Guyana and Norway commended for forest management efforts

News-1Georgetown, Guyana — World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guianas has welcomed Guyana President Donald Ramotar’s announcement of Norway’s 2012 calendar year performance-based payment into the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF).

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 2005, with the twin objectives of mitigating climate change through reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and removing greenhouse gases through enhanced forest management in developing countries. Sustainable management of forests, conservation of forest carbon stocks and enhancement of forest carbon stocks constitutes the “+” in REDD+.

The payment of US$35 million was reduced by US$10 million mostly due to the uptick in deforestation between 2011 (0.054%) and 2012 (0.079%), which triggered the agreement’s payment reduction mechanism.

WWF recognized that REDD+ implementation is an enormous challenge and commended the two governments’ commitment to work through the process and deliver results that enable Guyana’s sustainable economic development, while contributing to the global fight against climate change.

Preliminary 2013 results indicate the rate of deforestation dropped to 0.068% last year (a 15% reduction from 2012); an encouraging development, signifying a payment closer to the $45 million annual maximum amount will be due once those results are verified.

With the second highest percentage of rainforest of any county on Earth, Guyana’s 18.5 million hectares of forest provide an important buffer to climate change. At the same time, these forests — which maintain rich biodiversity, generate extensive freshwater resources and populate Guyana’s spectacular pristine natural landscapes — point to Guyana’s competitive advantage as all these resources become rarer and more valuable over time.

“We anticipate that in the not too distant future all of these resources will generate significant payments for ecosystem services, as their global value is more widely appreciated,” WWF said in a statement.

As the first national scale REDD+ model, the Guyana-Norway Agreement is a critically important test case, according to WWF – and is being closely watched by the international community. The five-year deal with Norway has contributed US$150 million to the GRIF since 2009 in exchange for Guyana’s efforts to limit deforestation and forest degradation.

The current agreement lapses in June 2015 and it is WWF’s fervent hope that the two governments will negotiate an extension that will continue to provide financing for Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and specifically to initiatives that protect Guyana’s forests and all their unique values, while providing jobs and sustainable development opportunities for the Guyanese people.

“With each passing year the international community grows increasingly aware of the impacts of climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and limits to freshwater supplies, and the benefits that will accrue to Guyana for conserving its forests will only grow over time,” WWF said.

Besides the payments, which currently fund a wide variety of activities — from Amerindian land titling to small business development loans — the Guyana-Norway Agreement has produced a number of other important benefits.

Guyana’s Monitoring Reporting and Verification System (MRVS), the first in the world to provide a country-wide system to reliably monitor changes to forest cover, is a powerful mechanism to inform public policy discussions and has become a cost effective and reliable model for other countries preparing for REDD+.

Furthermore, Guyana’s Community MRV projects in the North Rupununi and the Wai Wai Kanashen territory (the latter a Norad-funded WWF initiative) empower these communities by developing their own capacity to monitor changes in their natural resources (carbon, biodiversity, fresh water, timber, etc.) and is fully integrated with the national MRVS.

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