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For years, Guyana has been asking countries and companies to appreciate the value of its vast forests.
Now that many fear the climate crisis is venturing near a point of no return, the country’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali says Guyana still offers the world a solution it needs.
“We will always put practical solutions before abstract theories so that we can play our part in finally bringing climate stability within reach,” President Ali said while addressing the high-level engagement of this year’s United Nations (UN) climate talks, COP28, in Dubai.
World leaders pose for a group photo at Al Wasl during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: COP28 / Mahmoud Khaled/ December 1, 2023)
Guyana’s “practical solution” is its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
It is a plan that essentially charts how Guyana can earn from its forests even as it keeps the more than 18 million hectares of those resources intact. It also includes the direct disbursement of payments to indigenous communities. It sets aside money for Guyana to protect itself from climate change, like beefing up sea defences to protect from the rising sea level.
In 2009, Norway signed the first deal under the LCDS, paying Guyana some US$250 million to keep its forest intact.
Flashback to 2009: Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who was Guyana’s President at the time, and Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim, signed an agreement where Norway would provide Guyana with result-based payments for forest climate services (Photo taken from a digital copy of LCDS 2030)
Years later, in 2022, US oil company Hess, entered into another payment scheme, this time paying Guyana for its carbon credits, a tradable permit representing the harmful carbon dioxide trapped by the trees.
That’s how forests protect the planet, by trapping carbon dioxide, one of the harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change, bringing about extreme weather events such as fires and flooding.
A deal of at least US$750 million was signed with Hess with 15% of the funds going to Indigenous communities.
Guyana’s government inked a historic pact with the Hess Corporation. The company’s CEO John Hess is seated at right and Abena Moore, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President is seated at left. Also in photo are President Dr. Irfaan Ali (third right), Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips (centre), Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo (third left) and other officials (Office of the President photo)
President Ali told fellow world leaders that they must realise how important standing forests are to solving the climate crisis. Without them, that crisis would substantially worsen.
And to keep them, they must be appropriately valued so that they are protected and not cut down to pave the way for other income-generating schemes like mining or agriculture.
Guyana’s intact forests cover about 85% of the country’s landmass. For illustrative purposes, the area of Guyana covered by the forest is equivalent to the area of England and Scotland combined.
The tiny South American country has tried its best not to cut down those trees and use them for logging or so that the land can be cleared for mining or agricultural activities. And it hasn’t done a bad job.
Guyana’s annual deforestation rate averages at about 0.06%, a rate which is 90% lower than other tropical countries. Last year, it was 0.036%
But Guyana isn’t just telling half of its story. President Ali said the country accepts it is now an oil-producing nation and it has certain responsibilities.
The oil industry is a notorious contributor to carbon emissions but the President says Guyana supports the removal of subsidies and incentives for renewable energy.
He maintains that Guyana is showing how it can balance oil production with the protection of its forests since those forests offset the harmful emissions produced by the oil industry.
This story was originally published by the News Room, with the support of Climate Tracker’s COP28 Climate Justice Reporting Fellowship.