THE agreement by Guyana, Suriname and six other Amazonian nations to push for more protection and an end to deforestation and other destructive activities in the region is important for the benefit of humanity.
The Amazon is bordered by Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and this week’s two-day summit in Brazil saw the Heads of Government review the status of deforestation through illegal mining and logging activities that have affected the pristine region since the last summit in 2009.
With different national priorities conditioned by home-grown developments, the Amazon nations don’t all agree on what is to be done and where to begin, or whether mining, logging and oil exploration should continue, or even when to aim for a ‘zero deforestation’ target.
But the leaders also looked at issues like climate financing and shared experiences in approaches to new national challenges — like Guyana’s successful use of Carbon Credits to help finance rural development, especially in regions inhabited by indigenous people, including Amazon areas.
Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia featured heavily in Belem, but each faced similar and different challenges not easy to overcome.
Since President Lula Da Silva returned last January, there’s been 60% less deforestation than under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who supported deforestation and was backed by the logging, mining and cattle-rearing lobbies, while illegal activities were undertaken involving ‘narco-deforestation’ and ‘illicit agriculture’.
But with the conservatives still very influential in Brazil’s parliament, much more will be needed to reverse damage done in the four years preceding Lula’s return to the presidency.
Since President Gustavo Petro took office in Colombia after campaigning on pro-environment and anti-deforestation issues, deforestation has been reduced by over 30% in the last year and over 50,000 acres have already been saved.
But he also wishes Amazon nations stop all oil and gas exploration in the entire region, which obviously does not go down well with nations with new energy and mineral finds that can help them out of their economic mires.
In Bolivia, where half the country is forested, a 2019 forest-fire destroyed over four million acres; and reforestation will require decisions that not all will support, but which La Paz might consider necessary for national forestry revival and survival.
Some of the areas under threat are larger than entire nations and the governments agree on the need to stop forest degradation by increasing regulation and monitoring of logging and continuing to destroy illegal operations.
Inestimable amounts are needed to rescue the Amazon region and while the leaders discuss and debate approaches to work together on financing initiatives, indigenous communities are partnering with academics to promote global changes in environmental consciousness beyond the Amazon; and indigenous women in Bolivia are harnessing and sharing the healing powers of traditional herbal medicinal plants.
The Amazon also features in Guyana and Suriname’s diverse eco-tourism offerings, providing employment to indigenous people and communities and taking modern amenities like solar power to indigenous communities and providing more educational and other opportunities for equal advancement to people once derided for who they are.
At the wider CARICOM level, however, while the island chain (from Jamaica to Trinidad & Tobago) doesn’t share the Amazon, there’s no less need for equally-serious approaches to the climate change emergency facing the entire region, including Guyana and Suriname.
Of late, the world’s richest nations have made it clearer they have no intention of meeting their previous and recent climate financing promises, just like they did with promises to help developing countries fight COVID-19.
The richest countries also benefitted the most from the Russia-Ukraine grain deal brokered by Turkey, with most going to Europe and not enough to Africa and Asia.
Caribbean small-island developing states have forever been helpless victims of hurricanes, storms and tropical storms, weather-generated earthquakes and landslides, even volcano eruptions (in Montserrat and St. Vincent & The Grenadines), forced to restart and rebuild at great and unaffordable costs after annual hurricane devastation of crops, homes and communities, forcing increased development debt.
In this age of accelerated climate change, the Caribbean has had to upgrade its responses to current challenges, especially in the face of little or no help from those causing the climate damage universally, leaving the least contributors to continue being the worst victims.
Saint Lucia has Prime Ministerial responsibility for Climate Change and Environmental Matters in CARICOM and on Thursday, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre met with the President-designate of the 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28), Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, and other CARICOM Heads of Government, in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The meeting allowed leaders the opportunity to advance the region’s preparations and fine-tune CARICOM’s agenda for the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (CoP 28) in Dubai, UAE in November.
Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are the lowest carbon emitters in the world, but also the most vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change.
The world has less than seven years to meet its target of limiting carbon emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 and as Lead Head for Sustainable Development and Climate Change for the CARICOM, the Saint Lucia leader continues to advocate for improved access to Loss and Damage compensation and support for climate adaptation initiatives for SIDS.
Prime Minister Pierre’s working meetings with the President-designate took place on August 10 and it’s to be expected that the concerns of CARICOM member states will be tabled in Dubai — just like how Guyana, Suriname and the other seven Amazon nations laid theirs on the table in Brazil on August 8 and 9.
It’s hoped that fellow CARICOM leaders will pool and pull together — in advance and in Dubai — and that their messages to the hosts, in Barbados, will have made it clear the region has moved from expectations to actions in the continuing fight by The South to stay afloat in the turbulent waters stirred by The North.