Earlier this month, the governments of Norway and Guyana signed an agreement worth up to US$250 million that is supposed to help address climate change by reducing deforestation in Guyana. Yet at a meeting in London last week, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo admitted that under the deal the rate of deforestation in Guyana could actually increase.
When asked whether Guyana will be allowed to increase deforestation under the agreement, Jagdeo said “Basically, yes.” Under the Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Jagdeo and Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim, Norway will pay Guyana if the deforestation rate is less than 0.45 per cent. But the current rate of deforestation in Guyana is well below that figure.
Jagdeo’s comment came during a meeting in London organised by Global Witness. Videos of the entire event are available on YouTube and the transcript is available on Global Witness’s website (pdf file, 108 KB). The Memorandum of Understanding between Norway and Guyana is available here (pdf file, 435 KB).
Global Witness is to be commended for holding the meeting and for making a record available to the public. Unfortunately, President Jagdeo’s long, rambling answers failed to answer some of the key questions, and meant that other questions could not be asked in the time available.
At one point, Jagdeo spoke about illegal logging: “Yes, there is illegal logging,” he admitted. But he explained that illegal logging is carried out by poor people who “need to eat”. This is a bizarre view of the impacts of the logging industry in Guyana, where the problem of illegal logging, especially by large-scale Asian logging companies, is largely a result of the government’s failure to implement the law. But there was neither the time nor the opportunity for those present at this meeting to challenge Jagdeo’s explanation.
Following Jagdeo’s admission that Guyana could get paid for actually increasing deforestation, the moderator asked Marte Nordseth from the Norway International Climate and Forests Initiative whether this is a good deal for Norwegian tax payers. Nordseth stated that she believed that the agreement did not allow deforestation to increase. Perhaps she was confusing emissions from deforestation with emissions from degradation: under the agreement, whilst deforestation could increase up to the new artificially high reference level of 0.45 per cent per year, increases in emissions from degradation would be penalised. As was pointed out to the meeting by one of the audience, these “degradation emissions” from logging and mining damage are the largest overall for Guyana, and whilst they should not increase under the agreement, they will be allowed to continue at the current levels without incurring any penalty.
In the past, Jagdeo seemed to have developed his own version of REDD: Avoided threatened deforestation. Now he has a new scheme: Payments for increased deforestation.
Before the meeting in London, Global Witness collected questions from people who could not attend the event. Janette Bulkan sent the following questions, which remain unanswered. Global Witness has forwarded these questions to President Jagdeo. REDD-Monitor looks forward to posting his response.
Questions for President Bharrat Jagdeo at meeting organised by Global Witness, London, 18 November 2009
Questions raised by Janette Bulkan (Andrew W Mellon postdoctoral fellow in international environmental human rights, Colby College, Waterville, Maine 04901, USA), revised for Presidential response as offered to GW on 18/19 November and communicated by David Young on 20 November 2009.
Questions not in any particular order.
Mr President, on 29 October 2009, Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon, defended your Government’s rejection of a £4.9 m security sector reform project negotiated over a long period with the UK. Dr Luncheon claimed that the latest British proposal for project management infringed on Guyana’s sovereignty. The MoU between the Governments of Norway and Guyana for funding of some elements of your (draft) Low Carbon Development Strategy, and of the REDD+ being proposed separately by the Guyana Forestry Commission, appears to commit the Government of Guyana to considerable external oversight and to external fund management. Please explain the difference in response by the Cabinet in Guyana to these two agreements.
Mr President, you have frequently said that the forest laws and regulations of Guyana are (among) the best in the world. How do you reconcile this claim with your various statements during consultations on the draft LCDS that mining and forest laws will need to be enforced if international monitors insist, and that the laws will need to be amended to match international standards? How also do you reconcile these contradictions with your many assurances to miners and loggers that implementation of the LCDS will not affect customary business (which, as is well documented, involves high levels of illegal activities)?
Mr President, on 21 July 2009, your Ministers (Amerindian Affairs and/or Human Services) told the LCDS awareness session participants at the Women’s Affairs Bureau that your (draft) Low Carbon Development Strategy “does not include all of Guyana’s forest, 10 percent will be excluded apart from the indigenous lands, private owned lands and land under concession.”
a. Please explain why such concessions, which are the major emitters of forest carbon in Guyana, are excluded from a scheme supposedly related to verifiable reductions in emissions of forest carbon?
b. What specific measures are you going to implement, by what date, where, and under what legal authority. to reduce carbon emissions by loggers and miners?
