Guyana is leading the way in the climate change battle: protecting its forests, reducing carbon emissions, launching a low carbon development strategy and understanding the importance of protecting its tourism product
Far too many Caribbean governments are sleepwalking when it comes to addressing the impact of climate variability and formulating a response to managing and adapting to climate change, says former Guyana president Bharrat Jagdeo who is considered a world leader in environmentally progressive policy.
“For us to be sustainable, I think we have to be aware of the existential threats to our region, to the world and, more particularly, to the product that we offer,” Jagdeo, who was named one of Time magazine’s Heroes of the Environment in 2008, told delegates and media practitioners at the recent Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) 13th annual sustainable tourism conference in Guyana. “As most of you are aware, the inter-governmental panel on climate change determined that for us to have a sustainable trajectory, we have to limit the global temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre- industrial levels by 2050.
“The only way we can do that is if we, by 2020, were to cut the greenhouse gas emission by 25 to 40 per cent on a 90-90 baseline. If we had such an agreement in place, we would have had a 50 per cent probability of avoiding catastrophic climate change. We are currently on a pathway to a four-degree rise in global temperature which, at above pre-industrial levels, will result in the natural death of the forests and the corals and the sea would rise, which would mean we will lose most of our beaches in the Caribbean.
“That is the future we are looking at right now and it’s incumbent that tourism officials help make governments aware of this problem. There is a need to raise awareness in our societies about the threat to our way of life in the Caribbean and also the threat to the product we offer.”
Three years ago, Jagdeo – who is the goodwill ambassador for the tropical-forest basins of Amazonia, Congo and Borneo-Mekong – launched a low carbon development strategy in Guyana that is viewed as an investment in low carbon infrastructure, employment in low carbon economic sectors and in communities with human capital.
Nearly three-quarters of Guyana – 15 million hectares – is covered in forest and it’s estimated that the only English-speaking South American country could generate approximately $580 million a year by cutting its forests.
For a Third World country like Guyana, those funds would go a long way in enhancing health care, education and infrastructure.
In November 2009, Guyana signed an agreement with Norway that provides for the Scandinavian country to invest up to US$250 million over a five-year period in protecting Guyana’s forests to avoid the deforestation that fuels climate change. The agreement is one of the first carbon offset agreements to be signed under a new initiative known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
Read the full article by Ron Fanfair.