The government’s efforts to counteract the effects of climate change were given a boost yesterday when two technical cooperation agreements valued at US$1,450,000 were signed between the Finance Ministry and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The inking of the contracts took place in the boardroom of the Ministry of Finance where Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh signed on behalf of the ministry, while local IDB representative Marco Nicola signed on behalf of the bank.
The first technical co-operation agreement is valued at US$1million and is to support the country’s efforts to improve disaster risk and flood management. This agreement is consistent with the bank’s Country Strategy with Guyana (2008-2012). Under this agreement, vulnerable communities, and national and local government agencies such as the ministries of agriculture and public works and communication, the National Climate Committee and regional and neighbourhood democratic councils will receive assistance. The Civil Defence Commission has been identified as the executing agency for this project. In a joint release issued yesterday, the bodies said that “the grant will fund the identification of country risk indicators and flood risk evaluation; the development of a National Integrated Disaster Risk Management plan and institutional strengthening and capacity building at national and local level.” Some of the funds will be used to fund the design of an investment programme in flood prevention and mitigation, taking into consideration the bank’s existing lending instruments, as well as potential co-financing from other donors.
The programme promotes close collaboration with other projects financed by international donor organizations that are providing support to Guyana to improve disaster risk management as well as to strengthen climate change adaptation strategies. During the project execution, a steering committee on environmental management, climate change and disaster risk management will be created under the Office of the President (OP).
This group will comprise public sector agencies and donor and non-governmental organizations.
The second technical co-operation agreement, valued at US$450,000, will provide support to Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). The main activities to be funded through this agreement are the strengthening of national institutional capacities for effectively dealing with climate change, supporting a nation-wide consultation process on the LCDS, and the targeting of stakeholders and economic actors across sector, particularly indigenous and forest communities that depend mainly on the country’s forest and natural resources. The Office of Climate Change will be the lead agency in this initiative.
Nicola, while underscoring the importance of disaster preparedness, said that the grant will help meet some of the social and economic costs that the country may face during natural disasters.
According to Nicola, the support for the LCDS is “consistent with the IDB strategy for Climate Change.” He said that the IDB has realized that “its member countries in the Latin American/ Caribbean region offer significant opportunities for avoided and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and therefore can contribute significantly in the world’s effort against global climate change.”
Nicola also indicated the bank’s support for other initiatives in the country, saying that soon the body will be approving grants offering assistance in the water and transport sectors.
Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh hailed the signing of the contracts as “being central to the development agenda of the country” and thanked the IDB for its support.
He identified climate change as an area the government had been concerned about since the Guyana had experienced the negative effects of this firsthand. He recalled the catastrophic effects of the 2005 floods, which he said had imposed upon the economy costs equivalent to 60% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The minister said the fact that the country had survived such significant expenditure was commendable and a proud achievement.
Emphasizing government’s position of “being prepared,” Singh said evidence shows that unless action is taken now, the future negative impacts of erratic weather patterns will continue. He said that this recognition had led to the negotiations with the IDB and the conclusion of plans to strengthen capacity of various agencies in the country. He acknowledged the efforts of officials at the OP in the role they played in negotiating these contracts and acknowledged the efforts of Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon. Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira represented the staff of OP at yesterday’s signing ceremony.
Speaking about the LCDS, Singh underscored the importance of this initiative to the country and pointed out that it is not just about preserving the forests but that it had a strong developmental aspect to it, which is often forgotten.