By Neil Marks in Paris
A “satisfactory” global climate agreement should include financing mechanisms to help small countries like Guyana cope with, and adapt to, climate change, Governance Minister Raphael Trotman said on Monday, as he began high-level talks at the UN Climate Summit in Paris, France.
“The development of large countries has led to environmental destruction, and we’re the ones paying the price,” Trotman said of vulnerable countries like Guyana, which are being threatened by sea level rise.
Trotman has been accompanied to the summit by Finance Minister Winston Jordan.
Guyana is ganging-up with the Caribbean and a group of small island developing states to agree on a common position, as environment ministers look to fine-tune a draft climate agreement presented to them this weekend.
The Climate Summit opened two Mondays ago with world leaders speaking about the direction in which they want these talks to flow. After that, country negotiators had to sit and hammer out a draft agreement for the ministers to consider and then hopefully come to an agreement.
Guyana’s lead negotiator at the talks is Andrew Bishop.
Ahead of the talks, Guyana presented a national climate action plan.
Forest-rich countries like Guyana are being asked to preserve the forest; but Trotman said that cannot be at the expense of slowing down the country’s development.
According to the authorities, Guyana has the world’s highest percentage of rainforest cover (85 per cent), amounting to 18.48 million hectares, and so the government feels Guyana is the ideal country to test the so-called REDD+ Scheme, an initiative to reward countries for preserving the rainforest.
The government has said that in pursuing any agreement, it will respect international commitments to human rights, including those of indigenous peoples and local communities.
Laura George, who works with the Amerindian People’s Association, welcomes the commitment to the indigenous people in the climate action plan, called the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution.
“I think it was very good that the government considered language we had recommended together with other members of civil society,” George said, as the initial document had no such commitment.
“I think it was one step that had been a victory for us,” she said at Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris, where the climate talks are taking place.
Minister Trotman said that, in charting the way forward, financing must be made available to Guyana to transition to a “green economy” utilising renewable energy sources.
“Whilst we are being nudged to go to renewable energy (namely solar, hydro and wind power), we need financing, technology and training,” he said.
For the Finance Minister, funding is also needed to help Guyana prop up its volatile coastland against the rising sea.
“While we are trying to move to higher ground, we must save what we have,” Jordan said, as he emphasised the need for financing.
According to the national climate action plan, some US$1.6 billion will be needed for adaptation, including infrastructural development works, from now to 2025.
And so, apart from the negotiations for a new global climate agreement, Guyana is looking to hold a number of one-on-one meetings with foreign nations who would be interested in climate projects.
One of those meetings is with Norway, who wants a review of the Amaila Falls project to determine once and for all if the project could be proceeded with.
As part of Norway’s forest-saving agreement with Guyana, US$80 million have been “locked” to the Amaila Falls project.
Trotman and Jordan are trying to address concerns on both sides, with the aim of getting the funds released. Representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank, which holds the Norway funds, will also be at that meeting, scheduled for today.
But Trotman said US$43 million of the Norway funds are to be used on “green projects”, and there is a call by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure for individuals, companies, communities, and towns to apply.
The Georgetown Mayor and City Council has expressed interest in accessing the funds, Trotman said, and some of it could also go to Bartica, which the government wants to make the first green town.
The government also wants to ensure that, apart from Bartica, the five other new towns proposed should be powered using renewable energy sources.
The revised climate action plan submitted ahead of the climate talks envisages that, with adequate and timely financial support, all of the country’s power needs could come from renewable energy sources in the next 10 years.
The government, Trotman said, is finalising its green economy plan, and this will be released soon.