Guyana wants a new approach to deal with various global challenges

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President Dr. Irfaan Ali addressing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

UNITED NATIONS –Guyana Wednesday said a new approach is needed to guarantee food security, access to health care and quality education, and security from conflict and wars.

Addressing the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Dr. irfaan Ali said “we are living in a troubled world which has lost its balance.

“Indeed, our collective actions, as leaders today, will convey to the next generation that their aspirations, their future, and that of the planet are worth fighting for,” he said, noting that the international community is facing a series of interlocking challenges, ranging from a global pandemic, climate challenges, energy and food crises and inter-State conflicts.

Ali said as a consequence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, approximately 97 million more persons are living on less than US$1.90 per day, significantly increasing the global poverty rate and inequalities.

“The developing world lost revenues and income that were earmarked for the achievement of many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pushing us further away from our 2030 targets,” he told the UNGA, noting also that a UN Report in March 2022 spoke definitively to the unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and its impact on widening the economic impact between the rich and poor.

Ali said that the study found that low-income countries could have increased their gross domestic product (GDP) by US$16.7 billion in 2021 if they had a similar vaccination rate as high-income developed countries.

He said in order to deal with this inequality, Guyana is of the opinion that there must be an immediate re-examination of the financing gap and the debt portfolio of the developing countries to open fiscal space and create an opportunity for recovery, bridging the gap and attaining the SDG goals.

“Guyana welcomes the global initiatives around pandemic preparedness. It is imperative that we collectively discuss how to address any potential pandemics and health threats so that we are better equipped in the future to avoid the inequalities that exist.”

Ali, who has lead responsibility within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping for agriculture told the international community that the global food security problem has disproportionately affected the world.

“The prevalence of moderate and severe food insecurity trended upwards since 2014, with the estimated increase in 2020 equalling that of the previous five years combined,” he said, noting that in 2020, an estimated 2.37 billion of the world’s population were food insecure.

Ali said that the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that acute food insecurity would worsen in 20 hunger hotspots between June and September last year.

“Since the start of the pandemic, global food prices have surged by 65 per cent and are expected to remain high in the medium term, as a result of supply chain constraints, a hike in energy costs, higher shipping costs, climate issues and the war in Ukraine.”

Ali said that since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, global food prices increased sharply reaching an all-time high in February 2022 and that global food import bill’s trajectory is a whopping US$1.8 trillion this year

President Ali said that Guyana is on a path to reduce its food import bill and increase food security- through cultivation and investments in new technology and smart agriculture to position the country as a leading food producer in CARICOM providing incentives, capital, land and opportunities for youth and women to participate in the agriculture transformation.

“To this end, we have earmarked 35 per cent of all new agro business to be led by women and have increased youth participation in agriculture with the use of technology by more than 40 per cent,” he said.

Ali also used the opportunity to urge the international community to do more with regards climate change noting “we all recognise that there is climate crisis.

“We must go back to some of the decisions. For example, at COP26 We agreed – no more coal-fired power projects – what is the reality?  While policies and planning for climate change adaptation are expanding, according to The Adaptation Gap Report 2021:

“The Gathering Storm, financing and implementation are still far behind where they should be,” he said, adding that the analysis shows the costs of adaptation are most likely to be higher than the predicted range of US$140 to US$300 billion annually by 2030 and US$280 to US$500 billion annually by 2050 for developing nations.

Ali said in 2019, US$79.6 billion was allocated to developing nations for planning and carrying out mitigation and adaptation measures. But he said the gap between predicted adaptation costs and existing public adaptation finance flows is generally growing and ranges from five to 10 times.

“The paltry US$100 billion pledge and the failure to meet it, must be viewed in the context of the likely costs of climate action for mitigation, adaptation and addressing loss and damage. It is not enough,” Ali said, adding that the adoption of broad rules on carbon markets in Glasgow, has the potential to unlock critical resources for forest-rich countries.

He said while forested countries, like Guyana, can potentially earn billions of dollars accessible through the Voluntary Carbon Markets, the current approximate price is US$10 per tonne on the voluntary market.

He said a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had indicated that the price should be closer to US$70.00 per dollar per tonne.

“COP 27 must make progress in refining the rules for the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and make decisions that would increase the price of carbon traded in voluntary carbon markets.”

Ali said that the world is also faced with an energy crisis, noting that in 2019, almost 10 per cent of the world’s population did not have access to electricity.

“Electricity generated by fossil fuel increased by 178 per cent between 2000 and 2021. Electricity generated from coal increased by 173 per cent for the corresponding period between 2000 and 2021.”

Ali said that based on a recent Energy Outlook from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal-fired generation is expected to be a key energy component as a result of several factors including a drop in the share of natural gas and rising oil prices.

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