Guyana and Norway Sign $250 Million Forest-Climate Pact

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, November 19, 2009 (ENS) – The governments of the northern European country of Norway and the South American country of Guyana will cooperate to provide the world with a working example of how partnerships between developed and developing countries can save the world’s tropical forests and relieve the pressure of global warming.

A agreement signed between President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana and Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim on November 9 provides that Norway will invest up to $250 million in protecting Guyana’s forests to avoid the deforestation that fuels climate change.

Road through the Guyana forest (Photo by Hicham Daoudi)

“It will be impossible to defeat climate change if we don’t significantly reduce tropical deforestation,” declared President Jagdeo. “We said several years ago that the people of Guyana stood ready to play our part in determining how this can be done. We are delighted to work alongside Norway in searching for solutions that align the development aspirations of our people with the urgent need to protect the world’s tropical forests.”

“Through this partnership, we are building a bridge between developed and developing countries,” said Minister Solheim. “We are giving the world a workable model for climate change collaboration between North and South. It’s not perfect, but it’s good, and it will be improved upon as we learn and develop together.”

The agreement provides Guyana with an initial payment of $30 million dollars. If this initial investment succeeds in reducing emissions and tackling poverty as expected, Norway will offer further investment in the country of up to $250 million.

The agreement is one of the first carbon offset agreements to be signed under a new initiative known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, REDD.

This framework is proposed for inclusion in any new global agreement that emerges from the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December because nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to forest loss.

REDD activities reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by leaving forests standing, while REDD+ activities go further and contribute to conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

Under the Guyana-Norway agreement, financial support from Norway will be channeled through a new fund, the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund, or GRIF.

Guyana’s Ministry of Finance will be responsible for the GRIF’s operations, and a reputable international financial institution to be selected by Norway and Guyana will act as manager of the fund. The mechanism will ensure full national and international oversight of financial flows.

President of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo (Photo courtesy The REDD Site)

Under the partnership, Guyana will protect its rainforest as an asset for the world and Norway will provide financial support to Guyana at a level based on Guyana’s success in limiting emissions.

“We want to avoid the high-carbon development trajectory that today’s developed world followed,” said President Jagdeo.

Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy details how the government can limit forest-based emissions, convert almost its entire energy sector to clean energy, accelerate the development of low-carbon economic sectors and address the huge challenges the country is facing in adapting to climate change.

Ninety percent of Guyana’s productive land is threatened by changing weather patterns, and in 2005, floods wiped out the equivalent of 60 percent of the country’s GDP. While heavily forested now, much of Guyana’s forested land is zoned for logging, and plans to avoid deforestation Brazil could push logging across the border into Guyana.

President Jagdeo said, “Addressing climate change can no longer be just about campaigning for action. It must also be about designing solutions and delivering results. This will not happen as long as developing countries are treated as passive recipients of aid.”

“Instead,” the President said, “we need to be equal partners in the search for solutions. When we find solution-oriented partners like Norway, we will not be found unwilling.”

Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim (Photo courtesy Govt of Norway)

“And this is not just about Guyana and Norway,” Jagdeo said. “The Informal Working Group on Interim Finance for REDD+ has set out a framework for others to join us in achieving a 25 percent reduction in global deforestation and forest degradation by 2015 for less than 25 billion euro. If successful, this would be the single biggest contribution to combating climate change during this period.”

“The foresight of both President Jagdeo of Guyana and the Government of Norway deserve real praise,” said Dr. Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International based in Washington, DC, which provided advice and support to the Government of Guyana on its Low Carbon Development Strategy.

A biodiversity expert, Mittermeier said, “This is a truly monumental agreement that has dramatic positive implications for rainforest countries around the world, and for the global climate. It means a better future for the people of Guyana, and has major implications for other tropical rainforest countries as well.”

Conservation International is also helping the nation with more forest per person than any other to protect those forests in perpetuity, and in doing so improve the lives of its people while contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

Suriname, Guyana’s neighbor, has developed a “Green Vision” plan. Suriname intends to pursue environmentally sustainable economic development using anticipated revenue from payments for the carbon stored in its vast forests.

The Green Vision was unveiled by Suriname earlier this month at a side session of the UN climate negotiations in Barcelona, in collaboration with the French Development Agency, a key supporter of the strategy.

Payments to Suriname under a REDD agreement would help keep Suriname’s forest intact while cultivating green development and ensuring the well-being of the country’s 500,000 people.

Mittermeier said, “Suriname’s Green strategy means that the country has recognized the great potential that its forest holds for its own future and for the world. It also means that the country that has the highest percent rainforest cover on Earth should finally be compensated at a significant level for conserving its forests.

“But this will only be realized if the world’s nations agree to moving REDD forward at the UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen,” Mittermeier said, “otherwise Suriname will face continued economic pressure to cut its forests.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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