Climate change: Vulnerable countries need adequate financing for their development – Pres. Ali

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By Vishani Ragobeer

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Small island developing states and low-lying coastal states like Guyana are among the countries most affected by the harmful effects of climate change and President Dr. Irfaan Ali says that these states need the necessary finance to aid their development.

Climate change has become a crucial and fundamental consideration in regional and international talks because all people are affected by the harmful effects. These harmful occurrences include natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes as well as health concerns.

And, on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, during the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) Leaders’ Summit on Wednesday, President Ali underscored the vulnerable position some countries are in.

“Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and low lying coastal states remain the most vulnerable group of countries due to their smallness, limited resources, exposure to external economic shocks, ecological fragility and their susceptibility to natural hazards,” the President said.

And, he later contended: “… insufficient attention is paid to their inherent vulnerabilities, in the support provided through international mechanisms.”

President Irfaan Ali and his team in NY

Guyana is not immune to the challenges of climate change. It was only this year that the country experienced massive nationwide flooding. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, countries have to grapple with annual hurricanes and the threat of a rising sea level.

Exacerbating the inherent vulnerabilities faced by these countries is the COVID-19 pandemic. This ongoing challenge, Dr. Ali said, forced countries to divert their already scarce resources towards curbing the pandemic fallout.

But, the President highlighted that financing is necessary to help these countries pursue sustainable development as they contend with their inherent vulnerabilities.  Dr. Ali also urged the larger countries and international bodies to facilitate access to concessional financing and increase financing for disaster risk reduction and reducing countries’ exposure to hazards and vulnerabilities to disasters.

“We believe that a coordinated and nuanced approach at the international level is necessary in considering forms of financing such as grants, based on a country’s vulnerabilities,” he underscored.

He also called on developed countries to honour their pledge of $100 billion annually; this sum, identified under the Paris Agreement, should be used to support developing countries cut their carbon emissions, minimise the impact of climate change and adapt their economies to deal with its impact.

CUTTING EMISSIONS

Importantly, too, Dr. Ali said that Guyana is urging that all countries work towards meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists have warned that if the 1.5 degrees limit is not met, the rising temperature would contribute to global warming, which leads to other implications such as natural disasters, forced migration and health issues.

For context, the Paris 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.

Of particular importance, the Head of State said, is the need for “big emitters” to limit the amount of gases they emit. Many of the larger countries and economies of the world have been criticised for not significantly reducing their emissions, much of which is produced by their factories and through their citizens’ consumption habits.

This Leaders’ summit was held on Wednesday at the margins of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Here, other countries including those in the Caribbean and the Pacific were represented by their leaders too.

Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, whose country faced Hurricane Elsa earlier this year, also underscored that key financial provisions should be made for these vulnerable countries as they grapple with the harmful effects of climate change.

L-R: President Dr Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley and Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (Photo: Office of the President/September 21, 2021)

But, she was stinging in her rebuke of the larger countries’ actions.

“It is unacceptable for our development partners to reduce or to pledge to reduce to net zero in 2050 but yet not take the necessary short term actions necessary to get us on to a 1.5-degree trajectory in the next five years.

“And, regrettably, we are not seeing any major changes on their part to accept that that 1.5 degrees to keep us alive is so critical,” the Prime Minister stated at the summit.

On Tuesday night, President Ali said that he engaged with Prime Minister Mottley at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly; the two have been coordinating efforts to bolster their advocacy around climate change.

Beyond the General Assembly, the Caribbean leaders are expected to join with other leaders in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the AOSIS to call for greater action on climate change- including enhanced financing- at COP26, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. This will be held in November in Glasgow.

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