LCDS 2030: Major strides made in environmental conservation

Close to a year after the government presented Guyana’s historic Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) 2030 to the National Assembly, significant progress has been made in achieving the objectives set out in the strategy.

Strides were made in the area of sustainable forestry and low-impact mining in keeping with the LCDS, which contains approaches designed to achieve sustainable growth in the forestry and extractive sectors.

These approaches aim, among other things, to enhance the employment and economic benefits created by the forestry and mining sectors as well as advance efforts to safeguard Guyana’s ecosystem services.

Finalising and Implementing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement under EU-FLEGT

In December 2022, the government signed a legally binding trade agreement with the European Union (EU) to promote sustainable trade of legal timber to the EU. The signing of this deal, known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT), took place at the United Nations COP 15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada.

According to a release by the FLEGT VPA Facility, the VPA will give EU-based timber buyers assurance that timber products from Guyana are legal. It will help to improve forest governance, tackle illegal logging, and promote trade in verified legal timber products.

Through the implementation of the VPA, the country will improve market access for law-abiding businesses, as well as modernise its forestry sector, create jobs, promote sustainable development, and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Under the VPA, Guyana has committed to developing a Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) that ensures the legality of timber products at every step of the supply chain, in compliance with national laws. Once this system is implemented, Guyana will be able to provide FLEGT licenses for timber products that have been verified as legal.

These licenses serve as official certification that the timber or timber products being exported under them adhere to the required legal standards.

Work is currently ongoing by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) to implement that system.

Expanding the local value chain for wood products

Due to deliberate and well-researched policies on forestry, housing, and construction crafted by the government, private sector entities have invested in and reported tremendous success in the manufacture and profitable export of wood products to several countries across multiple continents.

In February, President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, also underlined the importance of understanding and positioning the complexity of wood products to meet the vision outlined for the sector, and noted that to do this, there must be continued restructuring and retooling of the forestry sector.

As such, the government is continuously working on infrastructure to improve and grow the sector beyond the exportation of wooden products.

Later in February, at the second annual International Energy Conference and Expo Guyana (IECEG), Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat said investing in value-added products could be the key to ensuring the long-term viability of Guyana’s forestry sector while maintaining the country’s current low deforestation rate.

In March, he announced that the government has embarked on a mission to improve the viability of the forestry sector through the export of secondary products, rather than focusing primarily on raw materials.

The strategy will ensure the sustainability of the sector by limiting deforestation by reducing the number of logs exported while increasing profits by enhancing the quality of wooden products sold on international markets.

Expanding and protecting Guyana’s mangrove forests and Examining green-grey solutions (engineered infrastructure/mangroves)

Just this week, the government and the European Union (EU) officially inked an agreement to establish a comprehensive programme to protect and manage the invaluable mangroves locally.

The project is part of the EU/Guyana partnership agreement signed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 27 in Egypt last year, valuing approximately 4.6 million euros.

The project’s scope will include the monitoring of mangrove seedling planting, the rehabilitation of existing forests, and the establishment of robust nursery programmes for aggressive replanting efforts.

It will be implemented by the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute under the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works.

Strengthening and Expanding Guyana’s Protected Areas System

The government has committed to expanding the country’s Protected Areas System from 8.3 per cent to 17 per cent, then eventually to 30 per cent.

In December, they signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) to get access to financial support to strengthen the functioning of the country’s protected areas system.

While there are systems in place to provide for the protection and conservation of both marine and land areas, the terms of the MoU will see Guyana receiving assistance in the strengthening and capacity building of these systems.

The government continues to honour its commitment to protecting and preserving wildlife and biodiversity and working towards achieving the global ‘30 by 30’ goal, which is a worldwide initiative for governments to designate 30 per cent of their land and ocean as protected areas by 2030.