President meets Norwegian delegation on forest deal

President Donald Ramotar yesterday met a technical team from Norway comprising climate and development cooperation officials. A release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said that progress under the Guyana-Norway partnership and the implementation of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) along with support for the implementation of LCDS projects were among the key areas of discussion.

GINA said that the team comprises members from the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and the Environment and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad): Marianne Johansen, Maarten van der Eynden, and Mads Halfdan Lie.

The visit by the Norwegian team comes on the heels of concerns about the pace and future of the landmark agreement signed on November 9, 2009 under which Oslo is committed to paying Guyana up to US$250 million in a forest protection deal once benchmarks have been met. Very little of the money has so far been spent as Guyana has had to meet the disbursal requirements of the intermediating institutions. A decision has since been taken to delay the payout while working on improving the financial mechanisms for funding projects. So far, Guyana has earned US$115 million.

It was also confirmed this month that Guyana will lose around US$20 million of the funding as its deforestation rate went above what it was in 2011. Most of the deforestation is attributable to mining activities and this has begged the question of whether Guyana is shifting away from its commitments to the LCDS and the Norway agreement in favour of greater concentration on mining which is now earning more foreign currency for the country than any other sector.

The visit by the Norwegian team will also be seen in the context of the change in government in Oslo. The government of former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg which had signed the deal with Guyana has been replaced by the conservative government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg which has signalled spending cuts in various areas. In November last year, new Finance Minister Siv Jensen proposed a 400 million kroner (US$65 million) cut to the 2014 budget of its Forests and Climate Initiative under which Guyana and several other tropical rainforest countries receive money to protect their forests.

The budget amendment document laid by Jensen had said “Recipient countries have shown that they need time to develop concrete assistance projects. This indicates that the grant proposal can be reduced without incurring reduced activity. Government reduces the proposed appropriation for 2014 by 400 million to 2 512.5 million (kroner) respectively. If the need for funding for performance-based payments in 2014 will be higher, the government will propose to allocate funds in line with climate agreement.” GINA said that the President reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment under the forest partnership and shared perspectives on Guyana’s LCDS.

Some of the Norway funds are helping with institutional strengthening, projects in Amerindian communities and micro and small enterprises.

The visiting team is expected to be part of a review of progress made to date on the implementation of Guyana’s Monitoring Reporting & Verification System roadmap for the forest sector, GINA said.


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