots variables in the reduction of CO2 mainly in two countries China and the USA and again, wind energy has a considerable effect on the reduction of CO2 emissions from results of the G-TOPSIS analysis and further suggest that reducing CO2 emissions would require a greater transition from nonrenewable to renewable resources.

Energy, carbon emission and economic growth

A study on economic growth, carbon emissions, energy consumption and population growth in Malaysia from the period 1970 to 1980 using the ARDL bounds test indicates per capita energy consumption and per Gross Domestic Product (GDP) positively impact per capita emissions in a long-run but population has no significant impact on carbon emissions [33]. Using Granger Causality to analyze energy consumption, economic growth and carbon emissions in China from the year 1960 to 2007, the result indicates there is no effect running from both carbon emissions and energy consumption to economic growth. The amount of carbon emissions and energy use do not cause economic growth [17]. A study on Indonesia from 1975 to 2011 using VECM Granger Causality indicates that, economic growth and energy consumption strongly cause carbon emissions but financial development and trade openness does not [22]. A panel data of 9 developed countries analyze the effect of energy, carbon emissions and economic growth from 1990 to 2013, the result indicates there is unidirectional causal relation from energy consumption to economic growth in a short-run, bidirectional causal relation among carbon emissions and capital, real GDP per capita in a long-run and exposes the influential factor of renewable energy in economic growth and unidirectional causal from GDP to carbon emissions [34]. The results of causality test by Magazzino [35] in determining the relationship among real GDP, CO2 emissions, and energy use in South Caucasus countries specifically Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan show that energy usage and CO2 emissions are both pressured by real GDP in Armenia, whiles in Azerbaijan there is bidirectional causality flow between GDP and energy use and Georgia real GDP and energy use influence carbon emissions and finally, there was no causality existing between GDP and energy use following the “conservation hypothesis”. Investigating the nexus between economic growth, carbon emissions and clean energy consumption in G7 countries using the bootstrap ARDL bounds test, the results show no cointegration among per capita, real GDP, carbon emissions and clean energy consumption for Canada, Italy, the USA, France and the UK but existed in Germany with real per GDP and carbon emissions been the dependent variable and in Japan with carbon emissions been dependent variable, unidirectional causal from clean energy consumption to real GDP per capita in Canada, Germany, and the USA, carbon emissions cause clean energy consumption in Germany, feedback causality among clean energy consumption and carbon emissions in Germany and unidirectional causal from clean energy consumption to carbon emissions for the USA [36]. A research on Brazil’s economy to assess the effect of carbon emissions, GDP, trade openness, renewable energy and hydro-power using Fully Modified Ordinary Least Squares (FMOLS) indicated that, renewable energy, hydro-power and GDP have a negative effect on carbon emissions and carbon emissions has a positive effect on economic growth [37]. According to a research on 170 countries from 1980 to 2011, there is a future influence of economic growth, energy consumption and urbanization on future carbon emissions [38]. Another study on Pakistan used the symmetric and asymmetric to assess the impact of carbon emissions, oil price and economic growth from 1971 to 2014, the symmetric result shows economic growth and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) intensify carbon emissions in both long-run and short-run but oil price increase carbon emissions in a short-run and a long-run reduces carbon emissions. Asymmetric result shows in a long-run an increase in oil price reduces carbon emissions and the decrease in oil price intensify carbon emissions [39]. A study on Malaysia from 1978 to 2016 on renewable energy, urbanization, economic development, carbon emissions and agricultural subsectors using ARDL test cointegration shows, economic growth and urbanization significantly increase carbon emissions but insignificantly increase livestock in a long-run and crops, fisheries and renewable significantly reduce carbon emissions within the period [40].A study on Kuwait from 1980 to 2013 using ARDL and VECM shows, economic growth, FDI and electricity consumption in the long-run and short-run stimulate carbon emissions and electricity consumption, economic growth and FDI strongly Granger cause carbon emissions [41]. Based on a study on 22 African countries grouped into oil exporters and non-oil exporters from 1990 to 2015, the result shows in a long-run and short-run there is a bilateral causal link among fossil fuel consumption and economic growth and fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions, in both the long-run and the short-run there is unilateral causality from carbon emissions to economic growth for non-oil exporters [42]. A research on Sub-Sahara Africa using ARDL from 1980 to 2014 indicates in both long-run and short-run energy intensity and GDP weakly and positively influence carbon emissions in Sub-Sahara Africa [43]. Another study on West Africa from 1980 to 2010 indicates a feedback relationship among GDP, biomass consumption and carbon emissions within five West African countries; Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, The Gambia and Togo [44]. A study using a bootstrap ARDL bound test finding the relationship among economic growth, energy consumption, and carbon emissions in the E7 countries revealed that there was no cointegration between economic growth, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions for China, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey but in Brazil there was cointegration only when CO2 emissions stand as the dependent variable whiles for Russia and India when energy consumption is the dependent variable. However, for all of the E7 countries with the exception of Indonesia, an existing short-run Granger causality was found from energy consumption to CO2 emissions and again from economic growth to CO2 emissions for the countries of India, Brazil Mexico, and China. It also reveals a short-run Granger causality from economic growth to energy consumption for India, Brazil, Indonesia, China, and Mexico, and from CO2 emissions to energy consumption for all E7 countries [45].

