Georgetown, Guyana – (September 27, 2017) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, said that the Government of Guyana is fully committed to upholding all tenets of the Rio Conventions and will continue to play its role in the fight against climate change and global warming, which are wreaking havoc on all countries around the globe, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDs). The Minister was at the time delivering the feature address at the opening of the Strengthening Technical Capacities to Mainstream and Monitor Rio Convention Implementation through Policy Coordination Workshop,” which was held at the Guyana Marriott Hotel.

This project, funded by the Government of Guyana, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of Environment, aims to strengthen technical capacities for mainstreaming and monitoring the achievement of Rio Conventions’ objectives through policy coordination.

The Rio Conventions, which are popularly referred to as the Rio Convention Three, include the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These Conventions collectively address the need for adaptation to climate change through their activities. According to its website, the Rio Conventions collectively offer a range of tools, services and expertise that assist vulnerable countries and communities in enabling effective adaptation and achieving sustainable development. Through facilitating knowledge-sharing and learning, strengthening technical and institutional capacities, and facilitating access to financial and technological support, the Rio Conventions support Parties in undertaking the full adaptation cycle: from assessing impacts, risks and vulnerability, to planning and implementing adaptation actions, to monitoring and evaluation.

In his address, Minister Harmon said that the tenets of the Conventions fit firmly into the Government’s goal of a ‘green’ economy and the administration will, therefore, ensure that it receives full support. “I wish to give you the assurance that the Government remains committed to this process. The Government will continue to provide its resources for it. The Government will continue to provide the political will to ensure that these conventions are implemented. I myself had some exposure to the Conventions and would have been exposed to the work done under this Convention. I am very heartened by it and I am happy to see that we are now moving towards implementation and not just consultation,” he said.

The Minister of State said that the project is being implemented at a defining moment in time as the country is not only pursuing its ‘Green’ State Development Strategy, but other countries are grappling with issues such as biodiversity loss and rapidly changing climates as a result of unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Global empirical data for the period 2010 to 2016 has shown that this period recorded greater frequency and severity of droughts, famines, floods increasing intensity of hurricanes, the rapid extinction in flora and fauna and the fastest decadal rate of sea rise for the century thus far. We all witnessed the devastation and deadly impact of hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria on our Caribbean neighbours and further afield. These disastrous events, which left billions of dollars in social, economic and environmental damage, were unquestionably reminders [of] the need of environmental action to protect the environment. Already there is a grim prognosis that events like these will become the new norm,” Minister Harmon said.

In this regard, the Minister said that is therefore important for a recommitment to embracing the tenets and guidelines of the Rio Conventions by all countries. The Minister of State said that the issues which will be addressed by this project have implications for Guyana and its people’s existence and viability as a nation. It is up to Guyana therefore, he said, to take its environmental responsibilities very seriously and as a matter of great national interest.

“Guyana also continues to stand as a proud and reliable partner in tackling global environmental issues and we are in unwavering in our commitment to sustainable development through environmental management best practices. This is demonstrated by our pioneering international environmental partnership and our status as a signatory to [the] Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Our ratification on this accord as the seventeenth signatory as well as our resolve to meaningfully contribute to global environmental protection complements the development of our strategy to establish a ‘green’ economy and a ‘green’ state,” he said.

However, while significant strides have been made to honour Guyana’s obligations under these Conventions there are still barriers the Minister said, which must be overcome. It is this vein, he said, that this workshop is timely and will help Guyana to overcome these challenges. “I am therefore pleased that this project will help us identify linkages and to develop capacities to enable us to implement and monitor the conventions as well as to assist us to actualize our Government’s programme for environmental protection and management and our vision for the ‘green’ sustainable development of our country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Director of the Department of Environment, Ms. Ndibi Schwiers, in her remarks, said that when Guyana became a signatory to the Rio Convention in 1992 and ratified the instruments on climate change, biological diversity and land degradation a few years later, it was a firm demonstration of the country’s interest in developing sustainably and its willingness to put measures in place that would meet the Convention’s principles. Since then, however, she noted that various policy documents were developed, on biodiversity, on climate change, on land degradation, with various degrees of uptake but there were numerous barriers to the implementation of the Rio Conventions. These ranged from a weak set of policies to a weak legal and regulatory framework, lack of synergy and implementation of convention, fragmented data and information.

This project, she said, is therefore intended to correct those observed deficiencies so that as a country, Guyana would be better equipped to make better decisions to meet and sustain its global environmental obligations. “One of the good things about this project is that we are using all local consultants. There are no international consultants on this project and I think, as a country, we ought to be very proud of that. That rarely happens. It is our expectation that by the end of this project, progress would be made in strengthening both technical and institutional capacities in collecting and managing data and information, in facilitating legislative reforms, and in establishing a data monitoring and management system,” she said.

In addition, Dr. Patrick Chesney, Programme Specialist at the UNDP, in his remarks, said that he is encouraged by the number of stakeholders who have been involved in the project as it is a national one, which should be owned and taken collective responsibility of. “I challenge you, our national experts and stakeholders, to full participate in this project, it provides a unique opportunity for us to better understand what it is that we need to do to ensure we derive synergies from the three Rio Conventions. The failure of this project will be all of ours, but let us celebrate its success and ensure that this kick-off meeting reminds us that we must work together in order to succeed,” he said.

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