President David Granger: Honourable Ministers; UNDP [Deputy] Resident Representative Ms. Shabnam Mallick, representatives of other international organisations: PAHO [Pan American Health Organisation], FAO [ Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations], Chief of Operations of [Inter-American Development Bank] IDB and IICA[Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture], special invitees; members of the media.
I am happy to be here this morning and I would like to start my brief remarks by inviting the representatives of the UNDP to receive a small token on behalf of the Government of Guyana celebrating the ‘green state’ and PAHO, Dr. [William] Adu-Krow himself; IDB and IICA. Anybody from IICA, FAO is here? I think that is about it.
That coin will be worth a lot 50 years from now, so hold on to it, please. This morning the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is pleased to join the United Nations family in observing International Mother Earth Day. As Ms. Mallick has told you, the UN General Assembly in December 2005 adopted the resolution designating the year 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth. The General Assembly later adopted another resolution designating the 22nd of April each year as International Mother Earth Day and Guyana, as usual, is earlier than the rest of the world who will be celebrating it tomorrow; we celebrate it today the 21st. As you have heard also that these observances remind us that the earth and its ecosystems are our home I’m convinced that in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the earth.
Mother earth is our home, our only home; we have no other; we can have no other and its ecosystems help us to survive. We have a duty to protect mother earth’s resources so that they can provide sustenance, succour, shelter and security for present and future generations. If we care for mother earth, mother earth will care for us.
Guyana is a small state playing a big role in protecting mother earth. Guyana geographically is at the centre of the Guiana Shield, one of the world’s biologically and ecologically most diverse tracts of tropical rainforest. The Shield, as you know, covers an area of 2.7 million square kilometres, an area larger than Greenland and it encompasses parts of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, La Guyane and all of Guyana. It contains 15 percent of the earth’s fresh water supply- a dwindling resource.
Guyana contributes to ensuring that the shield’s rich flora and fauna, that its abundant fresh water supplies and its diverse ecosystems remain intact for the benefit of all humanity and of course for present and future generations.
Guyana’s forests restore nature’s delicate balance. As you know, 85 percent of our country is covered by forest. These forests provide essential environmental services to the earth. Guyana is a net carbon sink, which means that our trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Guyana’s intact forests also reduce soil degradation, enhance soil nutrients and promote water retention. Guyana, therefore, is a protector of mother earth because these vital environmental services are provided by our forests. Guyana has been the guardian of mother earth through its environmental conservation policies. Guyana announced that it will set aside for perpetuity 371,000 hectares of its forests, an area larger than the island of Malta, to be used as a model of conservation and sustainable forest management.
Our President at that time gave a promise at the Heads of Government conference of the Commonwealth in Malaysia in 1989, 28 years ago, long before Rio Summit, which expressed concern at the degradation of the earth’s environment and the threat which that posed to present and future generations. The area which he pledged, 28 years ago, is now known as the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation [and] Development and, as I said, it’s an area larger than Malta. Another President personally signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in April, 2016 at the United Nations.
I pledge as part of Guyana’s commitment under that agreement to place an additional two million hectares or more than five times the size of Iwokrama under conservation. The territory which we have placed or planned to place under conservation or environmental protection is not barren badlands or desert. They contain a variety of ecosystems teeming with rich and unique biodiversity. They include our grasslands, our wetlands, our highlands and rainforests. The conservation and protection of these areas represent our continuing commitment to mother earth.
Guyana is on the pathway to becoming a ‘green state’ and the coins which I just presented to our international partners represent our commitment to becoming a ‘green state’. You’re heard a very good definition of what a green state should be. We feel that the ‘green state’ is an extension of our moral commitment to ensuring that mother earth is protected and preserved. The ‘green state’ will ensure the promotion of harmony between humanity and between humanity and habitat of our rich fauna. Guyana endorses totally the theme of this year’s observances, “Environmental and Climate Literacy”. Guyana emphasises the need to build greater awareness of the adverse effects of climate change and its threats to planet earth.
Guyana encourages its citizens, municipalities and regions to take action to arrest these global threats. This is one of the reasons why the first Saturday of October, every year, Guyana observes National Tree Day. The Cooperative Republic of Guyana commits to continuing to protect and preserve mother earth and to exercising responsible stewardship over our national patrimony.
I’d like to thank the Department of the Environment for organising this event in observance of International Mother Earth Day.
Thank you and may God bless you all.