A study by Magazzino et al. [46] estimating a possible acceleration of Brazil’s GDP with more use of renewable energy consumption amidst COVID-19 with the ANNs model found that a greater amount of renewable energy could sustain the Brazilian economic growth process. Thus increasing consumption of renewable energies are driven by an acceleration of the GDP of the economy. In other studies deploying the LSTM model by Magazzino and Mele [47] to ascertain how an increase in renewable energies affects the economy of Brazil, the results show that renewable energy is more likely to stabilize economic growth in Brazil.

Methods and materials

The two-stage least squares (2SLS) and the Generalized Methods of Moment have been used in several studies to establish the effects of the independent variables on environmental sustainability. The study on 216 cities in China by Miao [48] employed 2SLS to analyze the effect. Omri [49] employed GMM to explain the relationship between economic growth, carbon emissions, and energy consumption in MEAN (Saudi Arabia). Therefore to analyze energy (renewable and fossil energy) and economic growth effect on carbon emissions, the study considered these two models and further emulates Justice et al. [50] and Tachega et al. [51] empirical model to examine the effects. The model would help to analyze the long-term effect of the independent variables on the dependent variable.

Therefore i = 1–29, t represents time (1990 to 2018), β0β3 represents the coefficients and ε represents the error term.


The data for the study was obtained from world development indicators (WDI) and it is from the year 1990 to 2018. The variables of the study are; Renewable energy consumption (measured as the total consumption without fossil fuel). Fossil fuel (measured as total consumption without renewable energy). Economic growth (measured as annual Ghana GDP growth), and Carbon emissions (measured as kiloton). The independent variables for the study are renewable energy (lnrc), fossil fuel (lnfc), and economic growth (lnec), and the dependent variable is carbon emissions (lnco2). The data presented in Table 1 shows the descriptive statistics of the variables. The table contains the mean value, median, maximum, minimum, and standard deviation of the variables. The descriptive statistics help to assess and understand the variables used for the study.


Table 2 shows the correlational relationship between the variables for the study. This would help to determine the degree of their correlation, either strong or weak and positive or negative. The results presented in the table indicate that, carbon emissions and renewable energy consumption has a very strong negative correlation. However, fossil fuel and economic growth have a positive correlation with carbon emissions. Renewable energy consumption has a negative correlation with fossil fuel and economic growth, and fossil fuel has a positive correlation with economic growth. The strongest negative correlation among the variables is renewable energy consumption and fossil fuel, and the strongest positive correlation is between carbon emissions and fossil fuel.

Table 3 shows the result of the dickey fuller unit root test. The variables are not to be stationary at levels and are to be stationary at the first difference. The result indicates that the variables are stationary and a cointegration test can be done.

The results from the Johansen cointegration test which has been presented in Table 4 indicate that there are at least two cointegration equations at five percent (5%) probability. This implies that the variables for the study are cointegrated.

Table 5 gives the details of the result of the study. The result indicates that renewable energy has a significant and positive effect on carbon emissions in Ghana. Ghana for the past three decades has tried to move away from fossil energy to renewable energy as means of mitigating carbon emissions to promote environmental continuity. However, since the transition requires investment and new technology, Ghana has still not achieved the best because Ghana has not been able to meet up with the necessary requirement for the transition. Although, there have been a lot of campaigns and support from non-governmental organizations growth is still at a very slow pace. The result supports the study of Adams and Nsiah [52] which indicated that renewable energy in the long-run causes carbon emissions. However, other studies provide empirical evidence to support the argument that renewable energy helps reduce carbon emissions [5355]. The difference in the result could be attributed to the geographical location, governance, and sometimes the economy.

The results further indicate that fossil fuel causes carbon emissions in Ghana. The main cause behind the transition to renewable energy is that fossil fuel does not promote environmental continuity [14]. The result of the study supports the argument that fossil fuel is positive and significant to carbon emissions. Ghana still depends on fossil fuel despite the efforts to move to cleaner energy. The whole economy was built around fossil fuel since it was and is the dominant energy in the country. Abokyi et al. [56] studies on Ghana indicated that the use of fossil fuel causes carbon emissions in Ghana. Other studies that support the result of the study [57] study on China and [58] study on 42 other developing countries.

The result further indicates that, although economic growth is positive, it is insignificant to cause carbon emissions. However, there are studies that argue that economic growth causes carbon emissions. Shahbaz et al. [22] and Begum et al. [33] study indicated that economic growth has a strong positive significant effect on carbon emissions. In the case of Ghana, economic growth is not strong enough to cause or reduce carbon emissions.

