Sat, 28 May 2022

HAVANA, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Cuba's government is steadfastly committed to sustainable development despite the added challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and stepped up U.S. economic, trade and financial sanctions, according to observers.

Business leaders, scientific experts and local authorities have joined forces to adopt measures that will promote a prosperous economy in harmony with the protection of the environment and natural resources, such as using alternative fuels, replanting mangroves and recycling tech junk.

"It is important to replace fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere," said Odalys Goicochea, head of Environment at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma).

She made the remarks while Cuba is carrying out a program of consultations with different parties of society, prior to the international meeting "Stockholm+50" convened by the United Nations to be held in early June in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration.

Authorities estimate that by 2030, renewable energy sources that rely on the natural conditions of the Caribbean island will account for 37 percent of the nation's energy matrix.

To update current environmental regulations, legislators are set to debate on May 14 the approval of a draft Law on the System of Natural Resources and the Environment, which will replace the norms set in 1997.

The new law aims to strengthen the role of science to promote resilient development that guarantees the conservation of natural resources, as well as spur innovation and improve the civil defense system for disaster management.

Already, in central Sancti Spiritus province, where more than 60 percent of the land shows soil degradation, experts and residents are working together to reverse the damage.

The director of industrial policy and technological development at the Ministry of Industry, Vivian Sanchez, believes recycling is of vital importance to reducing environmental pollution. In areas such as steel production, steps are being taken toward a circular economy that minimizes waste.

"We must not develop an industry that harms the environment and mortgages the future of the country," Sanchez told Xinhua.

At the local level, authorities are working to implement "Life Task," a national government program launched in 2017 to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels and global warming due to climate change.

The subdelegate of Citma in western Matanzas province, Nelvis Gomez, said the tourism industry, with its emphasis on attractive locations and landscapes, must develop in keeping with environmental protection.

"Maintaining the health of biological ecosystems is essential to achieving economic and social development in harmony with the environment," Gomez told Xinhua at the close of a workshop sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme in Cuba.

Economist and researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Jorge Alfredo Carballo, said education and action at the local level are key to successful environmental preservation.

"The issue of environmental governance through municipal development strategies is fundamental, as well as widespread environmental education through all levels of education from an early age," Carballo said.

The Caribbean nation expects gross domestic product (GDP) to grow around 4 percent in 2022, after plunging 13 percent during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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