MAJOR STEPS FORWARD – MUCH MORE TO BE DONE
The President’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) finally captured full national support with the conclusion of the debate in the National Assembly. The debate was the culmination of a country wide consultation process which involved the entire spectrum of society but, most importantly, the Amerindian people.
The debate came at a time when the United Nations Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen was in full swing and it hopefully lent support and encouragement to the President and his team.
The President’s articulation and promotion the LCDS, in Guyana and around the world, has resulted in its acceptance by all sectors of society here and recognition of its innovative ideas around the world. It will forever alter the perspectives of the contribution which can be made by forested countries in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases providing the developed countries are able and willing to provide the necessary resources. It has already transformed the way in which we look at Guyana’s future development utilizing low carbon benchmarks for the first time. This transformation will in due course be considered one of the President’s most important legacies, moreso if it is competently and effectively advanced and implemented in the future.
Our forests have always been recognized as a great potential resource. The resource has been defined differently in different periods. In early times, before people were brought here involuntarily under colonial authority, the forests provided a home and sustenance for the people who lived there, the Amerindian population. After slavery was abolished, the forests provided mining resources which began to be exploited. Many people from the coast, particularly the descendants of African slaves, migrated to what we called the ‘interior’ to seek their fortune in the mining industry, searching for gold and, to a lesser extent, diamond. Later the exploitation of the forest itself proved to be a lucrative occupation and forestry has joined mining to become one of our major industries. Other industries, such as trading in wildlife, were spawned from the riches of the forest.
The unhindered exploitation and degradation of the world’s environment during centuries of exploitation arising from industrial development began to give rise to concern some decades ago. The concern resulted in the expansion of academic studies of the environment. Studies and research showed an accelerating rate of deterioration. The most alarming discovery was the warming of the planet by the releasing into the atmosphere of a colourless and odourless gas called carbon dioxide. It is mostly released by the burning of fossil fuels but also by the cutting down of forests which contributes seventeen percent to the pollution by carbon dioxide. The gas traps heat, warms the planet, which in turn causes great disturbances in weather patterns, reduces food production, and increases poverty. The destructive capacity of climate change is so powerful that unless something is done now to slow it down, the eventual consequences can be the destruction of the planet as we know it.
Increasing worldwide concerns gave rise to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. It was subscribed to by 184 parties, came into force in 2005 and is due to expire in 2012. Under the Treaty countries were committed to national measures to meet their targets. The Protocol provided for additional methods including the establishment of emissions trading, known as the “carbon market.” The Treaty, recognizing the major responsibility of the developed countries for the climate crisis, provided for the creation of an Adaptation Fund to finance projects in developing countries to help them to alleviate the effects of climate change.
The objective of President Jagdeo at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen which was convened to charter a post-Kyoto course, was to ensure that the exclusion of forestry from the carbon markets is ended. The President and Government believed that Copenhagen ‘should include incentives to cut tropical deforestation in half by 2020, and make the global forestry sector carbon neutral by 2030 – where greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation are balanced by new forest growth.’ The LCDS noted that consensus is growing for interim funding to protect rainforests but REDD mechanisms will take years to generate sufficient funding quickly enough. The LCDS argued that ‘transitional funding is needed to immediately slow and avoid deforestation, while supporting the longer term emergence of an at-scale REDD mechanism.’
At Copenhagen the urgent task for President Jagdeo and those countries in support was to obtain a binding agreement on targeted reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Large differences of opinion existed between developed and developing countries. In the end, however, the Copenhagen Accord recognized the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development. The need to establish a comprehensive adaptation programme including international support was recognized.
Of more direct relevance to Guyana’s LCDS, the Accord provided that substantial finance should be provided to developing countries to support action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD-plus), adaptation, technology development and capacity building. Finance and technology transfer mechanisms were agreed upon and the sums of USD 30 billion by 2012 and USD 100 billion by 2020 were estimated to be required and were agreed to be provided from public, private, bilateral, multilateral and alternative sources of finance.
The outcome of the Copenhagen Conference was a success for the President’s LCDS strategy. He certainly did not get all that he wanted for the people of Guyana and forested countries. But as can be seen from the foregoing analysis, significant advances were made in recognizing and implementing the important issues that the LCDS was proposing such as REDD and a funding mechanism. Sure, the President did not get all he wanted. Few leaders ever do. But the struggle is far from over. The success achieved by President Jagdeo in Copenhagen must be built upon to ensure greater achievements in Mexico which is the next stop. (www.conversationtree.com).