WITH strong support of the ‘Earth Day 2017’ theme, “Environmental and Climate Literacy,” government has launched deeper into its campaign to raise the bar on climate change awareness, and will stand on its promises to the world to dedicate — additionally — two million hectares of its forest for conservation as it moves to transformation into a Green State.
President David Granger made this disclosure on Friday at the national Earth Day Programme hosted by the Department of Environment within the Ministry of the Presidency. Earth Day is celebrated universally today (April 22), but Guyana moved ahead yesterday with an open-air programme and tree- planting exercise at Parade Ground, even as President Granger among several other Guyanese pledged to “ensure that (their) actions and those of (their) family and friends will help to promote the sustainable use of Guyana’s natural resources, protect our flora and fauna; and prevent damage and degradation of the environment.
“Guyana emphasises the need to build greater awareness of the adverse effects of climate change, and its threats to planet earth. The territory which we have planned to place under conservation is not bad lands or desert. They contain a variety of ecosystems teaming with rich and unique biodiversity. They include our grasslands, our wetlands, our highlands and rainforests,” President Granger told the audience.
In April 2016, President Granger had signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the United Nations (UN) Convention, pledging an additional two million hectares of forest for purposes of conservation, for the benefit of all humanity in an effort to combat climate change. Additionally, Guyana has dedicated a day in October as ‘National Tree Day’, encouraging involvement of the entire country in creating a green state.
In sealing his commitment to the creation of a ‘Green State,’ President Granger presented a coin created specifically to proclaim further Guyana’s dedication. Several of the green and gold coin labelled “Cooperative Republic of Guyana – The Green State”, were presented to several international partner organisations, including the United Nations and FAO as a reminder.
According to President Granger, “The conservation and protection of these areas represent our continued commitment to mother earth. Guyana is on the pathway to becoming a green state and the coins which I just presented to our international partners represent our commitment to becoming a Green State.”
Guyana, in participating in ‘Earth Day’ observances, has been reminded that humanity has no other home but ‘earth and its ecosystems’ and as we work harmoniously with the earth, caring for it, then mother earth will care for us in return. Guyana shares a vital position, being at the centre of the Guianas Shield which is particularly filled with biological and ecological diversity and wealth.
“I’m convinced that in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the earth… Guyana is a small state playing a big role in protecting mother earth. Guyana, geographically, is at the centre of the Guiana shield, one of the world’s biologically and ecologically most diverse tracts of tropical rainforest.”
With the shield covering an area of 2.7 sq. kilometres — an area larger than Greenland – and containing 15% of the earth’s freshwater supply – Guyana is responsible for protecting natural resources which provide sustenance, succour, shelter and security for present and future generations, helping us survive, President Granger said.
“We feel that the Green State is an extension of our moral commitment to ensuring that mother earth is protected and preserved. The Green State will ensure the promotion of harmony between humanity and between humanity and the habitat of our rich fauna. Guyana contributes to ensuring that the shield’s rich flora and fauna that its abundant water supplies and diverse ecosystems remain intact for the benefit of all humanity, and of course present and future generations.”
“Guyana’s forestry store nature’s delicate balance,” President Granger told the gathering, and said the country’s forests which cover 85% of its lands provide essential environmental services.
“Guyana is a net carbon sink… Guyana’s intact forests also reduce land degradation, enhance soil nutrients and promote water retention. Guyana therefore is a protector of mother earth, because these vital environmental services are provided by our forests,” President Granger further said.
He pointed out that not only now has Guyana been a guardian of the earth through environmental conservation policies, but reminded that the country had since 1989 set apart perpetually 371,000 hectares of forest at the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation to be used as a model conservation and sustainable forest management.
The late President Desmond Hoyte at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Malaysia 28 years ago, through concern at the degradation of the environment and threats to present and future generations, had made the commitment.
Meanwhile, Director of Environment Ndibi Schwiers, said while the environment constantly changes and this generation is “undeniably living in challenging environmental times,” current issues which confront us should challenge us to find solutions, since the issues will not disappear automatically. She has lauded the encouraging participation of youths in greening the environment and challenged all stakeholders to become equally passionate.
“It is therefore our collective responsibilities to ensure that we address these issues seriously, prudently and with urgent attention…. young people are involved in movements that promote a healthy environment – from providing training and encouraging awareness and action to establishing environmentally friendly start-ups. I therefore challenge you as stakeholders to be active participants in all fora that are concerned with environmental protection and to be worthy advocates of environmental issues,”Schwiers told the gathering in her opening remarks.
She said the creation of a green state is a guaranteed platform for the generation of income with employment opportunities and activities also being provided through the process.
“We took a pledge today to be good stewards of the environment. We cannot end there … If Guyana is to truly become a green state it is imperative that you remain committed to the tenets of the pledge and also hold your families, friends, neighbours, even those you don’t talk to… hold them all accountable to the pledge,” the Director of Environment said.