In this week’s column I shall temporarily digress from my originally intended topic, which was to continue the discussion centred on the fuzziness in the LCDS and other related official documents about the size of the total forest area that is being pledged under the strategy, as well as that found in the publication of recent data on Guyana’s deforestation. I had also intended in this week’s article to refer to other errors of data specification to be found in these texts.
The reason for this digression is the publication of a very important article in last Sunday Stabroek, in which Gaulbert Sutherland reported a clarification by Ambassador Brattskar, Head of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, and lead negotiator for the Norwegian Climate Delegation. This was to the effect that Norway is not seeking to purchase forest offset rights for its greenhouse gases emissions from this country (Guyana). What he claims Norway is doing through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Guyana is seeking “to gain practical experiences that may give positive inputs to the negotiation on a future REDD-plus regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).” Ambassador Brattskar is further reported as saying “our cooperation [with Guyana] has not been motivated by the possibilities for offsetting against any future emission targets for Norway.”
Since, as we have noted before, the LCDS is based on a trajectory of REDD/REDD-plus in which it is morphed into a sustainable global carbon trading market (or a series of interlinked regional carbon trading markets), the question that immediately springs to mind is: how disingenuous can Norway be? Norway is aware that the LCDS explicitly projects the development of REDD and REDD-plus into an arrangement in which transitional funding is provided to poor rainforest countries precisely to further the development of global markets for trading forests-based offsets delivered by these countries. To claim that the Guyana initiative is divorced from Norway’s goal in developing forest-based offsets to greenhouse gas emissions for polluting firms (including Norwegian ones), individuals, and polluting governments with emissions reductions targets in both voluntary and compliance markets is misleading, deceptive and I would add, unworthy of a country whose citizens, by reputation, have a higher than average global sense of environmental responsibility.
To be sure, the Norwegian government cannot control trading in voluntary carbon offset markets. Moreover, if Guyana supplies forest offsets to carbon markets, it adds to the global supply, thereby affecting the price and availability of offsets in these markets. To meet compliance targets Norwegian firms and governments will certainly be able to operate, as they do now, in these markets.
Readers should note that on page 14 of the LCDS it is clearly pointed out: “The global carbon markets are still at a very early stage of development so including the entire forestry sector in these markets in the near future is unlikely. At the same time, excluding forestry from carbon markets would erode the willingness of rainforest nations to participate. To balance these positions the Government of Guyana believes that a dual approach is necessary. First forestry should be introduced to the carbon markets progressively over time. Starting in 2013, a portion of each country’s rainforest should be assigned forestry emission quotas or carbon credits (Assigned Amount Units: AAU) as offsets to trade within the carbon markets with a trajectory which prevents flooding the markets… Second to ensure national scale action and prevent leakage, a transitional funding mechanism will be needed.”
It is pellucid from the above that the LCDS sees the REDD/REDD-plus arrangements as being integrated into a broader system of carbon markets through which governments, businesses and individuals can freely purchase carbon offsets to be claimed against their own emissions voluntarily and to meet emission reductions targets.
Norway funds months away
In the same Sunday Stabroek article it is pointed out that the forest protection money offered by Norway in the MoU is months away. While most Guyanese are of the view that the crucial outstanding issue is agreement on the “trust fund mechanism” through which the money would flow, the article points out that in fact several other issues remain outstanding as seen from Norway’s standpoint. These include 1) formal steps by Guyana to establish independent forest monitoring by a credible, independent entity; 2) evidence of Guyana entering into a formal dialogue with the European Union (EU) in preparation for joining its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade regime working towards a Voluntary Partnership Agreement; 3) evidence of Guyana entering a formal dialogue with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or an alternative as agreed on by Guyana and Norway with the same goals; 4) preparation of an outline of Guyana’s REDD-plus governance development plan which is scheduled to be completed by October 2010. All the above listed outstanding activities are subject to independent review and report in order to determine Guyana’s eligibility for the disbursement of funds. The “trust fund mechanism” for administering these funds is envisaged to be a REDD-plus Investment Fund managed by a reputable international organization. This fund would receive funds from Norway as well as other donors.
Furthermore, the Sunday Stabroek article also reported President Jagdeo as saying in January 2010 that Guyana had hoped to conclude discussions with the World Bank and Norway last month (December 2009) to receive an initial US$30 million through the MoU. Indeed the article quotes President Jagdeo: “We have complied with all of the conditions for last year. The only outstanding thing now is the settlement of the trust fund mechanism through which the money will flow to Guyana.”
To sum it up at this stage, every Guyanese reader would do well to recognize that governmental hypocrisy on climate change knows no decent limits. Governments in rich countries periodically promise to make deep cuts in greenhouse gases emissions equivalent, help poor countries to do the same, but continue routinely to initiate plans, projects, and programmes, which entail carbon-intensive development. These are seen in myriad initiatives in these countries for infrastructure development (roads, railways, ports, aircraft runways, bridges, power stations, and waterways); transportation (cars, buses, trucks, and aircraft); buildings and structure; as well as waste disposal and management schemes that do not meet best-practice standards for low-carbon development.
In similar vein, governments in poor countries (like Guyana) would quickly abandon their pretence at pursuing a low carbon development path as an integral element of a sustainable development strategy if there are discoveries of rich sources of carbon in their territory (oil, natural gas, coal) or abundant natural resources available for profitable exploitation using carbon-based techniques. The hypocrisy therefore, exists on both sides. The problem, however, is that the poor countries are not the cause of the present global climate problem. For this, the historic polluters are to blame.