Caribbean, African countries bearing the brunt of increasingly intense climate-related events – President Ali to Caricom-Africa Summit

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…highlights inequality in global COVID-19 response

Addressing the opening of the inaugural Caricom-Africa Summit on Tuesday, Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali told the leaders that countries in the Caribbean and Africa are facing the brunt of the effects of climate change when they contribute so little to global pollution levels.

He noted that climate is a serious threat that is being exacerbated by developed countries while weakening developing countries like Guyana and other states in the Caribbean and Africa. This, he said, is leaving the developing nations to battle the effects of climate change.

“We have not been historically responsible, but we suffer the greatest and are least equipped to respond. Our countries are bearing the brunt of increasing and more intense climate-related events. We must, therefore, collectively, advocate for greater financial flows to help us adapt to the impacts of the climate emergency, including through the establishment of a global vulnerability fund.

“The largest polluters and developed countries, which have already achieved economic diversification by transferring much of the natural assets into commercial activities, carry a greater responsibility in this respect,” President Ali said.

President Dr Irfaan Ali addressing the opening of the inaugural Caricom-Africa Summit

Speaking directly to Guyana, the President said that the country removes more carbon dioxide than it emits and that is something not many nations can claim. He added that Guyana should therefore benefit economically from that service its forests are providing to the global ecosystem.

“Guyana’s development model is based on its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDs). The strategic outcome of the LCDs is to find a pathway to prosperity and development that is non-polluting. The LCDs aims to transform Guyana’s economy to better deliver socio-economic benefits to our people by following a low carbon path, while mainstreaming climate resilience, providing a model to the world of how low carbon, low deforestation, climate-resilient development can be possible and beneficial for forested countries,” he said.

Ali added that the COVID-19 pandemic has awakened the harsh reality of the differentiating treatment between the developed and developing world while reemphasizing that fundamentally, it is the developing world that suffers the most under the circumstances. He called on the newly formed collaboration to collectively address the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery, climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, food security, and costs of commodities and transportation.

“In relation to the pandemic, we must have a forceful message on issues relating to rescheduling of loans, debt financing, access to capital in our rebuilding efforts and evaluation of the global vaccination system along with its failure to respond to the most vulnerable in the world,” President Ali urged.

He highlighted the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has reawakened the countries’ vulnerability to food supply, the fragility of markets, and sensitivity to price changes resulting in his calling for the issues of food security, supply and availability to form part of the group’s actionable agenda.

“Our region suffered immensely from the fallout in the rising costs of commodities and transportation services during the pandemic. We must therefore address these issues through a common theme as we, the developing economies, will find it even more difficult to cope with and rebuild post COVID…achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as outlined in the 2030 agenda is severely threatened and we must all point this out to the global community,” he explained.

President Ali said that Guyana looks forward to sustained and strengthen relationships between the Caribbean and Africa and pledged his country’s support for the Caricom-Africa Summit.

Keyna hosted the virtual event under the theme ‘Unity Across Continents and Oceans: Opportunities for Deepening Integration’. His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, chaired the Summit.

Initially, the Summit was supposed to be held in 2020 but was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summit follows on the Declaration by the African Union of the Diaspora as the sixth region of Africa.

Participants at the event included Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community and the African Union, Chairs of CARICOM and the African Union Commission, and the Africa Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Secretaries-General of CARICOM and the Organisation of the African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), and the President of Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).