COVID-19 “sharply underlines” link between health, sustainability – Minister Todd

-Dr Anthony tells G77 + China Summit lessons from COVID-19 can be used to fight climate change

As the world continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), it has been highlighted that the strategies used to tackle the pandemic can be looked at to pursue the global low-carbon development agenda.

G77 Chairman Minister Hugh Todd and officials from the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry at the virtual meeting on Thursday

This was recommended by Guyana’s ministers at a Group of 77+China ministerial and technical meeting held on Thursday. The meeting was hosted by Guyana, which currently holds the G77 chairmanship, under the theme ‘Maintaining a Low Carbon Development Path towards the 2030 Agenda in the Era of COVID-19’.
The G77 Group is the largest negotiating group of developing countries in the United Nations. The objectives of Thursday’s meeting were: to provide a space for awareness, partnership-building, knowledge-sharing and lesson-learning among the G-77 and China’s membership on climate action amidst the COVID-19 crisis, while recovering towards the 2030 Agenda; to reinforce the Group of 77 and China’s position on key issues in the Climate Change discussion, including climate finance and ecosystem-based approaches, while also contributing to maximising SDG co-benefits; and to produce a communique that highlights the main concerns and actions of the Group.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony

During his presentation, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd, who chaired the flagship event, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed itself on every facet of human life, and has taken a toll on the livelihoods of millions across the globe. He added that it also compounds the most critical of global challenges; that is, the existential and pervasive threat posed by climate change – the focus of the Group’s deliberations.
Minister Todd pointed out that they need to overcome this “menace” in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and rise to the promise of the Paris Agreement, especially since the world is “dangerously off course” on both counts.
He, however, noted that the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic equally illustrate the opportunities therein inherent.
“COVID-19, even as it threatens, it also teaches. The link between health and sustainability has been sharply underlined. And we are learning by force of necessity that much more can be delivered, even today, with a smaller carbon footprint,” the Minister stated.
Todd further outlined that the G77 and China bloc has significantly reduced the carbon footprint associated with its meetings during the course of the current year, as have the United Nations. Hence, he outlined that some of the best lessons in the fight against this pandemic might well be drawn from “within our Group”.
“It is therefore imperative that the lessons from COVID-19 that conduce to a low-carbon development pathway be fully documented, analysed, embraced, and implemented as and where applicable. It is Guyana’s hope, as Chair in this seminal year 2020, that the G77 and China will be able to contribute in thinking and action to a healthier and more sustainable world, keeping the existential threat posed by climate change at the centre of global attention. It is a threat that leaves no room for delayed actions or backsliding on commitments,” the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister asserted.
Meanwhile, also addressing the G77+China Summit on Thursday was Guyana’s Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony, who highlighted that the strong global leadership displayed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be emulated in the fight against climate change.
“We’ve had strong leadership coming out from global bodies, regional bodies and national Governments…We’ve also been able to mobilise unprecedented amount of resources so that we can respond to this pandemic. We’ve had various ways in which countries came together… Now, these lessons that we’ve learnt so far, we can be able to transfer some of these lessons to our fight for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
“Leadership is necessary, and we know we have had these long battles of trying to get conventions in place so that we can reduce the impact of climate change. And despite some setbacks, we have had persons who are leading in the right direction, and we need to import some of what we have just done with this COVID pandemic and bring it to the fight for climate change,” Dr Anthony underscored.
Among the lessons from the pandemic that can be applied to tackling climate change, the Health Minister outlined, is intensifying research and adapting the necessary findings.
“We…have been able to mobilise scientific talent, and we know that we can go faster with innovation and research, so that we can be able to mitigate some of the effects of climate change,” he said, adding that the fight against climate change must be infused with the same urgency adopted to combat COVID-19.
Guyana was elected Chair of the G77 Group in November 2019, and is holding this post for one year, commencing January 2020.
The Group of 77, which comprises 134 Member States and China, is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations. It provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests; enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the United Nations system, and promote South-South cooperation for development.