“It was a good event”, said the President after the meeting organised by Global Witness to explore Guyana’s ambitious plan to stop deforestation.
He last night had dinner with Prince Charles and is to meet him again today on helping to push Guyana’s international lobby for its LCDS at the global climate change meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark next month.
Global Witness said the meeting was to explore the opportunities and risks of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and provide a forum for NGOs, leading academics, government representatives, and the press to question Mr. Jagdeo on the plan to stop deforestation and embark on a low carbon development path.
“Guyana is at the forefront of the REDD negotiations…It’s a test case for REDD,” said Dr. Rosalind Reeve, Forest Campaign Manager at Global Witness.
“Given the challenges in Guyana, good governance, transparency and strong oversight must be the watchwords of any deal. This meeting gives us a chance to find out if Guyana’s plan will really work.”
Mr. James Singh, head of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), who is in the President’s delegation, said the session helped to clarify several misconceptions about the LCDS.
Mr. Jagdeo opened the meeting by presenting Guyana’s plan for REDD and other speakers included Ms. Yvonne Pearson, Chair of the National Toshaos Council, as well as officials of Global Witness and the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
The presentations were followed by an open question and answer session in which all guests had the opportunity to participate.
Singh told the Guyana Chronicle by phone from London that the President and Pearson, among other issues, cleared up questions about the transparency of the consultation process on the LCDS, financial propriety and respect for the indigenous peoples in the low carbon development plan.
“He answered all the questions to the satisfaction of everyone. He clarified all the issues raised…some were basic clarifications”, Singh said.
He said one person asked a question related to financial propriety about funds expected to flow from the LCDS on behalf of Mr. Raphael Trotman, leader of the small Alliance For Change (AFC) party.
Singh said the President noted that the AFC and the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) had walked out from a debate on the LCDS in the National Assembly and the government was willing to entertain a debate if the parties want.
Mr. Duncan McLean of the IIED, which has been monitoring the LCDS process, including the nationwide three months consultations with stakeholders and others, identified some shortcomings, the GFC head said.
But McLean acknowledged that the Guyana process is a model for other countries, he reported.
According to Singh, he also pointed out that an IIED survey found that most Guyanese know about the LCDS and support the process.
“They were all happy at the event and see Guyana as a leader in this process. They were glad that the President and Ms. Pearson were able to clarify the issues raised”, he said.
"If developing countries want to benefit from REDD, they need to build confidence in the frameworks and oversight they put in place, and demonstrate that safeguards are being met,” said Reeve of Global Witness.
Buoyed by the landmark memorandum of understanding signed last week with Norway for US$250M in support over the next five years for Guyana’s climate change model, Mr. Jadeo is looking to bolster this with further support in Copenhagen.
Prince Charles, through his Rainforests Project, has backed Guyana’s climate change thrust and has praised President Jagdeo’s initiatives, saying his leadership on this issue is perhaps “one of the most optimistic developments”.
“There is no doubt that Guyana represents a unique opportunity to develop a model which could be rolled out across the rainforest nations”, Prince Charles said last year.
“Clearly, if we want to continue to benefit from the services provided by the rainforests we will have to start paying for them. But we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to demonstrate what can be done and to respond to the President’s remarkable offer”, he said.
At a press conference last week in Georgetown, Mr. Jagdeo said he will be in London to participate in a meeting with Prince Charles, “to focus attention again on the need for the developed world to support the inclusion of forests in the Copenhagen agreement.”
He said the meeting will also be looking at providing adequate resources, even if on an interim basis, particularly based on the work of the informal working group set up after the April G-20 meeting in London to address this issue.