Robustness check

To ensure the firmness of the study results, Robust Least Squares and GMM are employed and the results have been presented in Tables 6 and 7 respectively. With regards to the signs and the percentage, the two robustness checks and the main model do not contradict. However, there are small changes in the magnitude of the variables that do not change the effect and direction of the variables.


The result of the study shows that, energy (renewable and fossil energy) causes carbon emissions in Ghana. The result is so because Ghana has not moved from fossil fuel to renewable energy. Although, there is increased use of solar and biomass, its effect is insignificant to cause the change since the growth is very low. Acaravci and Ozturk [23] study on 19 European countries indicated that in the long-run, energy causes carbon emissions. Soytas et al. [21] study on the US further indicated that, in the long-run energy positively and significantly affects carbon emissions. The situation affects the sustainability of the environment. Recently, due to the effect of fossil fuel on environmental sustainability, a lot of carbon technologies that could help countries to combine traditional and renewable energy are emerging. There has been a fight against the use of fossil fuel in recent times due to its impact on the environment. It is argued that fossil fuel worsens environmental degradation. Tiwari [59] indicated that fossil fuel use increases carbon emissions. These technologies are for the short run until renewable energy is fully matured to replace carbon emissions. Previous studies argued that green energy and its use help maintain environmental sustainability and contribute to economic development. As a result, the importance of renewable energy is its environmentally benevolent nature and is considered more sustainable for industrial, human, and environmental development [60].

The rise in renewable energy use reduces carbon emissions. Menyah and Wolde-Rufael [16] emphasized a unidirectional relationship running from nuclear energy (renewable energy) to carbon emissions. However, there are other studies that do not agree with the fact that renewable energy reduces carbon emissions [61, 62]. The reason is that, the adoption of renewable energy has its own challenges with installing and setting renewables and these challenges affect the use of renewable energy [24]. A study on G7 countries indicated that renewable energy worsens environmental degradation [63]. Therefore, the differences in results can be attributed to geographical locations.

In addition, one of the objectives of the study is to analyze the effect of economic growth on carbon emissions in Ghana. The effect of economic growth on environmental sustainability is insignificant. Therefore promoting environmental sustainability through carbon emissions mitigation is not Ghana’s priority quest for all-inclusive growth and development. In line with the findings, Howes et al. [64] indicated that despite the efforts made in Africa toward environmental sustainability through the implementation of environmental laws, the improvement is not felt in Africa in regard to economic issues. However, a study by Leitao [65] using GMM established a link between economic growth and carbon emissions.

Conclusion and policy implication

The effect of carbon emissions on the environment has caused many nations to switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy since fossil fuel is one of the main causes of carbon emissions. Renewable energy is considered the best substitute for fossil fuel since it is argued to have a negative effect on carbon emissions. However, there are other studies that argue that, renewable energy causes carbon emissions in the long run. Nevertheless, when renewable energy is used effectively, it reduces carbon emissions. Ghana as a growing economy demands more energy for its growth and it is important to examine the effect of these energies on the environment. The study uses Two-stage Least Squares to assess the effect of energy (renewable and fossil energy) and economic growth on carbon emissions. Renewable energy, fossil fuel, and economic growth are the independent variables, and carbon emissions is the dependent variable. The result shows that renewable energy and fossil fuel have a positive and significant effect on carbon emissions. The progress of the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is slow, and its impact is still not felt in Ghana. Economic growth has no significant impact on carbon emissions. Ghana’s economy has not grown enough to control carbon emissions in the country. The result of the study implies that renewable energy worsens environmental quality in Ghana. Although, renewable energy is considered to be the best replacement for fossil fuel due to its ability to mitigate carbon emissions. Nevertheless, the expansion or the use of renewable energy use in Ghana still needs to be developed to promote environmental quality. Fossil fuel has a positive significant effect on carbon emissions. Although, fossil fuel has been the pillar for economic growth in many developing countries for decades but its current effect on the environment has called for clean energy. This agenda has been supported by both governmental and non-governmental organizations since it is a global concern. Economic growth does not have a significant effect on carbon emissions. It is argued that in developing countries, economic growth at the initial stage causes environmental degradation and there is a turnover when there is an increase in income and environmentally friendly technologies are adopted. The situation is not the same for Ghana since its economic growth is insignificant to influence carbon emissions. The result of the study indicates that renewable energy causes carbon emissions in Ghana. The reason might be that, the people are not economically stable to facilitate the transition. Therefore, the government should support the local industries by giving subsidies on renewable technologies and reducing tariffs on renewable technologies importation. The government should further invest in these local industries by giving loans and other incentives to those who are willing to use cleaner energy. The people must be educated to understand the harm fossil fuel causes. This education will encourage them to accept renewable energy quickly. The government should further establish cooperation with countries with high renewable technologies to benefit from their innovations to improve their renewable energy consumption.

Further research could add variables like foreign direct investment and trade openness to their study. These variables could also be a control variable to determine the direction of carbon emissions in a country. The study fails to add these variables because of the objective of the study. Again further research should consider expanding the used data to current year. During the period of the study, the only available data for the study was to 2018.


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