A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the reserve is an immense protected area covering approximately 11 percent of the national territory, known for its high mountains and endless biodiversity – some of which are considered undiscovered – and for the most part is inaccessible and untouched by human activity.
From above, the rainforest canopy was painted in myriad shades of green, with some treetops covered in waves of orange or even purple flowers. Along the way, the mighty Coppename River, as well as the upstream sections of the Lucie, Saramacca, and Suriname rivers, flowed past the trees in what appeared to be a landscape painting.
However, before reaching the protected area, the UN chief was able to see that: Suriname’s forests are seriously threatened by the activities of the mining sector and wood production, both fueled by incentives to stimulate economic activity. Strikingly visible above the deep green canopy, the brownish patches of deforestation, evidence of destructive gold mining and flooding were hard to miss.
A moment of ‘maximum danger’
Although Suriname is part of the South American continent, it is considered a Caribbean nation because of its history, culture and the similar challenges it faces to the small island nations.
Later on Sunday, the UN chief arrived at the Assuria Event Center in Paramaribo to attend the opening of the 43rd Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Conference.
The arrival of Mr. Guterres was greeted with four different musical and cultural performances. The short walk showcased Suriname’s unique ethnic diversity, a product of its long history and Dutch colonization. Afro-Surinamese, East Indian, native natives, Chinese and Javanese descendants presented their traditional dances and folkloric sounds
On stage, the Secretary General highlighted the region’s diversity and leadership in climate action, while outlining a range of measures to be taken in light of the planetary crisis, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and global financial challenges.
“Rich in diversity, uniting land and sea and protecting fragile coastal ecosystems, mangroves are a fitting symbol of Caribbean countries – meeting challenges, seizing opportunities, preserving natural gifts,” the UN chief told heads of state and government on Sunday. the region. inspired by his visit to these wonders of coastal carbon sinks in Paramaribo the day before.
Mr Guterres acknowledged that the small, low-lying coastal states of the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable to what he termed “the greatest challenge facing our world today” — the climate crisis.
“The Caribbean is the foundation for the global climate emergency,” he said, underlining that unfortunately it is not the only challenge facing the region.
“This year’s CARICOM summit comes at a time of maximum danger – to both people and the planet,” he added, referring to the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on health systems and tourism, as well as economic growth and foreign investment, now exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
The Secretary General told CARICOM leaders that bold solutions were needed to address these issues, citing three.
1. Tailor climate action to the scale and urgency of the crisis
Mr Guterres called for urgent and transformative emissions reductions to halt global warming at a 1.5°C mark, support for adaptation to climate impacts and financial aid to ensure resilience.
“I thank the Caribbean leaders for helping us lead the way. I am inspired by your many efforts to protect your incredible biodiversity and natural gifts, including the efforts of the indigenous communities,” he said.
He added that everyone needs more ambition and climate actionbut especially the G20 who are responsible for 80 percent of global emissions.
“The war in Ukraine must not lead to short-sighted decisions that close the door at 1.5C. With commitments currently registered, emissions are projected to increase by 14 percent by 2030. This is just suicide – and it must be reversed.
The UN chief stressed that wealthier countries must lead the way in a just and equitable “renewable energy revolution”, and fulfill their pledge to provide $100 billion in climate finance for adaptation from this year onward.
“And it’s time for frank discussion and room for decision-making about the loss and damage your countries are already experiencing,” he stressed.
2. Reform the ‘morally bankrupt’ global financial system and drive sustainable recovery
The Secretary-General underlined that emerging economies need access to no-cost or low-cost financing, as well as debt relief and restructuring.
“On the debt side, we need immediate relief for developing countries whose debts are about to fall due,” he said.
The UN chief added that he fully supports the establishment of a Caribbean Resilience Fund and: reforming the international financial system to help the region respond better and avoid massive vulnerability to external shocks.
“Obviously our old statistics have let us down. It’s time to change them,” said Mr Guterres, proposing to move beyond the financial system’s preoccupation with per capita income and create a “multidimensional vulnerability index” to measure access to financial resources. to determine support.
“For your countries, this would mean ensuring that the complex and interdependent factors of debt and the impacts of climate change are included in any debt relief and financing adequacy analysis,” he told Caribbean heads of state and government.
3. Continue the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
The Secretary General has given governments, organizations and pharmaceutical companies a boost to work better together to produce tests, vaccines and treatments locally.
“We are not out of the woods yet… And we must continue to work closely together to stop the spread of the virus across the Caribbean through proven public health measures and prepare for future pandemics through bold investments in preparedness and training, he stated, stressing that countries should never again be so unprepared.
Finally, Mr Guterres reaffirmed the United Nations’ support for the Caribbean to work towards these solutions.