… Guyana, Norway say deforestation did not increase by 300% last year
New data shows that mining remains the key driver of deforestation here, while Guyana and Norway are rebutting reports of a 300 per cent increase in deforestation last year.
The Guyana Forestry Commission recently commissioned a report on deforestation rates in Guyana. It was carried out by New Zealand-based consultants Pöyry Forest Industry.
According to a document prepared by the Guyana-Norway partnership, there was a need for new data on deforestation rates in Guyana because when Norway and Guyana entered into their forest-saving deal in November 2009, estimates of deforestation rates in Guyana varied significantly.
Most estimates were in the range of 0.1 to 0.4 percent annual deforestation but for a performance based payment scheme to work, it was realized that more precise data on current and historical deforestation rates was needed.
After an international tender process, the company Pöyry Forest Industries from New Zealand was contracted to analyze archived satellite images of Guyana’s forests.
Images dating back to 1990 were collected and analyzed, and according to the partnership, these “yielded important and positively surprising data on the changes” in Guyana’s forest cover over the last two decades.
All the findings reported by Pöyry and the GFC were subsequently subject to independent verification by DNV (Det Norske Veritas). DNVs verification report is available at www.regjeringen.no/guyana as is the full report.
The Pöyry Report found that in 1990, Guyana’s forests covered 18.47 million hectares. In September 2009, the report put Guyana’s forest cover at 18.4 million hectares.
This represents an annual average deforestation rate of 0.022 per cent over the last twenty years. For the ten year period 2000-2009, the annual average deforestation rate was 0.03 per cent. In the first reporting period (Oct. 2009 – Sept. 2010) 10,280 hectares were deforested, giving an annual deforestation rate of 0.056 per cent.
The report shows that the key driver of deforestation in Guyana has been, and continues to be, mining activities.
The analysis of satellite images revealed that deforestation rates in Guyana are only a fraction of what was reported in previously available estimates.
To put the figure in perspective, report notes that the mean deforestation in South American countries in the period 2005-10 is estimated at 0.41 per cent. The comparable rate in Guyana is thus less than 10 per cent of this regional average.
Guyana and Norway are denying that deforestation has tripled in the first year of the partnership. Their explanation is that since they only have mean values for historical deforestation, it is not possible to say if the increase has happened from one year to another.
However, the first results report (the Poyry/GFC-report) indicates a significant increase in deforestation in the first reporting period (0,056 per cent) as compared to the historical mean.
However, the two parties have pointed out that “by any means of comparison, the deforestation rate in Guyana remains extremely low, and this deserves international recognition.”
At deforestation rates as low as those observed in Guyana, even very small deforestation
events will cause significant percentage changes in the deforestation rate, the two parties added.
They say the results report indicates an increase from the 2000-09 mean of 0.03 per cent to 0.056 per cent. This can be interpreted either as an 87 per cent increase or, more positively, as an upward variation smaller than 0.3 per thousand points. As to climate change effects, the latter perspective is arguably the more relevant one.
The two parties have said not all deforestation is easily controllable. The enforcement involved in avoiding even (in absolute numbers) very small variations in deforestation is complex and expensive.
While Guyana is strengthening its enforcement capabilities, and will increase its efforts to control even such small variations, the trade-off will remain real, it is stated.
The two parties have sought to explain how the reference level on deforestation works.
For a performance based system to work, a reference level is established towards which performance can be measured.
The difference between the reference level and the reported deforestation rate in a given year constitutes the basis for determining the magnitude of payments.
Under the Guyana-Norway partnership, Guyana will be allowed to increase deforestation and still receive Norwegian funding.
However, in the absence of a global deal which sets reference levels for all other countries, to avoid the reference level methodology yielding a perverse incentive for Guyana to gradually increase its deforestation rates while continuing to receive payments from Norway, the partners have agreed to a number of things.
If the deforestation rate in any given year is above 0.1 per cent, Guyana will not be eligible for any funding for that year and if the deforestation rate is above 0.056 (the rate reported in the first result period, Oct 09 – Sept 10) but below 0.1, the payment will gradually be reduced as an increasing percentage of the payments that would be due if only the differential between the reference level and verified annual deforestation was taken into account.
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