‘It’s unfortunate that forests are worth more dead than alive’ – Pres. Ali

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Forests, including Guyana’s large intact one, contribute significantly to the health of the planet, yet President Dr. Irfaan Ali has lamented that the economic value of these forests are not readily recognised.

This was highlighted by President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Monday morning when he addressed a Harvard Business School virtual workshop. He was invited as the Keynote Speaker of this workshop.

About 85 per cent of Guyana’s land (about the size of England) is covered in forests. Further, Guyana is part of the Guiana Shield and the Amazon basin; these are natural formations that store significant amounts of carbon dioxide (a harmful gas).

If the forests are cut down, the harmful gases would be released into the atmosphere causing further harm to the environment. This has a ripple effect on rising sea-levels and flooding, for example.

Forests are also home to animal and plant species, and grow near much-needed freshwater. Yet, President Ali lamented that forests are not as valued as they should be.

“The economic value for forests is only derived from clearing from agriculture, mining and other uses and that is why we are seeing the levels of deforestation that we are seeing globally,” the Head-of- State lamented.

He later added: “It is unfortunate that the world’s tropical forests are worth more dead than alive.”

Guyana’s President Mohamed Irfaan Ali arrives for the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow on November 1, 2021. – More than 120 world leaders meet in Glasgow in a “last, best hope” to tackle the climate crisis and avert a looming global disaster. (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

For over a decade, Guyana has lobbied for a global system that pays the country for keeping the forest intact. Norway was the first to buy in, signing a deal for USS$250 million, once deforestation rates remain intact.

And that has been the case. Latest figures from the authorities put the deforestation rate at 0.006 percent; that is less than one per cent and importantly, 90 per cent lower than most tropical countries.

According to the President, Guyana’s forests alone provide a value of about US $40 to US $54 billion annually.

Over the past few months, Guyana’s calls for forest payments have intensified. President Ali made a fervent appeal at the United Nations climate conference, COP26, for payments to keep those forests intact and consequently, help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change such as flooding.

Forest payments are part of Guyana’s  expanded Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and on Monday, President Ali explained that these payments can be used are a significant revenue earner that can contribute to the development of Guyana.

Guyana is looking for others, be they countries or companies, who want to offset the harmful gases their industries generate by paying Guyana to keep its forests standing.

During a recent Insider interview with the News Room, Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo announced that a US$300 million deal is being negotiated.

Importantly, Dr. Ali told the Harvard forum that while Guyana is pursuing the development of its oil and gas sector, the country is not neglecting its efforts at sustainable development.

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