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The world is running out of time – average global temperatures are rising too fast and our planet is on a trajectory towards human catastrophe of a scale never seen before. The greenhouse gas emissions causing these temperature rises must peak by 2020 and be cut by 80 percent by 2050.  It will be impossible to do this without a dramatic reduction in emissions from deforestation – which comprise about a fifth of the global total.

Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to act despite knowing these facts. The people of Guyana are willing to act – as a country where almost  80%  of our territory is  rainforest,   we  stand  ready  to  work   with  others   who  share  our  view that  the world  needs  to  break  the false  debate which  suggests that  a nation  must choose between national development and combating climate change.

Instead we should be asking how we can forge prosperous low carbon economies where national development and combating climate change are complementary, not competing, objectives.  The international mechanism for delivering a solution is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Parties to the  Convention  will  meet  in  Copenhagen  in  December  2009  to  agree  on a new climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.  When they meet, it is essential that the world’s historic polluters make meaningful commitments to reduce emissions; if the  current  global  economic  crisis  is  used  as  an  excuse  to  pull back from these commitments,  it  will  send  a disastrous signal  to the developing world that action on climate  change  can  only   take  place  during  times  of  prosperity.  However ,  if the countries  of  the  developed  world  accept  their   responsibilities,  I  believe  that  the developing  world  in general  and  rainforest countries  in  particular are willing to play their part. Even though per capita, countries like Guyana already emit far less than the average required to stabilize global temperatures, as we become more prosperous, it is in everyone’s interests that we avoid the high pollution path that today’s richer countries   followed.  To  achieve  this,  the   international  community  and  developing countries must create  a  platform  for partnership where developing countries are not seen  merely  as  passive  recipients  of  aid,  but  as  equal  partners in the search for climate  solutions.  This  is   particularly  vital    in  devising   solutions   for  addressing deforestation – which  happens  almost  entirely  within  today’s  developing  world. This  draft  strategy  document  sets  out  Guyana's  view  on  how such  a  platform for partnership can be created, and affirms our commitment to play our part. The strategy is based on three fundamental realities:  First, much deforestation across the world happens   because   inpiduals,   communities   and    countries    pursue    legitimate economic activities – such as selling timber or earning money and creating jobs in agriculture. The world economy values these activities and does not value most of the services that forests provide when trees are kept alive, including the storage of greenhouse gases. Correcting this market failure is the only long-term solution to deforestation. Second, the   UNFCCC   and  its  Reduced  Emissions  from Deforestation  and  Degradation  (REDD)  program have made valuable progress on agreeing to include payments  for  forestry   climate  services  within  the global   carbon   markets.   However   this    will    not generate   the   breakthrough  required  on  avoiding deforestation unless there is also first-order political direction  and  support from  Heads  of  Government  around  the  world. I very much welcomed the opportunity for Guyana to participate in the recent G20 side meeting on deforestation, where national leaders from the world’s leading economies and rainforest countries committed to take urgent action on deforestation.  It is vital that this leadership is sustained.  Finally, getting started is difficult.  Rainforest countries are hesitant to commit to the long-term reorientation of their economies that solving this problem requires – because they are unsure of the predictability of forest payments.

The  rest  of  the international community  is  hesitant to support   REDD  at the scale required - because they are unsure about the technical and institutional mechanisms to  be  used  to  monitor and verify that  global deforestation is being reduced.  Many international organizations – including   non-governmental organizations - are also keen to ensure that the inclusion of REDD in an international carbon market does not become an “escape route” for historic polluters by allowing them to avoid making the necessary cuts in their domestic emissions.  This  could  be  a  recipe  for  a stalemate  the  world  cannot  afford. We need to find a way forward, and this draft strategy represents our views on how we can do this. In its current form, it is a starting point to gather the input of all sectors of Guyanese society. The involvement of our indigenous peoples is particularly vital. Our Amerindians have protected our forests for generations;  a  sizeable  component  of  forest  land is under their jurisdiction and their  insights  will  be  valuable  not  only  for their own communities, but for the rest of Guyana and the wider world.

Similarly, elected representatives from all political parties are critical to long-term success.   Despite   our   other  differences,  successive   Guyanese  governments  of different  parties  have  long  provided  strong  leadership  to  the world on the need to protect  our  forests.  Members of Parliament and all other sectors of our society can make extremely valuable contributions to the national consultation of which this draft strategy is part.  I  am  deeply  conscious  of  the  enormous  scale  of  ambition  that Guyana’s   low-carbon  vision   represents.  But  the  world   needs  ambition  that  is commensurate  with  the  challenge  we  face.  I am confident that our consultation will show the world that the people of Guyana stand ready to play our part – I hope that the international community is ready to do the same.

H.E. BharratJagdeo
Former President of the Republic of Guyana

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