Shortly before demitting office last year, former president Bharrat Jagdeo had written to Norway’s Minister of the Environment and Development Cooperation, Erik Solheim, highlighting that there is still much to tackle in Guyana’s forest partnership with Oslo including the sloth in money flows to Guyana.
The two countries are involved in a partnership to “work together to provide the world with a relevant, replicable model for how REDD+ can align the development objectives of forest countries with the world’s need to combat climate change”. Norway committed to providing financial support of up to US$250 million until 2015 for results achieved by Guyana in limiting emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which will support the implementation of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
In his November letter, a copy of which was obtained by Stabroek News, Jagdeo told Solheim that he would be demitting office and thanked him for his personal commitment to the partnership between the two countries.
He said that the Guyana-Norway partnership had made enormous progress, although there was still much to do.
“Unfortunately, despite Norway paying US$70 million to the World Bank for results delivered by Guyana in 2009 and 2010, very little money is yet flowing to Guyana, while over US$1 million has been paid in fees,” Jagdeo wrote. “It is particularly unfortunate that we were unable to fix the two problems you and I spoke about when you visited Georgetown.
The mechanism for the use of the money paid by Norway to Guyana continues to be saddled with rules which require, for example, closed procurement processes in some instances (we had to purchase 11,000 solar panels for indigenous homes from domestic resources as Guyana wanted to conduct a fully open procurement to international standards, whereas use of the payments from Norway would have required a closed process coupled with an international process to select the wattage of bulbs in indigenous homes).”
Jagdeo had not spoken of this issue before but last July he told Amerindian leaders that there was an international tender for the solar panels and a Danish company won the bid.
“But we can’t get them to pay for this because guess what, they want to come to your communities and ask you whether you want these solar panels or not; whether it will create environmental problems or social problems…,” the President had said. “All of these safeguards. It’s a straightforward procurement…,” he continued.
In his letter, Jagdeo also noted that Norway’s REDD+ payments at US$5 per tonne/C02 are enabling Guyana to maintain 99.5% of its forest cover. “Teams from our two countries have made breakthroughs on complex issues of global significance, and our methodology is in line with recommendations that highlight how a 25% reduction in global deforestation is possible within 5 years for less than 25 billion euro,” he said.
The former president stated that once Georgetown and Oslo are successful in fixing the finance mechanism, the partnership will enable Guyana – over the remaining three years – to combine payments from Norway with domestic investment and private capital to undertake several projects.
He identified these as Guyana becoming the world’s top user of clean energy as a per cent of its energy mix, and eliminating 92% of Guyana’s energy-related emissions; the establishment of a world-class Centre for Bio-diversity; investing in Guyana’s most pressing climate change adaptation priorities, including work to secure the coastline which is 1 metre below sea level; attracting a further US$2 billion in private finance for identified low carbon economic enterprise, in climate-smart agriculture and other sectors; building a world-class greenhouse gas monitoring, reporting and verification system(MRVS); distributing solar panels to indigenous households to ensure that every single indigenous home has access to electricity; establishing an Amerindian Development Fund to address the specific needs identified by indigenous Amerindian communities; and build on an already existing programme that is providing 90,000 low income households with laptops and training, to boost efforts to prevent the emergence of a digital divide in Guyana.
“Your personal dedication has been a major reason why we have travelled this far. Ours is a five-year partnership, we knew that we would have problems – and the two countries can fix them, especially the financing mechanism. We can prove to the world that it is possible to enshrine national ownership and adherence to world-class financial, social and environmental safeguards within climate finance mechanisms,” the former president wrote.
“I have already indicated to [Norwegian] Prime Minister Stoltenberg my belief that the new Government in Guyana will remain a strong and dependable partner in making the Guyana-Norway partnership work, and in helping to make progress on the global climate agenda,” he said adding that he will continue to support Solheim and “your vital work in any way I can after I have left office.”
In a response last month, Solheim thanked the former president and said that the partnership between Guyana and Norway would not have been possible without Jagdeo’s strong dedication. “As you refer to in your letter, there are still challenges that have to be solved before the model is working like we want it to. But I believe that all parties to this cooperation want to see progress and success. From the Norwegian side, I can assure you that this has high priority, making our partnership a vehicle for the successful implementation of Guyana’s low carbon development strategy in the coming three years,” the minister said.
“I am encouraged by your indication that you believe the new government of Guyana will want to continue our partnership and look forward to build on the foundation that was laid during your presidency,” Solheim wrote. He added that Jagdeo’s leadership and dedication in the fight against climate change is needed also after he would have left office of president and “I look forward to continue our common efforts towards a sustainable future in the years to come.”