The US embassy here believed that President Bharrat Jagdeo’s motivation for moving to protect the rainforest was “not preservation for preservation’s sake” but that Guyana may ultimately offer its forests to the highest bidder.
Back in November 2006, speaking at his return from an investment promotion conference in London, Jagdeo said that he intended to work with then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others to explore the potential use of Guyana’s rainforest to offset climate change.
Jagdeo had stated that such an arrangement would have to prove economically beneficial, saying “I cannot just preserve our rainforest in a pristine state so it could be the lungs of the world without Guyana benefiting from it.“
In a diplomatic cable titled ‘Jagdeo: Conservation, if the price is right,’ sent from the embassy here to Washington, then US ambassador David Robinson noted that the high-profile Stern Review, prepared for the UK government, advocates emissions trading to mitigate climate change.
He commented that Jagdeo’s interest in the economics of climate change as well as the attention placed on the Stern Report may raise the issue’s profile in Guyana.
The cable was released by whistle-blowing site, Wikileaks.
Robinson said that initial estimates suggest that Guyana may have some market potential as a carbon vendor.
He also referred to a 2005 study published in the Ecological Economics journal that found that the use of Guyana’s rainforests for climate change mitigation can generate revenue equal to that of conventional large-scale logging.
“Jagdeo’s emphasis on securing benefits for Guyana may also be a nod to critics of the current state of the forestry industry in Guyana, who have argued vocally that Guyana benefits little from commercial logging,” he said.
“On the other hand, Jagdeo’s motivation is not preservation for preservation’s sake, and Guyana may ultimately offer its forests to the highest bidder,” he added. The cable said that logistics rather than policy have insulated most of Guyana’s rainforest from development. “If a global trend towards emissions trading gains momentum, Jagdeo’s statements suggest that Guyana is poised to seek economic value in its forests beyond commercial logging,” the cable said.
Since his announcement, Jagdeo has travelled extensively raising his global profile on rainforest conservation. Guyana has since then also inked a US$250M over five years agreement with Norway to keep deforestation below an agreed level.