Norway deal likely for review by new Parliament

Aspects of the Guyana-Norway deal could come under review when the new Parliament convenes but how this will impact the agreement signed in 2009 remains unclear.

AFC leader, Raphael Trotman told Stabroek News last week that reviewing the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to remove conditions that are excessively adverse to small miners and loggers are among the priority issues for the party. The opposition-dominated new Parlia-ment plans to review several deals and miners have in the past called for a percentage of land to be exempted from the Guyana-Norway deal since they feel that they cannot meet the standards.

A boom in gold mining has seen increased deforestation levels and officials have acknowledged that illegal mining is widespread. However, under revised terms of the 2009, Memorandum of Understanding between Guyana and Norway, payments from Oslo will decrease should the deforestation level here increase over last year’s level. “There is room for small fluctuations but if you go above last year’s results then you immediately start to reduce the amount [of money] due to Guyana, ” Per Fredrik Pharo, Deputy Director of Norway’s Climate and Forest Initiative, told Stabroek News in an interview in April.

Raphael Trotman

Under the new terms, the interim reference level for deforestation was revised to 0.27%, a cut of almost forty per cent from the previous level of 0.45%. In the first reporting period under the agreement, the annual deforestation rate was 0.056%, which was above the annual average deforestation rate of 0.022% over the last 20 years. Guyana can still increase deforestation and receive money but once the deforestation rate rises about the 0.056% deforestation rate, payments will be reduced and if deforestation reaches 0.1%, no payments will be made. Continuous assessments are being done to ensure that Guyana meets the benchmarks agreed to in the forests partnership.

Contacted yesterday, AFC chairman Khemraj Ramjattan stressed sustainability in mining and forestry but said that the party is against “stopping employment” in mining. “The AFC is never, ever going to allow employment creation [to be] subsidiary to the LCDS programme,” he said. Ramjattan outlined several initiatives which he said could curb Guyana’s carbon emissions but also stressed that reforestation would be critical.

Stabroek News understands that the question of under which portfolio climate change should fall is still to be decided and Ramjattan said that it is his belief that it should fall under the newly created Ministry of the Natural Resources and the Environment. In the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, the president held responsibility for the portfolio.

Meantime, several projects that were supposed to be funded under the agreement are yet to get off the ground. Stabroek News was told that the full proposals are still to be done.
Earlier this year, the Project Concept Note for institutional strengthening of the institutions involved in the LCDS and the Guyana-Norway agreement was approved and US$305,168 was allocated to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in administrative fees for project proposal preparation. In addition, on October 14, the Steering Committee of the Guyana REDD+ Invest-ment Fund (GRIF) approved the micro- and small enterprise development project and US$127,476 was allocated to the IDB for the preparation of project proposals. Government had identified the development of micro and small enterprises (MSEs) and providing alternative livelihoods to vulnerable groups as a key component of the LCDS. GRIF is the mechanism through which the Norway funds are disbursed.

Norway had also released US$1.1 million to Guyana outside of the GRIF in order to enable Guyana to meet its contractual obligations under the partnership following another disbursement of US$470,000.

In its latest report on the financial status of the GRIF, the World Bank said that the net funding available in the GRIF Trust Fund as of November 30, 2011 to support new project funding decisions by the Steering Com-mittee amounts to US$ 62.8 million. New funding decisions pending cash transfer include US$5,940,000 for the institutional strengthening project and US$140,322 for corresponding administrative fees.

In November 2009, Guyana and Norway signed a Memorandum of Under-standing and a Joint Concept Note in which Norway committed to providing financial support of up to US$250 million by 2015 for results achieved by Guyana in limiting emissions from deforestation and forest degradation which will support the implementation of Guyana’s LCDS.

Under the MOU contributions are channelled through the multi-contributor GRIF established in October 2010 for priority projects identified in the LCDS. Thus far, US$70 million was transferred from to Norway to the World Bank- the trustee for the fund.

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