FACED with increasing levels of global carbon emissions, President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, has committed Guyana to a menu of measures aimed at conserving, protecting and sustainably managing the country’s forests, biodiversity and freshwater supplies while, at the same time, reducing carbon emissions by at least 70 per cent by 2030. This commitment compares favourably with many nations, especially the industrialised countries, which over the decades have fuelled their development mainly by way of fossil fuel and have consequently contributed to high levels of carbon emissions.
That commitment was made at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, attended by over one hundred world leaders and climate change scientists and experts. According to President Ali, the reduction in carbon emissions in Guyana will be achieved through a cleaner energy mix which includes solar, wind, hydropower and natural gas.
Guyana is already doing its part in addressing climate change and will continue to do so by way of preserving its pristine forests almost the size of England and Scotland combined and which stores 20 gigatons of carbon. It is now for the rich industrialised countries to honour commitments made to compensate countries such as Guyana for preserving their forests. At the 2009 Conference on Copenhagen, it was agreed that $US100 billion per year will be made available by 2020 but very little was actually delivered. Further, there is too much of bureaucracy in accessing agreed financing which must be corrected. On this note, President Ali expressed the view that dishonoured pledges are ‘a recipe for disaster’.
Guyana must be given credit for agreeing to not only end but to also reverse deforestation by 2030 which is a mere nine years from today. This is indeed a bold initiative but it is done in the best interest of humanity as a whole. This was well articulated by President Ali in his address to the COP26 when he said that ‘climate change affects us all, rich and poor, developed and developing states, but its effects are more severe on the poorest and most vulnerable’.
The industrialised powers can and must do more in the fight against climate change. They have both a moral and financial obligation to make resources available to curb carbon emission levels, having contributed in a disproportionate way in terms of global warming by way of high pollution levels in order to grow their economies to what it is today. And there is still no perceptible or measurable drop in carbon emission levels despite several commitments made over the past decades.
As a small country, Guyana has been very proactive in terms of climate mitigation measures as outlined in its Low Carbon Development Strategy, which is now being revised to take into account new and changing realities, especially in light of our new status as an emerging oil and gas economy. It is however, the management of our huge forests and the eco-systems that will be a defining characteristic in our contribution to climate change, which, along with other climate mitigating measures such as alternative energy sources, can make a difference.
The fact is that deforestation is a significant contributor to annual global emissions and it is therefore imperative that rules be finalised for carbon markets and REDD+ in order to properly value tropical forests and climate services. There is a growing market for carbon credits and Guyana is well positioned to benefit substantially from market share.
The COP26 has again provided the world with new opportunities to address climate change which must go beyond pledges and declarations by the major powers. This is the time for action, and as pointed out by President Ali, we are at a historic moment in our civilisation. History, he said, must not judge us as having only counted our losses; it must instead herald our efforts to confront one of our planet’s greatest threats, namely that of climate change.