Background notes –
1. the Ministerial statement is in the OCC record for this meeting, posted on the LCDS website. Womens Affairs Bureau, 21 July 2009
– Mining and logging will continue under the LCDS. Before the LCDS and after the GFC will have to ensure compliance with the regulations in the LCDS by these sectors. Government is willing to review the current regulations and implement stronger ones to ensure compliance.
– The forest will not be locked down but sustainable practices will be implemented.
– The strategy does not include all of Guyana’s forest, 10 percent will be excluded apart from the indigenous lands, private owned lands and land under concession.
2. Based on data issued by the Guyana Forestry Commission in the several versions of its REDD Readiness Preparation proposal , logging concessions emitted 4.6 million tonnes of forest carbon in 2007-8 and mineral mining concessions emitted 3.6 million tonnes of forest carbon in that same period. These estimates were published in the Press in Guyana in August and have not been contested by the Guyana Forestry Commission or your Office of Climate Change
(following from Question 3) Mr President, if your Ministers are not understanding your draft LCDS, how could you expect other citizens of Guyana to understand the draft in which you propose to spend USD 580 million per year mostly on construction work in the coastal zone, far from forests and mines? Mr President, given that your second elected and final term of office expires in 2011,
a. what specific measures will you be implementing where, starting when, and how funded, to compensate those whose present livelihoods will be affected negatively by the verified reductions in emissions of forest carbon which you have agreed in principle with the Government of Norway on 09 November 2009; an agreement which includes specific proxy indicators for assessing carbon emissions?
b. what amounts of the inflowing LCDS/REDD+ money will you be assigning for livelihood compensation and improvement (as required by the Charter of the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership, of which Guyana is a REDD Country Participant) to displaced miners and loggers?
c. when and where will you publish the exact amounts of REDD+ and LCDS income and the name of the recipients and the purpose of the money transaction, as required by the Norway-Guyana agreement (MoU and associated Joint Concept Note )?
Background notes –
1. Your draft LCDS fails to explain the origin or to comment on the reliability of the post-deforestation land use projections proposed by McKinsey & Company (consultants funded by the Clinton Foundation and co-funded by the UK Department for International Development) in 2008 – whose report also has not been published in its original form, only the President’s abstract in December 2008 (abstract now only available at www.gina.gov.gy, has been removed from LCDS website).
2. You have failed to place the original data and maps into the public domain.
3. Your Office of Climate Change has failed to answer the majority of the hundreds of questions raised at the LCDS consultations and awareness sessions.
4. Your spending proposals are not backed by any public domain comparative economic analyses.
5. You have failed to answer any challenges to the draft LCDS in the Press, and the LCDS website page for responses has remained blank since June 2009 except for 2 days.
6. Your draft LCDS makes only two passing and indirect references (pages 15 and 33) to reducing emissions of carbon and deforestation).
8. Livelihoods of the ~100,000 forest-dependent workers and miners who could be affected by REDD trading, plus their dependents. Numbers are 27,000 in the forest sector, 30,000 Brazilian miners, 43,000 Guyanese miners.
How is it that the Asian-owned loggers who control almost all the long-term logging concessions are continuing with business as usual, untrammeled by LCDS or REDD+ constraints?
Background notes –
Asian loggers are admitted by junior Minister for Forestry to control at least 70 per cent of such concessions (TSAs), while legally they control only 40 per cent. I estimate that actual in-field control may be 98 per cent.
Mr President (as Minister of Forests), in making its country-wide estimates of deforestation by mining, unspecified “agriculture” and forest roads from 2007-8 (see R-PP referenced above, as well as previous R-PLANs and R-PIN), the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) must have scanned the upper Corentyne.
a. How did the GFC fail to investigate or to report to the government security agencies the illegal large airstrip constructed in State Forest, an airstrip which is bigger than the national airport at Ogle?
b. Please explain the grounds on which stakeholders can have confidence in the fieldwork or data of the GFC for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV), when the GFC has for years failed to control the persistent and widespread illegal logging? – as well as failing to issue a formal annual report and lay it before the National Assembly or to have its accounts audited in full by the Office of the Auditor General, as it has been required to do by the GFC Acts of 1979 and 2007?
Background note –
The airstrip in the Upper Corentyne was reported in early December 2007. No one has been charged with any offence in connection with that airstrip.
