Guyana transitioning to a ‘green state’ is a major part of President David Granger’s vision for the country’s advancement. This vision not only takes into account the realities of global warming but is also aimed at ensuring that environmental sustainability is aligned with economic development.
With its coastline at over a meter below sea level, Guyana fits the description of a Small Island and Coastal Low Lying Developing State (SIDS), which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These impacts are already being felt and Guyana has begun to initiate action to build resilience, enhance its capacities to adapt and contribute to a sustainable world.
President Granger believes that the Green Development Agenda will promote increased investment in biodiversity, coastal zone and solid waste management, ecological and environmental services, eco-education and ecotourism, Information and Communication Technology, the extension of protected areas and in the generation of renewable energy. These are the main objectives of the ‘green’ state.
On this week’s Government in Action, we take a look at President Granger’s recent visit and address to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) in Vietnam, the financing opportunities available to aid Guyana’s ‘green’ agenda and what it means to a country like ours.
The Green Development Agenda
President Granger has been utilising every platform available to promote Guyana in an effort to ensure that the pursuit of green development receives support locally, regionally and internationally. His latest advocacy for support and collective action to be taken to combat the threats of global warming and climate change came at the Sixth Assembly of the GEF in Vietnam.
According to its website, the Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle the planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided over $17.9 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $93.2 billion in co-financing for more than 4500 projects in 170 countries. Today, the GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.
The Guyanese Head of State said that Guyana and the GEF recognise the necessity and urgency of “delivering transformational change” to confront the challenges to the earth’s environment.
He noted that incremental change, while necessary, will not be sufficient to avert environmental catastrophe. President Granger said that change must be comprehensive and the GEF –the world’s foremost institution for financing environmental change – must aim at “delivering transformational change” by forging not only “global” but also, regional and “local” partnerships.
“It must leverage the potential of contiguous states at the “local” level to contribute to solutions at the global level. Global environmental threats cannot be resolved only by the existing level and rate of everyday responses. International environmental cooperation must continuously seek comprehensive and cohesive solutions to stubborn, unchanging or deteriorating situations.
This Sixth Assembly, by identifying the prevalence and persistence of climate change, deforestation, land degradation and water pollution, and by proposing responses to these challenges, emphasizes the need for deeper and different approaches to international environmental cooperation. The Facility’s thirty-two constituencies embrace small-, medium- and large-sized states. These constituencies might be administratively, financially or culturally convenient but their architecture could have unanticipated consequences,” he said.
The President said that Guyana is at the centre of a geomorphic zone known as the ‘Guiana Shield’ which, with international cooperation and the combination of efforts, could contribute even more to “delivering transformational environmental change” more comprehensively. The GEF was established to promote global environmental cooperation and President Granger acknowledged that the GEF has been a financial lifeline for projects for small states, enabling them to enhance their contribution to global environmental security for the past 27 years.
“The GEF is ideally suited to promote international environmental cooperation by assisting small states, to build greater capacity by ensuring financial mechanisms that are more flexible and accessible, to undertake environmental action that will yield benefits at the local, regional and global levels and to collaborate more effectively by establishing multi-state, sub-regional organizations. The sun is about to set on the GEF’s Sixth Assembly but a new day is soon to dawn. This Assembly’s momentum must not be slowed. The challenge of “delivering transformational change” at all levels and in all zones must be embraced in the days, months and years ahead. There is no alternative earth. Eternity is at stake,” the Head of State noted.
As articulated by the Head of State, international, regional and even local climate financing and support are necessary to achieve the vision of a ‘green’ agenda. Through the GEF, Guyana has been able to benefit in significant ways to bring projects on stream, which will help to realise the vision of a ‘green’ state.
The Office of Climate Change, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP), over the past two years, has been making great strides in advancing President Granger’s ‘green’ agenda through tangible, transformative initiatives at both the community and national levels. This progress was possible through support from the GEF and other international and regional mechanisms. Head of the Office, Ms. Janelle Christian, in a recent interview said the OCC, as well as other agencies such as the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have been able to benefit from financing opportunities.
The OCC in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is in the process of a US $1.6M programme, known as Mainstreaming Low Emissions Technology in Guyana. The funding is being secured through the Global Environmental Facility.
“I am happy to report that we were able to successfully make a submission with support from the UNDP, working with key stakeholders like Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MOPI) and the Hinterland Electrification Company Limited and we submitted the proposal to GEF for approximately US$1.7M. We received notice about a few weeks ago that the project has been approved.
