Guyana sacrificing billions to preserve much-needed forests- Pres. Ali talks up environmental commitment

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Guyana’s forests, almost the size of England and Scotland combined, help protect the earth by storing gigatons of harmful gases and to keep these forests intact, President Dr. Irfaan Ali highlighted that Guyana is sacrificing billions in potential revenue.

“If the world is to work in a fair manner, forget about oil and gas…Our forests stand at US$195 billion dollars, from a carbon perspective,” President Ali said during a virtual forum on Monday.

Guyana’s forest stores about 21.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which, if cut down, would release all of that gas into the atmosphere, causing further harm to the environment.

And so, for years, the country has kept these forests intact- cutting down less than 0.005 per cent of the trees.

In fact, President Ali assured the gathering that Guyana has been so environmentally responsible that it has been rated as having one of the world’s best forest monitoring, reporting and verification systems.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali

It is this system that has allowed local authorities to confirm that Guyana has the world’s second-highest level of forest cover – some 85 per cent of the country’s landmass. And this expansive forest cover could earn Guyana that US$195 billion sum- if countries or companies buy in.

Over a decade ago, Norway was the first to buy into Guyana’s offer, signing a deal for US$250 million, once deforestation rates remain intact.

Beyond the value of the carbon stored, however, President Ali reminded the virtual participants that the forest and trees themselves yield enormous value. For example, he said the total wood that could be harvested from Guyana’s forest is valued at about US$500 billion.

And the Head-of-State highlighted, “We harvest only 400,000 cubic metres of wood- not even close to 50 per cent of our annual allowance.”

Additionally, if all mining areas were used, there could be about US$34 billion in gold, and about US$1 billion in bauxite. Significant sums could be garnered from quarrying activities too.

Because the country is intent on protecting these forests, much of these potential revenues are sacrificed. The President, however, reflected on the updated Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which is seeking to earn the country payments for maintaining the forests.

These payments, as done before, are expected to fund sustainable development efforts, including hinterland development.

And these payments are seen as crucial to helping Guyana mitigate the impact of climate change- a crisis the country is on the frontlines of since rising seas spell dire consequences for a country whose coast is below sea-level.

President Ali also emphasised, “We don’t want the world to know us as an oil and gas magnate.

“We want the world to know us as a country with a well-diversified economy that is pushing people’s prosperity and one that is bringing the country together and working towards economic prosperity.”

In this vein, he talked up efforts at pushing a massive regional food security agenda that could see Guyana producing more food, satisfying both the local and regional multi-billion dollar food market.

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