His Excellency Brigadier David Granger: Minister of Legal Affairs, Minister of State, Minister of Natural Resources we have the whole Cabinet here- Minister of Social Cohesion, Minister of Agriculture, Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (heavy, heavy), Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Head of the Department of the Environment, Mrs. Ndibi Schweirs, Heads and Representatives of Government Agencies, Representatives of the Private Sector, Special Invitees and Members of the Media.
We welcome you here in the shadow of red house to see that there is a need for new management when you look at the condition at which this national monument is being kept. We got the green stuff, but we would prefer that the building could be kept in better repair definitely a case for a change in management.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you have heard the Department of the Environment is central to Guyana’s transition to becoming a ‘green’ state. The transition to the ‘green’ state requires the collective action of all agencies, authorities, boards, commissions, departments and ministries of the government.
This department is expected to play a pivotal role in national development. It must coordinate the work of all of those agencies, which are concerned with the environment and with sustainable energy generation: two of the principal pillars of our green agenda. The Department will also be required to work with other agencies to ensure that the green agenda remains on course.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you know Guyana is a blessed country we are located in the centre of the Guiana Shield a vast area which is larger than Greenland. The world depends on the Guiana Shield; it depends on its pristine forest. It’s largely uncontaminated aquatic ecosystems and other intact ecosystems which contains about fifteen percent of the world’s fresh water reserves.
Guyana belongs to the Guiana-Shield, a zone which is essential to enriching and replenishing the world’s biodiversity. We are important to the survival of the planet. This Guiana-shield, this is G-u-i-a-n-a; we will deal with the G-u-y-a-n-a shield later, but this G-u-i-a-n-a shield provides ecosystem services such as food, freshwater, medicinal products, timber and non-timber products.
The shield aids in the regulation of climate, the regulation of the water cycle, water quality and pollination. The shields biodiversity reduces soil degradation and enhances soil nutrition. The shield’s forest provides storage for carbon, it mitigates the effects of greenhouse gas emissions for these reasons, therefore, Guyana’s environment is important to the world.
As part of the shield, our forest envelop more that eighty-five percent of our land mass and few persons coming into the Eugene Correia or to Cheddi Jagan Airport could miss that sea of broccoli which is all of Guyana’s forest cover- our forest sequester more carbon that is emitted by human activities.
We are part of the ‘lungs of the earth’ our forest and protected areas provide environmental service to all mankind, all humanity. We store carbon and we restore the balance of oxygen and humidity in the air.
I once meet a diplomat from a country which I will not name; he left the country on Thursday and a few days later he was back, I said, why you back so soon? “Fresh air, fresh air.”
Guyana, therefore, has a very important role to play. We have committed ourselves to placing an additional two million hectares of our forest under conservation we have committed to moving closer towards the goal of full renewable energy use- that is the green energy, Minister Trotman.
We are committed to taking specific actions to improve forest management as part of our intended nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Department of the Environment has work to do. Our environment, our grasslands, our wetlands, our highlands, our coastal zone, our mudflats, our rainforests and rivers are all under stress, or worse, under threat. We need a strong permanent institution to conserve and protect and sustainably manage our biodiversity, our patrimony.
Our country possesses a powerful resource, which, if it is to be effectively managed, requires national cooperation, national collaboration and national coordination of our efforts.
The Department of the Environment was established as a separate entity to keep abreast with current global environmental conventions and regional and national practices. It is meant to protect our nation’s role and our nation’s place within the Guiana Shield.
We have given centrality to its role by placing it in the Ministry of the Presidency. The Department of the Environment is meant to end the adhockery which used to characterize the environmental and sustainable energy sectors.
We had a number of agencies without the means or mechanisms to work together, what you call the silo mentality but by bringing them under one umbrella, we can be better assured of collaboration and cooperation.
The Department of the Environment will remedy the problem of coordination, it will allow for a sharper focus on the environment. It will facilitate all of the institutions within the environmental sector.
It will ensure that we work more effectively towards the objective of creating a ‘green’ state. As Mrs. Schweirs has explained the Department of the Environment will coordinate the Environmental Protection Agency, some aspects of The Guyana Energy Authority, some aspects of the Guyana Forestry Commission, some aspects of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, THE Protected Areas Commission, the Wildlife Management Authority- The Department of the Environment will work also with the Office of Climate Change, the Project Management Office and the IWOKRAMA Centre for Forest Conservation and Development to fulfil our national objectives.
As you know, last year we created three new towns; the intention is that every region in Guyana will have a capital town and every region will have its own protected area, so indeed the department has work to do.
Last year on National Tree Day, the 1st of October, I announced at the time of the launch of this department that it would be tasked with the development of a plan of action to ensure the achievement of our green agenda. That plan of action will ensure that all the agencies concerned with the environment and sustainable energy generation play their part in our transition to becoming a green state.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Department of the Environment now has a home. This home, this building will provide the physical accommodation to allow the department to better execute its mandate.
This building will become a home for all of the heads of the agencies concerned with our national green agenda. The government expects that these agencies and non-governmental organizations and the donor community will continue to cooperation with the department of the environment and the execution of its mandate. It is important that other agencies and non-governmental organisation work and move together towards creating our green state.
If we are to do so, we know that we must invest in solar, in wind, in hydroelectricity, in biomass energy sources and introduce green transportation. We must operate a world class international biodiversity centre, we must increase the resources available for climate adaptation and intensify the efforts of protecting our biodiversity and we must improve and expand the provision of solid waste disposal and sanitation services.
We must also develop a strong ecotourism sector and only a few days ago at the CARICOM- Intersessional Meeting I urged that the logo which showed the blue sea and the palm tree be coupled with a logo showing the tea colored and our jungle. So I hope in the years to come we have a double Caribbean environmental logo, tourist logo. One that shows the islands and one that shows the mainland, Suriname, Belize and Guyana-more of that later.
Our eco-tourism sector is important but we must also continue to provide environmental services to the world and of course to our citizens. The country must advance the regional and international action program in the preserving and protecting the environment. So it is my honour today to declare open this building to officially re-launch what I did on the first of October 2016, this Department of the Environment and to charge it with the task of ensuring that Guyana would achieve the objectives of a green state in as short a time as possible.
I wish the department every success and of course, it goes without saying that I pledge my personal support to the Department of the Environment.
Ladies and gentlemen I thank you.