Guyana and its move towards the “green economy”
Guyana is the largest state in the Caribbean Community. Its forests cover more than 85 percent of its land mass. It is a ‘net carbon sink,’ that is, its forests sequester more carbon that the country’s human activity generates.
In spite of the aforementioned, Guyana is still heavily dependent on agriculture and on the extractive sectors – bauxite, diamond and gold-mining and logging. The high dependence on agriculture and exhaustible natural resources places the nation’s natural assets at risk of erosion.
Since the government assumed office, it has supported the adoption of a sustainable model of resource exploitation and extraction in order to reduce the rate of depletion of the country’s natural resources so that these assets will also be available to future generations.
According to President David Granger, a ‘green’ economy is necessary to ensure the sustainable management of its natural resources.
The Head of State said that a ‘green’ economy is also needed to wean this country off of it’s addiction to fossil fuels. Granger said that the importation of these fuels exacts a heavy burden on the economy. He noted that Guyana, in 2012, spent the equivalent of 24 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on petroleum-based products.
Taking note of this, the President has since proposed a Green Development Strategy as a template for the ‘greening” of Guyana.
He said, “We propose to transition our economy rapidly towards clean and cheaper sources of renewable energy. We will craft a comprehensive Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect human habitation, our coastal economic sectors and coastal ecosystems. We will create ‘green’ enterprises and jobs and we will inculcate ‘green’ education in our schools.”
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan has also spoken on several occasions about the need for Guyana to transition to a “green economy” stage.
In his view, Guyana’s Green Economy must be built around Article 36 of the nation’s Constitution that requires that the government sustainably extracts natural wealth for the benefit of current and future generations.
He said, “In practical terms, this means that we must grow the total wealth of our nation. As a country that is so heavily dependent on its natural resources, we must exploit and use our minerals and other natural resources responsibly so as to increase the total stock of our resources, which is made up of our human, social, natural, and built capital.”
The Finance Minister said that the proceeds of resource exploitation must be invested to grow the capacity of the people and society as a whole; to diversify the economy; to improve the sustainable and resilient infrastructure needed for this Green Economy; to establish the robust governance systems that ensure that these gains are sustained; and to ensure that the nation’s basic natural asset remains available for the next generation.
The economist said that this must not only be measured by the roads that are built, the rivers that are bridged and the energy that is generated.
He believes that it necessarily also includes the systems the government and its relevant agencies put in place to ensure that waterways are conserved for citizens’ livelihoods, for their recreation and for the nation’s traditions.
The Finance Minister said that it also consists of the systems for the management of the nation’s forests and savannahs which it conserves and sustainably manages, for the soils and freshwater they produce and replenish.
As for Government expenditure, through budget provisions, Jordan says that is only one part of the economic transformation of the country when it comes to the green economy movement.
In fact, the economist insists that investments made by Government must be complemented by investments made by the domestic private sector, alongside foreign direct investments, and by civil society in order for this Green Economy to be realised.
In this regard, he reminded of Government’s promise to establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund, in which it expects to protect the economy from the volatile nature of mineral revenues, help grow and modernise the sustainable non-extractive sectors of the economy, and further enhance the capacity of the people.
The Finance Minister said that this Fund will also help to avoid the potential negative impacts of a sudden surge in national revenue expected from the establishment of an Oil and Gas Industry in Guyana. He said that examples of these impacts can be seen in many parts of the world and Guyana must avoid becoming another such example.
“But in addition to our efforts in the mineral sector, we have to find appropriate mechanisms to internalise the costs to the environment from doing business in Guyana in general…The principle of a green economy will pervade all of our sectors and our work. From the reduction in the use of paper in offices to expanded use of renewable sources for generating energy across the country, from recycling of paper and, in the future, plastics to green agriculture and climate -smart designs for our buildings,” the Finance Minister expressed.
He insists that the year 2020 will reveal a Guyana that is demonstrably more environmentally responsible, a Guyana that will be truly considered a Green Economy.