PRESIDENT Dr. Irfaan Ali has said that unless the targets that were set at the Paris Agreement in 2015 are realised, the world can expect to experience future water disasters and further setbacks to the Sustainable Development Agenda.
The Head of State made this assertion during his virtual address at the plenary session of the 5th United Nations (UN) Special Thematic Session on Water and Disaster on Friday.
The President also reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to working with the UN and the international community to press for coordinated global attention and action to combat climate change.
“I commend the United Nations for organising this vital session, which I believe has an obligation to move the global community towards greater action in addressing climate change as a trigger for water-related disasters… Guyana, however, remains engaged in working along with the United Nations and the rest of the international community to press for concerted global attention and action to arrest climate change,” President Ali said. He drew reference to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change as the foremost extant threats to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying that the former has served to magnify the already existing problems within society, and in relations between states.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to challenges posed to the SDGs. In many small states, the pandemic has reduced the fiscal space needed to propel the SDGs,” President Ali said, adding:
“Not only have these states had to shoulder the burdens of unanticipated and excessive healthcare costs, but the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to economic contraction, and massive job losses. And as the recent experience of my country illustrates, water disasters compound the difficulties posed by states which are vulnerable to climate disasters.”
Those challenges notwithstanding, President Ali harked back to the stance he took during his address to a regional consultation organised by the Global Water Partnership in February of this year, where he said that the pandemic “should not divert attention from, or diminish the gravity of the threats” posed by other disasters such as hydro-hazards.
“Addressing the climate crisis is, therefore, integral to the post-COVID-19 recovery; it would amount to a misadventure on the part of the international community if, in its efforts to rebuild stronger and better after the pandemic, it neglects the potent threats posed by water disasters, or ignores the indisputable link between these hazards,” President Ali said, adding: “Indeed, it is vital that the international community recognises the impact of the pandemic on developing countries, and how these impacts can retard progress towards the SDGs.”
GUYANA’S LOW-CARBON PATHWAY
President Ali said that Guyana has committed itself, irreversibly, to a low-carbon path to development, in which mainstreaming the SDGs in national development while combatting climate change are fully compatible. The template, he pointed out, therefore exists for a post- COVID-19 recovery that promotes climate resilience, and commits to the SDGs.
He, however, noted that the pace of the necessary reforms to achieve these objectives will, especially for small-island developing and low-lying coastal states, be dependent on international cooperation and assistance. The President acknowledged that the Special Thematic Sessions on Water and Disaster have highlighted the gravity of the threats posed by hydro-hazards, and have reaffirmed the importance of addressing climate risks in realising the SDGs.
“The link between climate change and water disasters hardly needs restating; the awareness of the problems exists. What is now urgent is greater international resolve to commit resources to combat the climate crisis. It is now time for action; not debate,”
President Ali said.
In closing, he wished participants every success in their endeavours, and expressed the hope that the Special Thematic Session on Water and Disaster would result in greater efforts on the part of the international community to urgently accelerate support for the building of climate resilience.
The event was held under the theme, “Building Back Better towards a More Resilient and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World”, with Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Tajikistan, High-Level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP), and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) of Japan as co-hosts.
It focused on sharing experiences, and promoting actions to achieve a more sustainable, resilient and climate-adaptive post-COVID-19 world, based on the lessons learned from the pandemic. It also provided a tangible step towards accelerating the SDGs and other globally-agreed agendas, by providing useful lessons, innovative ideas, and common understandings.