Climate change efforts woefully inadequate, says Guyana president

CARIBBEAN NET NEWS

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA):  Addressing leaders at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Fourteenth Conference in Poland, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo warned that there is the risk that the passionate commitment exhibited by some, which has resulted in some progress being made towards a climate solution in recent years, can mask the fact that the efforts of the international community remain woefully inadequate to the task the world is facing.

The President on Thursday addressed the forum alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon as he stressed the need for urgent action to be taken by the leaders to avert an already looming climate catastrophe.

“I decided to come to this conference because I believe that we urgently need to change this situation. In reaching this decision, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. I was my country’s Minister of Finance when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, and I paid very little attention to it. I failed to see that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but one which cuts to the core of social and economic progress elsewhere,” he told the forum.

Jagdeo believes the issue therefore demands first order political commitment and indicated his intention to continue pressing the case that the new climate change agreement to come into effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires, must create meaningful incentives to address deforestation.

The Guyanese leader is also fearful that moves to address climate change are losing momentum as a result of the world economic crisis.

“There is a real danger that the current necessary action to stabilize the world’s economy will divert attention away from the even bigger crisis that climate change presents and unlike the economic crisis which originated in this case from a lack of transparency and a failure of regulation and which may be corrected by anti-cynical fiscal stimulus packages, climate change is not a phenomenon which will work its way through an economic cycle,” President Jagdeo emphasized.

The President further warned that lack of action will make things irreversibly worse, cause more human suffering and will be even more expensive to solve in the longer term, as he added that understanding what needs to be done is the easier part.

“We know that we need to agree a sufficiently ambitious global target, where global emissions are at least 50 percent less in 2050 than they were in 1990 and we know that this means creating market or other funding mechanisms that generate new capital flows of the order of many hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The harder part is building and sustaining the political context needed to make it possible for national leaders to achieve these goals,” he said.

Moving to United States President-elect Barack Obama’s strong commitment to deep cuts in carbon emissions, the Guyanese Leader stated that even as this is welcomed, the leaders need to remain vigilant and ensure that other countries do not back-pedal on their existing commitments.

“There is an understandable but ultimately damaging dialogue audible in many countries today where some politicians are saying that citizens cannot be expected to support action to combat climate change during an unprecedented economic crisis when they are losing their jobs and their cost of living is rising. The failure of nerve that this represents will drive away those that are starting to invest in climate solutions, and postpone progress for too long,” he emphasized.

Jagdeo opined that though some may baulk at the scale of financial resources required and that resources on this scale are unachievable, if there is political will to stimulate resource flows is there, money will be found. In this light, he compared this to the quickly raised $7 trillion to deal with the financial crisis.

“We have frequently heard the justification in countries across the world that banks and other financial institutions needed to be bailed out because they were ‘too big to fail’, well, the climate change challenge is far bigger still although this is perhaps not as immediately apparent, and the same logic must apply.”

He therefore, advised the leaders that to build public support for the tough action needed, they should break the false debate which suggests that countries can either act on climate change or progress their national development. President Jagdeo believes that both must be aligned

“For countries like mine, this means creating low deforestation economies where remuneration for forest carbon services under a properly REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is sufficient in scale to out-complete the other legitimate economic forces which drive deforestation,” he added.

The Guyanese Leader then used the opportunity to point out that the world economy values the commodities which can be sold by high deforestation economic activities while on the other hand does not value low deforestation economic development. Correcting this, he said, is the only way to reduce deforestation.

To support his point, the Head of State urged that:

Those negotiating around a REDD mechanism recognize that all forest countries share the same goal and that focus should continue to be placed on the ‘big picture’ instead of negotiators becoming obsessed with minute methodological and process issues. In this case he noted that all countries need to work together since if REDD mechanisms exclude any significant group of countries, REDD will fail.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which have advocated that forestry should not be part of a global deal as its inclusion will flood the carbon market, and enable Annex 1 countries to avoid taking the tough choices needed to reduce their emissions at the scale required should recognize that the overall global emission reduction commitments must be deep enough. If they are, it was noted that there will then be room in market mechanisms to effectively address deforestation, whilst at the same time ensure that badly needed capital flows go to some of the poorest countries in the world.

Others who have suggested that remuneration for carbon services should not flow to forest countries because there is a risk of corruption and mis-use of funds were asked by the President to take care that they do not jump to patronizing conclusions that all poor countries are corrupt.

“We must also mobilize our people to ensure that they are involved in determining how new carbon resources which flow to our countries might be invested-for example-in Guyana’s case, we expect that this will mean investment in health, education, clean energy and adaptation investment that will cost several times our GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Representatives from approximately 190 countries are taking part in the two-week conference in Poznan, Poland to discuss the way forward on climate change in light of the upcoming new deal on the issue which will need to be established following the expiration of the current Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile, during the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged developed rich countries to take the lead and offer financial resources and technological aid to developing countries and emerging economies. He warned that there may be backsliding by some of the countries in the fight against climate change with the financial crisis now facing the world.

Others who have been lobbying for serious action to be taken on the issue over the years, including former US Presidential candidate and Environmental advocate Al Gore also urged the leaders to take urgent action on the issue.

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