We are very happy about that principally because it will support addressing institutional and policy gaps and will also provide financing for some piloting at the community level and the municipal level in keeping with Government priorities particularly as it relates to renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Ms Christian said.
This project, she noted, in addition to addressing policy gaps and pilot initiatives, will also be providing support for the training of National Technical Officers, work with technical vocational institutions such as the Georgetown Technical Institute (GTI) and the University of Guyana (UG), support the hiring of an expert in renewable energy and an advisor to help agencies such as GPL and GEA to address gaps or areas of weaknesses that would be identified.
It will also aid the exploration of business models for private-public engagement with respect to renewable energy supply, examine Guyana’s energy grid and the possibility of a grid code, the issue of green procurement, and establish standards for energy efficiency appliances and for energy efficiency in public buildings through partnership with the Guyana National Bureau of Standards.
Following President Granger’s return from Vietnam, GEF announced that Guyana has been allocated a further US$4.96M this year for projects. Of that amount, US$2.96million was allocated to biodiversity, one million to land degradation and one million to Climate Change. Ms Christian said that this gives the OCC and the country at large another opportunity to work with partners to bring other projects on stream.
“We have started some preliminary discussions and this will support some other initiatives that we would have already articulated either through strategies or action plans that we would have already prepared or are in the process of finalising. I believe that it is more than just preparing reports or doing studies but I believe that it helps when we can implement tangible projects, demonstrate pilot initiatives with the possibility of scaling up, having successfully executed those and learning from the experience.
So, we will be engaging with our partners aggressively to ensure that we can programme and we are happy to know that there is an additional million dollars under the GEF 7 allocation for Climate Change so we will be working to advance that particular opportunity with our partners,” she said.
In 2015, the Facility approved US$200,000 for the Minamata Initial Assessment for Guyana, which sought to undertake an Initial Mercury Assessment to identify the national mercury challenges and the extent to which legal, policy and regulatory framework will enable Guyana to implement future obligations under the Minamata Convention.
Additionally, in 2017, Guyana received US$2.6M to spearhead the ‘GEF GOLD/ Supply Chain Approach to Eliminating Mercury in Guyana’s ASGM Sector: El Dorado Gold Jewellery Made in Guyana’ Project, which is aimed at assisting the country in converting to mercury-free mining by 2025 by directly involving business enterprises with a profit motive for leading the shift in the development of a mercury-free ASGM supply chain and downstream El Dorado brand jewellery. This project is being executed by Conservation International-Guyana (CI-G), Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), and Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
In 2018, the United Nations Development Programme through the EPA, the Ministry of Natural Resources, GGMC will undertake the ‘Strengthening the Enabling Framework for Biodiversity Mainstreaming and Mercury Reduction in Small and Medium-scale Gold Mining Operations’ project, which seeks to strengthen the regulatory framework and institutional capacity for the management of small and medium-scale gold mining and promote greater adoption of environmentally-friendly mining techniques in Guyana in order to protect globally significant biodiversity, reduce mercury contamination, enhance local livelihoods and human health. The GEF grant for this project is in excess of US$4.5M.
Ms. Christian said these increased opportunities for Guyana are as a direct result of the political will and emphasis on the part of the David Granger led administration in taking concrete efforts to ensure a more sustainable future.
“I can tell you for certain that it is a matter of Political will because as technical officers you have to be given the scope to advance your plans and ambitions or what you see as priority for your country. I can say that, with the leadership from the President himself, he has placed premium on the fact that we need to protect our natural patrimony. He has articulated his vision for Guyana to become a Green State and so, the mandate is clear that we cannot do things the way it would’ve been done in the past.
It cannot be business as usual. We have to be more aggressive to address some of those existing challenges that we have to really position ourselves to address the challenges that we have. Climate change is an existential issue. It threatens our very existence. We have to take advantage of all of the opportunities that are available to our country under existing international framework,” the Head of the OCC noted.
As the world continues to grapple with the effects of climate change and the effects continue to be felt by countries in the Caribbean, President Granger is lobbying for a broader platform to effectively provide protection and relief to Caribbean States that are vulnerable to natural disasters. At the same time, as a country, Guyana must prepare itself to take advantage of financing opportunities, which are available. In the meantime, the OCC, as well as the other key agencies, will continue to play its role in the achievement of a ‘green’ Guyana and a ‘good’ life for all Guyanese.