Amerindians benefit from the Low Carbon Development Strategy
People often wonder at the number of legislations protecting the Amerindian people, but cut off as the Amerindians are from mainstream society, these revised laws are needed for many reasons, most importantly to preserve their way of life while protecting their rights as citizens of this country.
One of these newer policies being developed is the LCDS. The Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is the most recent national policy document in Guyana. This strategy seeks to realign the whole development of the country on a low-carbon path: development of hydro-electric power, sustainable forestry, investment in “low-carbon” sectors such as fruit, vegetables and aquaculture, low-impact mining and eco-tourism.
A central theme of the LCDS is the value of Guyana’s 15 million hectares of rainforest. These are reported to give an economic value to the world of $40 billion per year, for carbon sequestration, bio-diversity and water regulation, whereas the value to Guyana of the forest through harvesting and use of the land would be $4-23 billion. This “Economic Value to the Nation” is estimated to be equivalent to annual annuity payments to Guyana of $580 million, which would fund the LCDS. These incentive payments would help prevent deforestation and avoid emissions of 1.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020.
Guyana’s low carbon development strategy (LCDS) was initially launched in June 2009, after which a series of consultations and awareness sessions were held with wide stakeholder groups, including Amerindian communities, youth and land users to inform and elicit feedback from all sectors of Guyanese society. The LCDS was subsequently revised on two occasions to include input from these sessions and to incorporate the outcomes of the latest international negotiations on climate change, including the Copenhagen Accord.
On May 24, 2010, the third draft of the LCDS was released and launched by His Excellency President Jagdeo.
The revised draft of the LCDS places greater emphasis on implementation.
It outlines seven key priority areas for investment of forest payments over the next two years:
• Amaila Falls Equity: Currently, Guyana relies on imported fuel oil and diesel for its electricity generation, which is both expensive and carbon intensive. Guyana is moving ahead to develop a hydropower site at Amaila Falls, which could deliver energy security by meeting all of the country’s domestic power needs for the foreseeable future, and will significantly reduce end-user electricity costs. Investment in hydropower will substantially reduce Guyana’s dependence on fossil fuels, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, the reduction in the price of electricity will eliminate one of the major barriers to foreign direct investment, thereby stimulating investment in other sectors of the economy. The hydroelectricity plant at Amaila Falls is expected to have an installed capacity of 154MW, and will cost approximately US$ 650 million, of which 30 percent will be funded by equity from the Government of Guyana and an American company, Sithe Global LLP. The plant is expected to become operational by 2014.
• Information and Communications Technology Infrastructure: Guyana’s business process outsourcing industry has the potential to significantly increase employment in the near future. However, information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is a key barrier to sustaining growth in this industry. Government aims to deliver a new fibre-optic system from Brazil to Georgetown, with the laying of a fibre-optic cable between Georgetown and Lethem followed by the expansion of telecommunications services and a wireless broadband infrastructure network along the coast and into hinterland communities. Improving ICT infrastructure will catalyse private sector investment, increase employment and provide high speed connectivity to rural areas in Guyana.
• Small and Micro enterprise development in low carbon sectors: Forest payments will be invested to support the creation of new low-carbon economic opportunities for small and micro enterprise (SME) sectors and vulnerable groups. This will take the form of grants, a mutual guarantee fund, skills development and capacity building in agencies responsible for SME development and vulnerable groups. Financing for SMEs will be administered through the Small Business Development Fund, and will be provided to SMEs according to two main criteria: access to finance and potential for development of technical and business skills. Grants will be provided to SMEs in key low-carbon growth sectors, such as fruit and vegetables, aquaculture, sustainable forestry, ecotourism and sustainable mining. In addition, the financing will provide training in business development, technical skills and sustainability through a targeted system which will give SMEs and vulnerable groups the ability to obtain the relevant business and technical training conducive to their development.
• Research, education and ICT training: Education and training in ICT skills are essential to ensure that Guyana has the human resources and skills base to implement and maintain growth and low carbon development. Sustained investment in research is important to guarantee that Guyana remains at the cutting edge of new low carbon initiatives and technology. One priority investment is the establishment of an international Centre for biodiversity research and low carbon development, dedicated to researching Guyana’s biodiversity and assessing its economic value and how this can be maximised. The Centre will work with emerging global institutes to ensure that Guyana is integrated with international advances in relevant fields. In addition, Guyana will introduce climate change and the principle of low carbon development into the formal education system from September 2010, and will improve ICT training in schools.
• Supporting institutions for the LCDS: In order to ensure successful execution of the LCDS, five main institutions will be priorities for strengthening in 2010 and 2011. The Office of Climate Change (OCC) is responsible for coordinating work on climate adaptation, mitigation and forest conservation, as well as national consultations of the LCDS; the Project Management Office (PMO) is responsible for accelerating implementation of key projects identified in the LCDS; the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) will be established in 2010 to channel REDD-plus financial support from Norway and other contributors to the implementation of Guyana’s LCDS; The REDD Secretariat will be involved in determining the forest payments earned by Guyana every year, and over time, will implement a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system in accordance with international guidelines for estimating and reporting carbon emissions and removals; and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that national and international social and environmental standards are met in all GRIF investments.
• Titling and demarcation of Amerindian Villages: Amerindian Guyanese make up approximately 9.1 percent of Guyana’s population and own around 13.9 percent of the land. Amerindians have made their livelihoods from the forests for generations, and continue to play an important role in ensuring that the forests are conserved and forest resources are used in a sustainable manner. The Amerindian Act No. 6 of 2006 makes provision for the demarcation and titling of Amerindian villages as well as matters of land management, leasing and extension. To date, 96 Amerindian villages are titled, of which 70 are demarcated. Between 2010 and 2015 the process of titling, as well as demarcation and extension of villages, is expected to be completed for all villages that submit requests. Amerindian villages will have the choice to opt-in to the interim REDD+ mechanism, following the principle of free, prior and informed consent. Those that opt in will receive their share of the revenues that flow through payments for forest carbon.
• Amerindian Development Fund: In addition to developing the opt-in mechanism for Amerindian communities, an Amerindian Development Fund will be established to provide grants for low carbon energy and economic or social investments in Amerindian villages. Government will set aside at least US$ 4 million from revenues received for the state forest estate to be made available to fund projects for Amerindian development. Projects that will be receive funding are likely to include aquaculture, cattle rearing and processing, small-scale manufacturing (such as craft production), and ecotourism.
The inclusion of Amerindians, who have long been sidelined in Guyana, is indicative of the recognition by this administration of their importance to the national construct.
Head of the Office of Climate Change (OCC) in Guyana, Mr. Shyam Nokta, told the Guyana Chronicle that the issue of Amerindian Development is a priority for the Government of Guyana, something reflected in national policies.
He pointed out that two of the seven priority areas for the LCDS implementation is focused on the Amerindian people.
“These two areas are an addition to what is provided for Amerindian development under the National Budget,” Nokta said.
Among many avenues for development, Amerindians have long requested, in particular that their land rights be recognized.
On the eve of Guyana’s independence an Amerindian, Mr. Stephen Campbell, the first Amerindian Member of Parliament, travelled to London to ask Her Majesty for Amerindian lands to be secured.
This resulted in the establishment of the Amerindian Lands Commission shortly after Guyana acquired Independence. The passage of the Amerindian Act also makes many provisions for Guyana’s Amerindians.
From days past to now Amerindians have been able to access their rights protected under Guyana’s laws and maintain their culture, customs and way of life – a proud and significant part of Guyana’s national fabric.