No talks yet on extending Norway forests pact

There are currently no discussions on extending the forests partnership between Guyana and Norway but talks can start when the agreed deliverables of the current partnership are met, Director of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative Per Fredrik Pharo says.

“Discussions regarding an extension of the partnership can start when the agreed deliverables of the current partnership are met,” Pharo told Stabroek News, when asked how the change of government in Guyana has impacted discussions towards an extension of the partnership.

Under the Guyana-Norway partnership, inked in 2009, Guyana could have earned up to US$250 million from Oslo in performance-based payments up to this year, based on an independent verification of Guyana’s deforestation and forest degradation rates and progress on REDD+ enabling activities. REDD+ is a global initiative that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Guyana has so far earned US$190 million, with US$69.8 million transferred to the World Bank administered Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) and US$80 million to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP). US$40 million remains in Norway, with the final year of the partnership -2014- still being assessed.

The previous PPP/C government had indicated that it was in talks with Oslo for a renewed partnership for the period from 2015 to 2020. However, the flagship AFHP, which was supposed to eliminate at least 92% of Guyana’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, is still to get off the ground and the David Granger administration has said it would not support it as currently configured.

Per Fredrik Pharo
Per Fredrik Pharo

Asked recently how interested Norway is in extending the partnership, Pharo said the discussions are yet to be had. “Guyana remains an interesting climate and forest country, as long as the country continues to keep the deforestation at current levels or lower, improves forest and natural resource governance, and demonstrate it will to follow a green development path,” he said.

It was noted that several “enabling activities” outlined in the last Joint Concept Note (JCN), such as an updated Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) by June 2015 and the piloting of the “opt-in” mechanism for Amerindian communities by June 2015, among others, have not been achieved. Asked how this will affect the payment for the final year of the Agreement, Pharo said reaching the goals of the JCN is a prerequisite for the payment and delays in the deliverables imply delayed payment.

In terms of whether there is going to be any modification of some of the indicators in the last JCN given that not much was accomplished as a result of the recent election season and in view of the fact that a new government has since been elected, Pharo said that the timeline for the deliverables will be adjusted.

The non-implementation of the AFHP is likely to be viewed as the biggest failure of the previous PPP/C administration’s LCDS as it was envisioned that the project would deliver a steady source of affordable, reliable, clean and renewable energy and make Guyana the world’s number one user of renewable energy by 2017. Had the project come of fruition as envisioned, it would have likely been hailed as a major success of the partnership and lent momentum for a renewal of the agreement.

Norway had strongly supported the AFHP and Pharo recently urged the APNU+AFC administration to consider the merits of the project, since Guyana stands to lose over $16 billion previously earmarked for the project if it fails to come up with a plan for “transformational” renewable energy sources that can be realised in the next few years.

“The merits of the Amaila Falls project should be considered by the Government of Guyana. Norway is a strong supporter of transforming Guyana’s energy sector and significantly reducing energy-related emissions. We see this as a fundamental part of the Guyana-Norway partnership,” Pharo had told Stabroek News.

He said setting the direction for Guyana’s energy future is up to government but urged, as part of that process, “a comprehensive, facts-based revision of the Amaila Falls project by the Government of Guyana, so as to establish a proper basis for any decision.”

The David Granger administration has said that as currently configured, “it would not only be irresponsible, but a downright criminal act of deception,” if government proceeded with Amaila.

The Granger administration has spoken of a ‘green’ economy numerous times but to date has not articulated a comprehensive strategy for renewable energy. Minister of State Joseph Harmon recently told Stabroek News that Guyana is working on several projects to utilise the money.

Pharo had said that if Guyana comes up with a timely renewable energy plan acceptable to both countries, the money could be used for those projects. “It is laid out in the MoU between our two countries that the payments from Norway shall be used for low carbon development, including transforming Guyana’s energy sector to renewable energy. As agreed between Guyana’s previous government and Norway, the US$80 million was dedicated to the Amaila project. The money could, if agreed between our two countries, be used by Guyana on other transformational renewable energy sources that can be realised in the next few years, if Guyana should choose to move in this direction in a timely manner,” he said.


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