Water disasters compound challenges faced by countries vulnerable to climate change – President Ali tells UN

…says meeting Paris Agreement targets critical to prevent future water disasters

Drawing from Guyana’s current flood crisis, President Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday underscored the difficulties water disasters pose to countries that are vulnerable to climate disasters and the importance of ensuring global efforts to combat climate change are not neglected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

He was at the time virtually addressing the plenary session of the 5th United Nations (UN) Special Thematic Session on Water and Disaster.
The Head of State reminded of his remarks at the Regional Consultation organised by the Global Water Partnership in February of this year, where he said that the pandemic “should not divert attention from or diminish the gravity of the threats” posed by other disasters such as hydro-hazards.
“As the recent experience of my country illustrates, water disasters compound the difficulties posed by states which are vulnerable to climate disasters… Addressing the climate crisis is therefore integral to the post-COVID-19 recovery. It would amount to a misadventure on the part of the international community if, in its efforts to rebuild stronger and better after the pandemic, it neglects the potent threats posed by water disasters or ignores the indisputable link between these hazards,” he stated.
During his address, President Ali reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to working with the UN and the international community to press for coordinated global attention and action to combat climate change. As such, he added that it is vital that the international community recognise the impact of the pandemic on developing countries and how these impacts can retard progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to the Head of State, unless the targets that were set at the Paris Agreement in 2015 are realised, the world can expect to experience future water disasters and further setbacks to the Sustainable Development Agenda.
“I commend the United Nations for organising this vital Session, which I believe has an obligation to move the global community towards greater action in addressing climate change as a trigger for water-related disasters… Guyana, however, remains engaged in working along with the United Nations and the rest of the international community to press for concerted global attention and action to arrest climate change,” the Head of State noted.
President Ali further pointed out that the pandemic and climate change are the foremost extant threats to the SDGs. He added that the pandemic has served to magnify the already existing problems within society and in relations between states.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to challenges posed to the SDGs. In many small states, the pandemic has reduced the fiscal space needed to propel the SDGs. Not only have these states had to shoulder the burdens of unanticipated and excessive healthcare costs, but the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to economic contraction and massive job losses…,” he outlined.
Against this backdrop, President Ali said that Guyana has committed itself, irreversibly, to a low carbon path to development, in which mainstreaming the SDGs in national development while combatting climate change are fully compatible. The template, he pointed out, therefore exists for a post-COVID-19 recovery that promotes climate resilience and commits to the SDGs.
However, the Guyanese Leader posited that the pace of the necessary reforms to achieve these objectives, especially for small-island developing and low-lying coastal states, will be dependent on international cooperation and assistance.
Nevertheless, the President acknowledged that the Special Thematic Sessions on Water and Disaster have highlighted the gravity of the threats posed by hydro-hazards and have reaffirmed the importance of addressing climate risks in realising the SDGs.
“The link between climate change and water disasters hardly needs restating. The awareness of the problems exists. What is now urgent is greater international resolve to commit resources to combat the climate crisis. It is now time for action, not debate,” he stressed.
President Ali wished the participants success and expressed the hope that the Special Thematic Session on Water and Disaster would result in greater efforts on the part of the international community to urgently accelerate support for the building of climate resilience.
Friday’s event was held under the theme “Building Back Better Towards More Resilient and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World” with Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Tajikistan, High-Level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP) and National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) of Japan as co-hosts.
It focused on sharing experiences and promoting actions to achieve a more sustainable, resilient and climate-adaptive post-COVID-19 world based on the lessons learned from the pandemic. It also provided a tangible step towards accelerating the SDGs and other globally agreed agendas by providing useful lessons, innovative ideas, and common understandings.