Links between covid19, climate change

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Guyana President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali

GUYANA’s President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali believes the way the world responds to unexpected challenges like the covid19 pandemic has a connection to how it handles known challenges such as climate change.

Dr Ali made this observation when he addressed the opening of the virtual Caribbean Sustainable Energy Chamber 2022 on Monday.

Ali told participants the intertwined issues of climate change were not academic ones. These issues, he continued, are scientific, practical and affect people’s livelihoods, and strategies to deal with them must be implementable.

“As leaders, we have to think about these things too.”

Reminding participants of the promise made by nations attending the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland last November to achieve net-zero carbon emissions worldwide by 2050, Ali said, “We should not be asking ourselves whether we could achieve net zero by 2050, but whether we can afford not to.”

The global scientific community, he continued, has indicated life on Earth will become perilous “should the rise in global temperatures not be checked.” This makes the achievement of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 imperative for global survival.

“As all global leaders agree, this big question is, how can this be achieved?”

Ali said questions of available capital, technology and investment to develop new, sustainable energy sources must be answered long before 2050. Beyond pledges being made to tackle climate change, the other question is whether those commitments are being kept.

“These are questions that must be answered if we are to honestly determine our ability to achieve net zero by 2050.”

This target cannot be separated from food security, provision of good social services, economic growth and national prosperity.

“Are we ready to address developmental gaps, global inequalities and disparities?”

These and other factors determine countries’ abilities to achieve net-zero carbon emission. Ali said the readiness of the world to deal with the pandemic has important lessons about its readiness to deal with climate change.

The pandemic continues to be a test of global resolve “in the face of deaths and economic destruction.

“Here’s an example of the results so far: 62.1 per cent of the global population is now vaccinated with at least one dose.”

But, Ali went on, “Guess what? Only 9.5 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. The question is why?”

He told participants everyone knows the answer.

While countries must invest to protect their populations against covid19 and climate change, Ali said, “These must also survive and meet their immediate needs.”

He lamented, “This recent test of global resolve (with covid19) did not give much hope.”

Despite the grim realities of high death rates and the need for interdependence among nations to bring covid19 under control, Ali said the pandemic gave birth to vaccine diplomacy, disparity and inequality. On both covid19 and climate change, the world must answer some hard questions.

Ali asked, “Is our first resource (people) valued more, standing or dead? Should the former be the answer, on both issues, Ali asked, “Is the world willing to pay the value of keeping it alive?

Notwithstanding its recent discoveries of oil and gas, Ali said Guyana has committed to reducing its carbon emissions to 70 per cent by 2030. He also disclosed Guyana, Brazil and Suriname recently signed a memorandum of understanding for all three nations to explore opportunities in the development of sustainable energy initiatives between them.

Jamaica’s science minister Daryl Vaz said Jamaica is exploring solar and wind initiatives as it seeks to achieve a 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

UK COP26 envoy Dr John Murton said all Caribbean countries participating at COP26 played vital roles in the Glasgow Climate Pact that was signed at the end of the summit. He added it was Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley who set the tone for many discussions there.

But Murton said the pact is just words on a piece of paper at this time.

“As the ink dries, we must turn to delivery (on climate-change initiatives).”

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