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LCDS: Stepping-stone to a global forest-carbon market!

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: 
April 4, 2010
Publisher Name: 
Stabroek News
Dr Clive Thomas
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In last week’s column I made a digression to deal with a few issues raised by Ambassador Brattskar, head of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative and the lead negotiator for the Norwegian government as they were reported in the Stabroek News, (March 21, 2010). Specifically, the Ambassador had denied that Norway intended to purchase forest carbon offsets from Guyana in order to meet its pledged global compliance targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. He had also indicated that, under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Guyana, Guyana still needed to fulfil several remaining commitments before the forest protection funds agreed to be paid by Norway would be disbursed. To most Guyanese this came as a surprise because it had been assumed until then that, as President Jagdeo had stated last January, the Guyana government had fulfilled all its commitments to Norway prior to the initial disbursement being due, save and except for agreement on the “trust fund mechanism” to which the funds were to be deposited. This week I now turn to treat with the issues that should have been covered last week.


Judged by readers’ reactions to my column on March 21, the jury is still out as to whether the differing figures given for Guyana’s total forested area in official documents reflect genuine mistakes and incompetence on the part of the authorities, or whether there is a deliberate effort at deception. What is of particular note in regard to this matter is that there are other apparently inexplicable mis-statements to be found in the Draft LCDS and related official documents.

To take one further example: Dr T Singh had indicated to me in a private communication from London about the McKinsey Report (model), which forms the intellectual core of the LCDS, that the Avoided Protection Costs as computed in the Draft LCDS is clearly wrong. For readers’ benefit these protection costs are required to maintain Guyana’s environmental system, and the ‘Avoided Protection Costs’ therefore arise from expenditure saved if the Government of Guyana were to pursue a strategy of unconstrained forest extraction, with no concern for the environment. On pages 41 and 45 of the Draft LCDS the value of the annual protection costs that could be avoided if Guyana ignored them, is given at US$2 per hectare of forests. If the total value of the Avoided Protection Costs is given as US$0.3 billion this would imply an incorrect total forested area of 150 million hectares! This is arrived at by dividing US$2 into US$330 million or US$0.3 billion.

Sustainable forest management

The LCDS, however, clearly attributes the outcome of a stable forest cover in Guyana as reported by the FAO for the period 1990-2005, to the assiduous sustainable management practices employed by the indigenous Amerindian communities who have held stewardship over these forests. Readers should note that sustainable management practices are costly. When first introduced they require substantial initial outlays. And, to maintain these over time requires the continued allocation of resources to the task. We therefore owe the Amerindian communities an enormous debt of gratitude for keeping our forests pristine.

The question often asked of me is: how could largely subsistence Amerindian communities achieve this? The answer is that at the outset they had to forego/defer immediate over- exploitation of the benefits from the forest in order to benefit future generations. Economists call this deferment of immediate consumption (saving) in order to invest in the forests’ upkeep. Thereafter, to ensure continuity, in each subsequent period of time they had to devote resources (effort) to maintain the forests sustainably.

Re-estimating the deforestation rate

With external funding and support the authorities conducted a Quick Assessment of the state of Guyana’s forest policy for the period 2007-08. The Quick Assessment had four very commendable aims. These were 1) a GIS based national database on natural resources 2) a pilot area study of participatory land use policy 3) giving support to government in drawing up policy guidelines and introducing legislation to strengthen land-use planning and natural resources management and, 4) institutional strengthening of natural resources’ management in the country.

Significantly, the Quick Assessment Report is categoric in stating upfront its conclusion that: “At present a national approach to assess carbon stock has not been developed nor implemented in Guyana” (p 1). The report does recognise that a limited number of aspects and areas of forest assessments have been in process across several agencies in the country in recent years. It does, however, conclude that there still needs to be a “methodological assessment model developed to assess carbon stock at the national level” (p 1).

Disconcertingly, I have found the report to be conflicting in reporting the results of its assessment of the degraded forest area. I shall present here the figures given in the results section of the report and ignore the others which differ from these. In that section it is stated that the mapping done during 2007-08 shows:  1) a total of 54,210 hectares of Guyana’s forests have been degraded 2) 2626 km of forest roads have been constructed 3) of the total deforested area, 34,044 hectares are to be found in the State Forest Estate (SFE) 4) in the SFE, 24,248 hectares were deforested because of mining activities and 5) 21,903 hectares of forests were cleared for agriculture. (Readers would note that the sum of items 4 and 5 is larger than that given in the report for item 3 above).

Overall the data showed a reported rate of deforestation of the forest cover in Guyana of 0.29 per cent. In the SFE, the deforestation rate obtained was 0.25 per cent. Of note, most of the deforestation has occurred in the North-West region.


In conclusion I reiterate last week’s observation: the central driving concern of the LCDS is to utilise the carbon sink properties of Guyana’s rainforest as a stepping-stone to produce offsets to emissions taking place elsewhere. This would allow individuals, businesses and governments, who are prepared to pay us to avoid deforestation to purchase, on either the voluntary or compliance carbon trading markets, emissions credits emanating from the preservation of our rainforest.

As we have already seen the LCDS projects that emissions credits from Guyana would be available within a global inter-governmental framework linked to the development of the global market trading in all carbon offsets, including those from forests.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut