- - Thursday, October 9, 2014

Addressing the United Nations Climate Change Summit 2014, Suriname pledged that it would continue embracing its green policies, and called on the world’ community to join the battle against global warming.

“Suriname is reaffirming its commitment to the world today to keep absorbing more carbon than we generate,” said Suriname’s Minister of Public Works, Rabin Parmessar, at the Summit held in the Halls of the United Nations.

Organized to galvanize initiatives against climate change, last month’s summit gave Suriname an opportunity to showcase its green policies and, more importantly, to issue a sober warning about the potentially calamitous impact of climate change. It was attended by President Obama and more than 100 Heads of State.

Situated on the northeast coast of South America, the country is covered with vast and pristine rain- forests and rivers. Their protection is a national priority. Thanks to those forests, Suriname absorbs more carbon than it produces from burning fossil fuels; and so it plays an important role in combating global warming.

“Suriname is providing a key ecosystem service to the planet and the global community,” noted Parmessar.

“Our forests annually absorb 8.8 million tons of carbon while our annual emissions are 7 million tons of carbon,” he explained, adding: “While many countries are striving towards becoming carbon neutral, our current development path has already made us carbon negative.”

Parmessar’s address came as the World Bank released a major Declaration, signed by more than 1,000 businesses and 74 nations, that would set global prices on carbon emissions. The U.S. has yet to sign, though it is a major producer of carbon.

Potentially, the agreement would translate into financial incentives for nations like Suriname, whose green policies are helping to combat climate change, but whose environment and economy, conversely, would be wrecked if global-warming trends continue.

Referring to the worst climate-change scenario for Suriname, Parmessar explained that, “The current atmospheric levels of carbon - at more than 400 parts per million - have placed Suriname squarely on the path to climate departure by the year 2028.”

The consequences, he explained, would produce rising sea levels, setting off calamities that would include:

• Rising sea-water flooding into Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo, where about half of the population lives;

• Sea-water damaging or destroying more than 80 percent of homes;

• Coastal ecosystems, including the majority our Suriname’s arable land, suffering damage or being destroyed, and

• The loss of 40 percent of Suriname’s GDP.

“We are unable to halt the destruction that climate change is bringing upon us,” said Parmessar. “To stave off or minimize such calamities, we are being forced to build dikes, revise our water management systems and adapt our building codes to the changed climate and relocate communities.”

Suriname’s pledge to maintain its green polices comes as it ramps up development, through President Desir Bouterse’s ambitious plan to develop and diversify the economy and increase social spending for education, housing, and health care for ensuring social welfare and prosperity.

President Bouterse addressed the issue of climate change and rising sea levels during his annual address to Parliament on October 1. “We are in the top seven of most threatened countries worldwide,” he warned. Suriname’s government, meanwhile, is studying the alternatives for adaptation, fearing it would be flooded by the Suriname River as sea levels rise. River embankments already have been built to protect the city. Dikes have been built in the coastal area.

In an innovative experiment, Suriname planted additional mangrove trees along parts of its coastline, a technique developed by Professor Sieuwnath Naipal, a member of Suriname’s Climate Change Expert Group. “By growing mangroves and replanting them on the coastline, we are using nature to rebuild its own original coastline to fight the ever advancing sea,” he explained.

A pilot project was successful. In Coronie, a coastal district west of the capital, mangroves transplanted along the coast held back and dispersed surging seawater and kept it from flooding over a recently constructed dike, thereby reducing the dike’s maintenance costs. By restoring a natural ecosystem, the project ultimately benefited local fisherman, farmers, and a beekeeper.

Despite its efforts to combat the negative impacts of global warming, Suriname knows it can’t do it alone. Referring to Suriname’s green polices, Parmessar concluded: “We invite the rest of the international community to assume appropriate binding commitments that will ensure the Future We Want.”

This article was produced in conjunction with The Washington Times International Advocacy Department.

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