World leaders zero in on climate change at int’l forum; Guyana shows interest in providing climate leadership

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By Vishani Ragobeer

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World leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York City have zeroed in on climate change, recognising that people across the world are being harshly affected by the effects of climate change.

At the opening of the General Debate of the 76th United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised the need for countries to meet the Paris Agreement.

This Agreement is an international treaty on climate change and it says that nations must reduce the number of harmful greenhouse gases produced and increase the usage of renewable energy such as solar, hydro and wind power.

Importantly, this agreement also says that nations must work towards keeping global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius, ideally at about 1.5 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, rising temperatures would contribute to global warming, which leads to other implications such as natural disasters, forced migration and health issues.

And, Guterres underscored- as he has before- that climate change is not some abstract concept. It is a real phenomenon that is affecting the lives and livelihoods of people globally.

“We see the warning signs in every continent and region: scorching temperatures, shocking biodiversity losses, polluted air, water and natural spaces,  and climate-related disasters at every turn,” the Secretary-General lamented.

Guyana, which is still recovering from the massive nationwide flooding earlier this year, has already shown an interest in providing climate leadership and championing the preservation of the environment.

The gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City (Photo: Office of the President/ September 21, 2021)

Rising sea levels, which contributed to the flooding, are a hazard associated with climate change and the United Nations says this places vulnerable countries, particularly those below sea level (like Guyana) at a greater risk for the loss of life, injury, other health impacts and damage to property, infrastructure and ecosystems.

Days before heading to the UN General Assembly, President Dr Irfaan Ali told the VI (Sixth) Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that Guyana is committed to providing strong leadership on issues such as climate change and food security. And central to the leadership Guyana expects to provide on climate change specifically is the promotion of Guyana’s expanded Low Carbon Development Strategy.

This strategy, conceptualised under the presidency of now Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, outlines an inclusive, low carbon, sustainable, clean, resilient path with increased economic opportunities and investments linked to greater social and infrastructural development for the benefit of all.

When it was initially conceptualised, the LCDS offered an avenue to protect Guyana’s forests while receiving financial resources for doing so. With the forests kept intact, instead of being cut down, Guyana was able to contribute to the global effort to mitigate global warming and climate change. President Ali, since taking office, has committed to expanding this LCDS to wider environmental services, water resources management, climate resilience, biodiversity, renewable energy, and the marine economy.

At the UN General Assembly, President Ali is expected to address Guyana’s climate ambitions even as it pursues oil and gas development.

Already, in August, Presidents Ali and Chandrikapersad Santokhi agreed to craft a joint strategy for environmental services and climate change as part of the two countries’ preparations for COP26 in Glasgow. COP 26 is the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

The two countries, which are continental neighbours, are both renowned for the preservation of their forests; both countries are also pursuing oil and gas development while trying to maintain their ecosystems.

Meanwhile, during the first day of the general debate, US President Joseph Biden announced that his administration would seek to double aid aimed at helping developing nations address climate change. This sum is pegged at about US $11.4 billion.

“The best part is, making these ambitious investments isn’t just good climate policy, it’s a chance for each of our countries to invest in ourselves and our own future,” President Biden said while addressing the world leaders.

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