President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday joined a prestigious list of World Leaders to have addressed a special forum at Columbia University in New York, where scores of persons including many Guyanese turned up to be part of a highly interactive session with the President.
This World Leaders Forum programme, organised by the University’s Earth Institute and the Institute of Latin American Studies, featured a brief keynote address by President Jagdeo, followed by a lengthy question and answer session with the audience.
The Guyanese Head of State, whose extraordinary vision is set to make Guyana one of the most environmentally progressive nations on earth, briefly outlined his plans to build Guyana’s economic development around the preservation of its vast forests.
While explaining the intricacies of climate change and what it would mean for small and poor developing countries, Mr. Jagdeo made it clear that the people who are most susceptible to climate change are the ones that have the least capacity to adapt to those changes.
He also spoke about the “distrust” that currently exists between the developed and developing worlds, and the urgent need for political will and crucial financing from the main players in the climate change fight.
The President used the opportunity to brief the audience on some of the issues that were raised and discussed over the past week at the level of the United Nations.
He also answered questions about the REDD, REDD-Plus and their inclusion on the Copenhagen agenda, carbon trading, financing, the world economic and financial crisis, and Guyana’s development pathway.
Most of the persons who asked questions at the forum lauded President Jagdeo for his vision of developing Guyana, and encouraged him in his committed fight in the climate change battle.
The President also, in a good-natured manner, put senior officials at Columbia University in an uncomfortable position when, during the question-and-answer segment, he exposed flaws in a collaborative study done by Yale University and Columbia University on an Environmental Performance Index.
According to the President, it “boggles” his mind how Guyana got ranked at a number in the 130’s on that index, but the United States (a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emission) is only ranked at number 34.
He had the audience laughing when he politely requested from the University officials present at the forum to kindly ensure that this misconception is corrected.
Many of the persons in the audience whom this newspaper spoke with yesterday alluded to the unprecedented social and economic reforms in Guyana under Jagdeo’s tenure as President, that include improved access to education; healthcare reform; water and sanitation system expansion; and large-scale development of road, river and air transport networks. While pursuing these reforms, President Jagdeo also reduced the national debt and reformed the tax and investment regimes.
President Jagdeo served as chairman of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group from September 2005 until September 2006. He has been awarded the Pushkin Medal by the Government of Russia and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award by the Government of India.
In recent years, President Jagdeo has spoken frequently of the need for developing countries to be at the forefront of identifying solutions to avert the worst extremes of climate change, whilst ensuring economic development of developing countries. He has repeatedly raised the issue at the United Nations and Summits of Latin American and Commonwealth Heads of Government.
In June 2009, he launched a "Low Carbon Development Strategy," hailed by a wide cross-section of the Guyanese people and the international community as being an unprecedented plan for national development that secures the forest ecosystem in the global fight to address climate change. This Strategy has received much support domestically and internationally, and it expected to be a critical model for developing countries to adopt after the Copenhagen Climate Change Meeting.
Among those from the Guyana delegation accompanying the President at Columbia University yesterday were Advisers to the President Mr. Kevin Hogan and Mr. Shyam Nokta; Mr. Michael Brotherson, from the Climate Change Unit that Nokta heads at the Office of the President; and Mr. Brentnol Evans, Guyana’s Consul General in New York.