More Region One leaders endorse LCDS – during Office of Climate Change outreach

Georgetown, GINA, July 27, 2013

An outreach by the Office of Climate Change (OCC) to Port Kaituma, Region One today, provided a platform for indigenous communities in the region to garner additional information on Guyana’s pioneer Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and for them to lend their voice to the strategy that is now in its implementation stage.

Representatives of the sub districts of Region One at the Low Carbon Development Strategy outreach

Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai who was part of the team at the outreach along with members of the LCDS Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee (MSSC) told persons gathered at the Port Kaituma Secondary School that climate change is the world’s greatest challenge and Guyana’s LCDS seeks to help in the battle and sets an international example.

 

Representatives of the various sub-districts and sectors in the region gathered at the school to be sensitised on the status of the strategy. Today’s session followed another that was held on June 22 in Moruca, also in Region One for leaders of the Mabaruma and Moruca sub-districts.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai addresses the Low Carbon Development Strategy outreach gathering at Port Kaituma, Region One

Reflecting that the LCDS is a giant initiative coming from a small country like Guyana, Minister Sukhai observed that the partnership between Guyana and Norway is the second largest such joint venture in the world. She noted that climate change is the world’s greatest challenge, “whether developed countries are addressing it as aggressively as Guyana … it is important for Guyana to continue to press on in terms of ensuring that we not only protect our forest, but use it in a very sustainable way so that our livelihoods and life forms would be sustained.”

Minister Sukhai also debunked claims that under the LCDS the ruling administration would take away Amerindian lands. She explained that their traditional way of life would remain and urged the representatives to take this news back to their villagers and to share it with their visitors.

Detractors of the project should be questioned about their alternatives which would provide Guyanese with the means to continue living they way they are, she said.

Minister Sukhai emphasised that it is necessary that the entire population understands what the LCDS is about, and to participate and lend support to the process. She urged that citizens all have a role to play, not only in shaping and refining the LCDS, “but we have a very critical role to play during the road map that is expressed by the LCDS. This simply means that you are part of the process, and while there is no need to coerce you, it behoves all of us to be sure we participate in this national development process that is expected to take Guyana to a better level of economic achievement.”

Priority investments under the LCDS are  Amaila Falls equity; Amerindian Development Fund; Amerindian land titling; MSE and vulnerable groups sustainable livelihoods; International Centre for Biodiversity Research and Cunha Canal Rehabilitation.

 

She further stated that other key issues include the three largest forest basins which continue to be critical to the world’s existence. Guyana being part of one of these basins in the Amazon forest, is why there should be no holds barred with respect to participating in the project.

A representative of Citrus Grove in Region One makes a point to the LCDS outreach team

In the strategy, it is noted that Guyana would have to develop adaptation measures, thus the road map about adapting to climate change and its impact on the country which would enable the reduction of the carbon footprint. This would be facilitated by the development of areas which would chart a path of a low carbon economy.

One of the things done towards this purpose is the development of the Amaila Falls Hydro Power Project to meet the increased demand for electricity both at the residential and commercial levels. This, Minister Sukhai explained, would close the gap in the reliance of fossil fuel for electricity.

Another move to deal with the gap in the availability of electrical power was for monies to be spent out of the LCDS fund to provide solar powered units to hinterland communities. This is another form of keeping within the framework of a low carbon development path, and has had a positive impact on the lives of the communities in the hinterland.

Minister Sukhai also mentioned the advancement of the Community Development Plans (CDPs) which are progressing along with the demarcation of communities. She noted that the many economic activities in the villages should be expanded and new projects should be embarked upon and funding would be provided.

Another more important issue Minister Sukhai observed was the document which came out of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) which was distributed to the representatives of various communities to work on. The document deals exclusively with the involvement of indigenous communities with the LCDS.

The Amerindian Affairs Minister explained that Guyana is already benefitting from the implementation of the LCDS through the solar electricity project in the hinterland and the move towards the Amaila Falls project.

Ashton Simon, member of the MSSC and leader of the National Amerindian Development Foundation observed that things are happening in the world regarding climate change and Guyana is doing a good job regarding the battle.

David James, attorney- at- law and also a member of the MSSC who was also at the outreach urged the gathering to continue to work together in the battle against climate change. “It is important and the mitigating effects can affect us all,” he observed. Under the LCDS, the clause about free, prior and informed consent regarding Amerindian communities would continue to be maintained, he told the Amerindian leaders.

The proposed Opt-In Mechanism was raised in the May 2010 version of the LCDS and in 2011 an Opt In Concept Paper was considered by the MSSC and presented to the NTC for examination and in turn to the villages.

The Opt In Mechanism presents an opportunity for titled villages with forests to voluntarily include them (if they so wish) into the model and in so doing receive payments based on performance. Villages that choose not to Opt In, will still benefit under the LCDS. As with the LCDS process, the principle of free, prior and informed consent will apply to the Opt In Mechanism.

Meanwhile Peter Persaud of the Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana and member of the MSSC observed that deforestation and degradation destroy the forests, and this destruction is the main contributor to climate change.

Persaud also pointed to the implementation of the LCDS through the various programmes underway such as the titling and demarcation projects and the solar electricity push in the hinterland.

He also noted that the LCDS has challenges which all persons should work together to overcome.

Persaud also pointed to the Amaila Falls project which he said is the key LCDS project which could play a significant role in fighting climate change. He noted also the role of the project in terms of industrialisation and the reduction of costs.

“LCDS is not political,” he declared. It is about “our survival and the survival of our children and their children.”

Andrew Bishop, representing the OCC observed that implementing the LCDS reflects the international fight against climate change. “We as Guyanese have to take the credit for making this work,” he stated.

Bishop emphasised that one of the key challenges in implementing the LCDS is finance. Pointing to the Redd + Investment Fund to which money is channelled from Norway, he explained that the money was earned through efficient management of the country’s forest resources. He pointed out what the funds could do towards continuing the fight and the implementation of the project. Guyana has thus far earned US$115M from this partnership, based on performance as every year it is subjected to an external audit. Technical agencies visit to assess what has been done with regards the LCDS implementation and also to monitor the country’s deforestation rate annually. Guyana has been found to be successful in these regard.

On the Amaila project, Bishop noted that this flagship project would be beneficial for all Guyanese. He pointed out the expected reduction of electricity and importation of fossil fuels, and mentioned the agricultural projects, green tourism and adaptation which all fall under the LCDS.

He also supported the rest of the outreach team in declaring that the LCDS will not prevent mining or logging, but instead would ensure they are done in sustainable ways.

All of the representatives welcomed the LCDS and pledged their support for the strategy that was launched in 2009.

Herbert Henry representing Canal Bank, expressed his community’s support for the LCDS even as he raised questions affecting his community pertaining to demarcation and obtaining titles to their land. He recommended also that there should be more forums to explain the LCDS to Amerindian communities.

The Citrus Grove representative was assured that the slash and burn method used for farming would be allowed, and that applications for farm lands could also be made within the region.

 

Other representatives were from Four Miles, Falls Top, Baramita, Arakaka and Oronoque who all had questions that were quickly answered.

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