We need a ‘climate conscious’ NDS

Dear Editor,

Another of UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) talks commence in Bangkok, where various parties continue to discuss opportunities in sealing an agreement in Copenhagen.  Prior to the Bangkok Climate Change Talks, a series of high-level political meetings including the UN Climate Summit in New York and the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh discussed climate change, with specific focuses on the need for having targets and action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The fact remains that no firm financial commitment is on the table for financing climate change for poor third world countries, and without this the LCDS is a piece of paper and nothing else. In July 2009 at the Major Economies Forum, in addition to agreeing on the climate science and the need for urgent action this year, heads of state agreed that finance ministers should (the operative word here is should) “work through the G20 to recommend in advance of the Copenhagen conference the best ways to mobilize necessary financing.”  To answer this challenge, all countries, except the least developed, are being asked to contribute to financing the fight against climate change based on common but differentiated responsibilities and their respective capacities. The reality – no money is on the table to date from the G20 countries and the prospect looks bleak (considering Britain is now about to cut the size of its public services to generate savings in their  budget).

The G20 leaders in Pittsburgh, unfortunately, failed to make any specific decisions on financing for climate change. Heads of the world’s 20 largest economies acknowledged the urgent need for a deal in Copenhagen that sets us on a path to a clean energy economy and addresses the devastating impacts of climate change, but very few concrete measures were taken by the group. They only called on their finance ministers to continue their work and report back at their November meeting in Scotland with a range of options for climate change financing to be considered.

Within less than 70 days remaining, there is little hope for Copenhagen.  There is no stimulus for the G20 to move, none whatsoever, and yet little Guyana has spent so much of its valuable resources (Presidential time and the taxpayers money) highlighting an issue that is certainly not the priority of the majority of the G20 countries.  We have been on nothing else but one expensive marketing exercise that got us a few dinners with movie stars and not much else. Where is the new sustainable clean energy fund that is being targeted at Guyana?

Let us never lead ourselves into the belief that the G20 countries are sloths, they are not. The governments of the G20 are action people, since if anyone observed what happened over the last 13 months with respect to the banking crisis, these leaders took firm and timely decisions and released the necessary funds to pull their economies from the brink because it was in their vested interest.  However, this lethargy currently on display by the G20 leaders with respect to helping Guyana is nothing else than a photo opportunity – yes and a diplomatic no to our LCDS.  We will get loads of pats on the back about how good the LCDS is but we are not seeing the cheques.  These countries have to sort their internal finance out first; they have to implement their green project first before Guyana will even be considered.  If China is planting a forest the size of Norway, why should they care if Guyana saves its forest or not?  It is not in the best interest of the G20 countries to fund climate change costs for Guyana on top of all the stimulus packages they have just implemented.  It is just not financially sustainable!  President Jagdeo just got it wrong and he should step up now, accept full responsibility for this mess, and let us all move on with developing Guyana.

Therefore, what are we going to do now that Copenhagen is just going to produce an incomplete document that is full of predictable trite and no ‘concrete dinero’?  We can either do the stupid thing and prostitute our forest to the Malaysians or we can go back to the drawing board, call in the best minds in Guyana to re-look at the NDS, the Poverty Allevia-tion Strategy and the now ill-famed LCDS.  We can revise the NDS into a climate conscious NDS (let us say NDS Plus) with up-to-date, practical and achievable measures to drive our development initiatives.  There will be no room for a figure in the air like the US$580 million valuation of our forest.  Philosophically, we must wake up and bring ourselves back to earth and plan practically, set achievable goals and implement accordingly.

How are we going to raise this finance? Public finance is critical for mobilizing and shifting the required private sector investment needed to spur any clean energy economy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Our chances with the ABC countries is slim at best and thus the only hope is to go to the bank, the BRIC countries.  Fortunately, for us, we have a great relationship with Brazil, Russia, China and India (it is unfortunate that we do not have a full ambassador in China and Russia since 1994 and I trust this will be remedied early).  We can position our new NDS Plus as a partnership document that requires both public and private funding with commercial return on the investments.  These BRIC governments can be used as the KBI (Key Business Introducers) to encourage their private sector to bring the new and additional investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and new climate-friendly technologies.

This means that we must secure the services of the best Guyanese lawyers, financial analysts and project managers to ensure we are negotiating the right deals for Guyana and just get on with the job.  President Jagdeo needs at the negotiation table the likes of Winston Brassington (the Project Manager), Ashni Singh (the finance specialist), and Ralph Ramkarran (the expert and experienced lawyer).  If he really cares about Guyana, he will manage us politically for the rest of his term and allow the technicians to get on with their work.

Yours faithfully,
Sasenarine Singh

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