Collective approach needed to tackle environmental threats – President tells regional leaders

…lauds ratification of LAC environmental treaty as milestone

President Dr Irfaan Ali has emphasised the importance of having a collective approach in the Latin America and Caribbean region in order to tackle environment threats and other issues imposed by climate change.
He was at the time addressing regional leaders during a virtual event on Thursday held to commemorate the entry into force of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean – known as the Escazú Agreement.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

President Ali said ratification of the Escazú Agreement is a significant milestone in the Latin America and Caribbean region, which coincides with Thursday’s observation of International Mother Earth Day.
Emphasising that the effects of climate change and the ravages of natural disasters are not confined to any one country, the Head of State underscored the need for regional leaders to work together to mitigate these existential threats.
“Natural disasters (are) threatening the very survival of small-island developing and low-lying coastal states. I therefore reiterate the need for us to act collectively for protection of our peoples and their environment. Our twin celebration of the entry into force of the Escazú Agreement on International Mother Earth Day should engender a greater sense of urgency to work collectively to safeguard our people and the planet,” Ali contended.
The Escazú Agreement, which is the only binding agreement derived from Rio+20 in 2012, was adopted in 2018 and entered into effect on Thursday, after a structural ratification process by 24 nations took place in January of this year.
The Latin America and the Caribbean environmental treaty, the first of its kind in the region, seeks to ensure that people have access to timely and reliable information, and can participate in an effective way in the decisions that affect their lives and their environments, as well as to access justice in environmental matters.
According to President Ali, these are critical elements in dealing with an environment affected by climate change.
“That access rights contribute to the strengthening of democracy, good governance and human rights. Re-enforcing democracy, transparency, accountability and effective, inclusive and responsive institutions and policies is crucial. Access to information and broad-based involvement in environmental decision making play a vital role in the sustainable development equation. The agreement’s provisions for judicial and administrative proceedings include remedy and redress. This, we believe, is necessary for the strengthening of, and the inclusive and transparent approach that we’re fostering on environmental matters,” he posited.
The President noted that Guyana became the first State to ratify the Escazú Agreement in April 2019. He added that the agreement is aligned with Guyana’s Constitution, which proclaims that everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to his or her wellbeing.
Moreover, President Ali outlined that the region must strive to protect the rights of environmental defenders, who continue to put their lives at risk to safeguard the environment. He said the protection of the environment is mainstream in Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which is premised on the REDD+ mechanism.
“In the ongoing implementation of this Strategy, we’re committed to continuous multi-stakeholder consultations undertaken in an institutionalized, systematic and transparent manner to ensure full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities through free, prior and informed consent.
“Further, we’re working towards the enhancement of transparency and access to extractive industry information as required under Guyana’s Extractive Industry and Transparency Initiative (EITI) obligations,” the Head of State said.
As such, Ali said, Guyana subscribes to the belief that public access to the information and citizens’ participation in environmental decision-making are vital elements of sound environmental stewardship.
Further, the Guyanese Leader outlined the importance of access to, and dissemination of, accurate information, referencing the massive misinformation and disinformation at the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the major lessons learned was the importance of making information widely available. A better post-COVID-19 recovery must be predicated on access to reliable information. This is crucial not only in relation to the pandemic, but also concerning threats to the environment,” he asserted.
On this note, President Ali encouraged other countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region to ratify the Escazú Agreement as a step towards guaranteeing a healthy environment for future generations through a full participatory process.
Along with President Ali, several others contributed to Thursday’s virtual discussions, including United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and Vice President of Costa Rica, Epsy Campbell. (G8)