Guyana, CARICOM to engage VP Harris on new US/ Caribbean climate initiative


By Vishani Ragobeer in Los Angeles  

Guyana and other states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will engage Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, on a new US/ Caribbean Climate initiative that is expected to yield significant benefits for Caribbean countries, US President Joseph Biden has announced. 

The meeting between CARICOM leaders and the US Vice President is expected to occur on Thursday, during the ongoing IX Summit of the Americas hosted in Los Angeles, California. 

And Vice President Harris will lead this climate initiative on behalf of the US, President Biden said as he addressed the Summit’s inaugural ceremony on Wednesday night. 

President of Guyana Dr Irfaan Ali meets with President of the US Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the IX Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles (Photo: Office of the President/June 8, 2022)

“When I hear ‘climate’ I think jobs — good-paying, high-quality jobs that will help speed our transition to a green economy of the future and unleash sustainable growth,” President Biden stated. 

He noted that jobs could also be developed in deploying clean energy and decarbonising the economy – both efforts that are integral to mitigating the climate crisis. 

Rising sea levels, a phenomenon threatening Guyana’s low-lying coastline and numerous other Caribbean countries, are among the worsening impacts of the climate crisis. With much at stake for Caribbean people, including people’s lives and livelihoods, CARICOM leaders have been fervently advocating for interventions to slow climate change.

President Dr Irfaan Ali and other officials at the opening ceremony of the IX Summit of the Americas (Photo: Office of the President/June 8, 2022)

Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali is among the Caribbean leaders attending the summit. And he told the News Room that efforts to help the country grapple with the climate crisis are squarely on his agenda. 

Guyana, for years, has demonstrated environmental responsibility by prudently conserving its forests. The forests store about 19.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, a harmful gas which, if released into the atmosphere, would cause further harm to the environment. 

Even as the small South American country now pursues a prolific oil sector, Guyana aims to show the world that it can be a low-carbon, oil producer. 

“… there has to be strategies and policies that incentivise [the conservation of forests] and that is why we are saying that the standing forests must derive the financial and economic benefits that come with it,” President Ali said during an exclusive interview with the News Room on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas on Wednesday.

President of the USA Joe Biden addressing the opening ceremony of the IX Summit of the Americas (Photo: June 8, 2022)

Guyana is pushing for payments to keep its forests intact. In doing so, it wants to market carbon credits, a kind of  tradeable permit or certificate that represents the removal of a certain amount of carbon dioxide from the environment. Trees remove that gas. 

As it did before with Norway, Guyana wants to market these credits to countries or companies. And President Ali wants a fair price to be given to Guyana, more so since the country needs extra funds to protect itself from climate change. 

With sea levels projected to rise by some 25 inches this century, he explained that Guyana’s maintenance costs to protect against that threat stands at some US $1.6 billion.

Presidents Ali and Biden join numerous other Heads of Government from the CARICOM and other countries in the western hemisphere for talks on creating a resilient, sustainable future for the region.

Biden also outlined that a new economic partnership and a new plan to tackle migration are among other expected initiatives at the Summit. 

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