Guyana is reaching a new stage in its national development. Over the past two decades, the country has re-established a market-led economy within a multi-party democratic system. The economy has been restructured to support progressively increasing levels of social sector and infrastructural investment alongside private sector-driven economic growth. As this first generation of reforms and infrastructural development nears completion, the Government is embarking on a new wave of reforms, coupled with further expansion of the country’s strategic economic infrastructure. These aim to build on previous reforms to further stimulate investment, economic growth and job creation as well as to improve security and social services, protect vulnerable sections of society, and deal with increased climate change- induced flooding. Harnessing the nation’s assets to continue to develop the economy and fund these and other social and economic needs must be the Government’s top priority.
Guyana’s pristine forests are its most valuable asset - the majority of the 15 million hectare rainforest is suitable for timber extraction and post-harvest agriculture, and significant mineral deposits exist below its surface. The value of this forest - known as Economic Value to the Nation or EVN - is estimated to be the equivalent of an annual annuity payment of US$580 million.
However, generating this EVN, while economically rational for Guyana, would have significant negative consequences for the world. The deforestation that would accompany this development path would reduce the critical environmental services that Guyana’s forests provide to the world - such as bio-diversity, water regulation and carbon sequestration. Conservative valuations of the Economic Value to the World (EVW) provided by Guyana’s forests suggest that, left standing, they can contribute US$40 billion to the global economy each year.
However, no trading markets exist for these environmental services - and as a consequence, individuals and companies in rainforest countries face powerful incentives to deforest. In turn, national and local governments face political pressure to use the forest for economic and employment benefit. Reconciling this tension between protecting rainforests and pursuing economically rational development is the core challenge that must be addressed to make forests worth more alive than dead.
There is increasing global recognition of the fact that protecting forests is essential to the fight against climate change - forestry causes about 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet movement from recognizing the need for action to actual action continues to be too slow. Guyana’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy seeks to provide insights on how to stimulate the creation of a low-deforestation, low-carbon, climate-resilient economy, whereby:
With the right low-deforestation economic incentives, Guyana will avoid emissions of 1.5 gigatons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent which includes other greenhouse gases)by 2020 that would have been produced by an otherwise economically rational development path. These incentives will be generated through interim forestry payments from Guyana’s partnership with the Norwegian Government and other sources, and the REDD program.
DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION
These payments can enable Guyana’s economy to be realigned onto a low-carbon development trajectory. Guyana can generate economic growth at or in excess of projected Latin American growth rates over the coming decade, while simultaneously eliminating approximately 30 percent of non-forestry emissions through the use of clean energy. To achieve this, Guyana must:
Invest in strategic low carbon economic infrastructure, such as: a hydro plant at Amelia Falls; improved access to unused, non-forested land; and improved fiber optic bandwidth to facilitate the development of low-carbon business activities.
Nurture investment in high-potential low-carbon sectors, such as fruits and vegetables, aquaculture, and sustainable forestry and wood processing.
Invest in other low-carbon business development opportunities such as business process outsourcing and ecotourism.
Expand access to services and new economic opportunity for indigenous peoples through improved social services (including health and education), low-carbon energy sources, clean water and employment which does not threaten the forest.
Improve services to the broader Guyana citizenry, including improving and expanding job prospects, promoting private sector entrepreneurship, and improving social services with a particular focus on health and education.
Guyana’s people and productive land can be protected from changing weather patterns. Investments in priority climate adaptation infrastructure can reduce the 10 percent of current GDP which is estimated to be lost each year as a result of flooding.
To support this strategy, Guyana will institute a number of new organizational units and systems, to include an Office of Climate Change (to coordinate all climate-related activities for the nation), a Low Carbon Strategy Project Management Office (to drive major low-carbon program priorities), and a Guyana Low-Carbon Finance Authority (to manage forest payments and related investment flows into the country and promote investment efficiency to the benefit of Guyana’s economy). In addition, safeguards and systems will be developed to ensure the continuing protection of Guyana’s tropical rainforests through globally-verified forest and other land use governance standards and transparent, accountable deployment of forest payments.
The strategy in its current form is a draft for discussion by national stakeholders to seek support for the proposals to protect Guyana’s State Forest Estate (which does not include forests under Amerindian jurisdiction). It will also kick-start the next phase of consultation among forest communities, following earlier sensitization meetings. Over the coming years, forest-based Amerindians - who total approximately 9.1 percent of Guyana’s population and own approximately 14 percent of the land - will have a choice of whether to put their forests into a forest compensation program (side-by-side with the State Forest Estate). No deadline is being set for when communities must “opt in” - it is envisaged that the process will move at different speeds in different communities, as consultations proceed in line with the Amerindian Act and international norms that seek to gather prior and informed consent from impacted communities.