New gov’t facing key decisions on Norway forest pact, $$

Up to the end of March this year, US$39.4 million earned from Guyana’s efforts in limiting deforestation under its partnership with Norway, remained in the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) and as the partnership wraps up this month, the new administration seems unsure on how to proceed.

Stabroek News has been attempting to find out who has responsibility for climate change-related matters and the Guyana-Norway agreement in the David Granger administration but no one could give an answer. Stabroek News had initially been told that Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman had responsibility but all efforts to contact him over the past week were futile. Apart from governance, Trotman is responsible for “oversight of the management of the nation’s natural resources.”

Head of Communi-cations at the Ministry of the Presidency Mark Archer when contacted said that he did not have the information and he would have to get back to Stabroek News on the matter. He has not made contact with this newspaper since. Persons who work at the former Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment which has now been absorbed by the Ministry of the Presidency, told Stabroek News that they have not been informed who will now have responsibility for climate-change related matters.

Guyana has so far earned US$190 million under the agreement which ends this year. Of this, US$69.8 million has been transferred to the GRIF while US$80 million has been transferred to the Inter-American Develop-ment Bank for the delayed Amaila Falls Hydropower Power Project. Norway also announced in May that it will contribute US$40 million to Guyana for maintaining low deforestation rates and continued improvement in forest governance under the agreement.

The previous administration was in talks with Oslo for a renewed partnership for the period from 2015-2020. It is unclear where this stands now. Under the agreement, which was signed in 2009, Guyana could earn up to US$250 million in performance-based payments for the period up until 2015, based on an independent verification of Guyana’s deforestation and forest degradation rates and progress on REDD+ enabling activities.

 

Overseen

 

Guyana has so far earned US$190 million and of the US$69.8 million transferred to the GRIF which is overseen by the World Bank, US$39.4 million remained up to the end of March, according to the latest World Bank report. The rest has been disbursed for various projects. The GRIF is a fund for the financing of activities identified under the Government of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

Conservation Inter-national (CI) Guyana which is overseeing some projects under the partnership on Wednesday pointed out that the agreement is in its fifth and final year, and is up for renewal prior to the 21st UN Climate Change Conference of Parties to be held in Paris in November 2015. CI is overseeing three projects under the partnership and in a statement on Wednesday, the organisation said that it has written to the new administration and is awaiting its policy guidance regarding these three projects.

Stabroek News had also reported on Monday that Outreach Strategies, an American public relations firm is being paid US$250,000 ($50M) for four months to promote the LCDS inclusive of endorsements by “celebrities” within Guyana and external stakeholders of international standing. The contract was signed between the Office of Climate Change and the Washington D.C.-based firm on March 20 under the PPP/C administration. It runs until July 15. It is not clear how much work the firm, which has said that it would “create a drumbeat of news and information,” has done so far and questions are being raised about the work that the company is doing.

Meantime, to earn the final payment under the current Guyana-Norway partnership, Guyana is expected to fulfill a number of conditions articulated in the last Joint Concept Note (JCN) which is intended to guide the partnership for the period from June 2014 to June 2015 when the agreement ends.

 

Updated LCDS

 

Among these “enabling activities” is an updated LCDS. “By June 2015, the LCDS will be updated to reflect progress in implementing REDD+ initiatives, lessons learnt from the Guyana-Norway Partnership and to set out in draft form the focus, initiatives and projects for the next phase of the LCDS (2015- 2020).

This draft document will then be subject to wide stakeholder consultations, including forest dependent and Amerindian communities, and other members of civil society,” the JCN says. When in opposition, the current administration had been critical of the LCDS. The LCDS was originally launched in 2009, with an addendum in 2013.

Another indicator is to ensure that the LCDS, including the REDD-plus strategy and prioritized LCDS funding needs, is subject to an institutionalized, systematic and transparent process of multi-stakeholder consultation, enabling the participation of all potentially affected and interested stakeholders at all stages of the REDD-plus/LCDS process. “This process will continue to evolve over time. Particular attention is given to the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities,” the JCN says.

It also notes that the Constitution of Guyana guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples and other Guyanese to participation, engagement and decision making in all matters affecting their well-being. “These rights will be respected and protected throughout Guyana’s REDD-plus and LCDS efforts. Guyana’s policy is to enable indigenous communities to choose whether and how to opt in to the REDD+/LCDS process. This will take place only when communities wish to do so with their titled lands, in accordance with Guyana’s policy of respecting the free, prior and informed consent of these communities,” the JCN says. Among the goals in this area is that an opt-in mechanism strategy must be developed and the selection of a community to test the mechanism with a piloting of the mechanism in place by June 2015.

Under ‘integrated land-use planning and management,’ Guyana is required to by September 2015, have a formal system in place for holistic area planning and management. “A key element of this system should be a publicly available map of area use (including, but not limited to, full transparency regarding existing and planned concession and reconnaissance areas for forestry and mining, titled lands for Amerindian communities, areas planned and concessioned for industrial agriculture etc.),” the JCN says.

Earlier this year, Director of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, Per Fedrik Pharo told Stabroek News that negotiations on extending the Guyana-Norway forest protection partnership are ongoing and will not be concluded until late 2015 at the earliest.

Under the current agreement, the deforestation numbers for 2014 and the progress on the enabling indicators will trigger the final payment. “The current agreement does not contain plans for verification of Guyana’s 2015 REDD+ results. If the partnership is extended, verification will of course be continued, including possible modifications as agreed by Guyana and Norway. In the absence of such an agreement, it will be up to the Government of Guyana to continue the excellent work done by the Guyana Forestry Commission on reporting,” Pharo had explained.

 

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