Mr President, money supplied from the Forest Carbon Partnership Fund for REDD Readiness Preparation is conditional upon free, prior and informed consent of stakeholders who are indigenous people, according to World Bank safeguard policy OP4.10. As the nature of the REDD bargain (compensation money for verified reductions in emissions of forest carbon) has not been explained to stakeholders in Guyana, in language and format which is culturally appropriate, you cannot demonstrate such consent because sufficient and accurate information has not been supplied. When and how are you going to engage truthfully with stakeholders in-country, including Amerindian and other loggers and all kinds of miners, to explain that REDD+ will have negative impacts on them?
Background notes –
1. the representative Amerindian Peoples Association has repeatedly reported that the indigenous peoples did not receive LCDS documents in good time, in the local languages, or in a format or style which is appropriate and comprehensible.
2. The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs was supposed to be arranging translation of the draft LCDS into 5 of the 9 indigenous languages. I believe that translation even of the 2-page fact sheet for Amerindians on the LCDS consultation process may have failed; see page 10 of the IIED report on the LCDS consultation process. The draft LCDS document is 57 pages.
Mr President, research reports including World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4136, 2007, point out that inevitable sea level rise (due to thermal expansion as well as to melting ice caps and ice sheets) will overwhelm physical sea dykes during this century, especially the flimsy barriers now used for the below-high-tide empoldered coastal plain of Guyana. In the remaining months of your term of office –
a. when /where/ and how are you going to re-start the National Development Strategy (which stalled with the death of President Cheddi Jagan in 1997 and re-issued in a summarized draft in 2000 but not implemented) and take seriously the need to move the bulk of the economy and population out of the to-be-flooded coastal plain?
b. On what basis will you allocate REDD+/LCDS funds for emergency repair of the long-neglected sea defences and feeble drainage and irrigation structures, compared with a more statesman-like creation of a new economy on higher non-flooding terrain?
Mr President, you have recently remembered that you were Minister of Finance under President Cheddi Jagan when the National Development Strategy (NDS) was prepared in 1995-6.
a. When will you revive and update the NDS, integrate the National Competitiveness Strategy and the LCDS into the updated NDS and develop and implement a national action plan?
b. When / where / how will you confirm publicly that such national planning will be non-partisan, independently organised and moderated, fully recorded and fully reported, and fully consultative and participatory, as was the original NDS process?
Background notes –
1. The Norway-Guyana MoU envisages a stakeholder interaction process quite unlike the LCDS “consultation” process which was a government-dominated show-and-tell with hardly even a pretence of feedback or interaction on serious and thoughtful questions. Hundreds of these questions are recorded from the hinterland consultations and urban awareness sessions, most of them remain without answer from the OCC.
2. There were 13 hinterland consultations for the draft LCDS, 11 reported urban awareness sessions (several others not reported), and ~8 rural sessions for miners, in ~10 weeks.
3. In contrast, the NDS involved >200 people working intensively in a non-partisan manner, crossing ethnic boundaries, with independent coordination and moderation by ex-President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Foundation of Georgia.
Mr President, your Minister for Amerindian Affairs has been reported as claiming that 60 Amerindian communities were demarcated in a couple of years. How do you reconcile her statement with your claim that community demarcation is expensive and that you need additional – implied, donor – funds to complete Guyana’s legal obligation to demarcate all the communities existing in 1966, 43 years ago?
Background note –
– Demarcation of sixty (60) Amerindian lands was completed over the last couple of years.
2. There are ~40 untitled Amerindian communities.
The eligibility limits for communities to apply for Amerindian Village Title under the Amerindian Act 2006 conflict with international conventions on securing the land tenure of indigenous peoples. Recognising that this is a difficult issue, given other claims to land, when / where / how are you going to make integrated land use planning the legal norm, with full consultative participation by stakeholders, transparency and objectivity?
Background notes –
1. The Amerindian Act does not recognize the mobility of communities which is ecologically necessary for sustainable livelihoods on soils which are naturally very infertile.
2. By unconsulted Ministerial decree in 1997, the State Forest was extended by millions of hectares over land with Amerindian claims, including claims registered during the Amerindian Lands Commission 1966-69.
3. By the GFC’s own procedures, logging concessions should not be advertised or issued over lands where there are outstanding Amerindian claims. But this procedure is generally ignored by the GFC.