Last Tuesday, June 5th, was World Environment Day, which was the 40th anniversary of the event that led to its establishment. The UN General Assembly decided to commemorate it at the start of the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm from 5th to 16th June, 1972.
The Stockholm Conference was the first occasion that world leaders met to discuss the political, social and economic problems of the global environment with a view to actually doing something about it. Each year, World Environment Day is hosted by a different country, and this year the host is Brazil and the theme is Green Economy. Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 20-22, 2012. President Ramotar is scheduled to attend the conference.
A Green Economy, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risk and ecological scarcities. This can be summed up as being a socially inclusive, low carbon economy that is efficient with its resources. In more detail, economic growth, through income and employment, is driven by public and private investment that in addition to reducing carbon emissions and pollution, enhances energy and resource efficiency, and prevents the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In order to support these investments, a degree of targeted public expenditure, coupled with policy reforms and regulation changes, is necessary.
To its credit, the government of Guyana has been in the forefront of the world’s efforts to direct our developmental efforts along a ‘green” path. Our efforts have taken two tracks. The first has been a commitment to sequester most of our forests so that they act as a huge carbon sink. By storing carbon in its trees, the forests in effect reduce the otherwise higher quantities that would have been released in the atmosphere. This would have increased the greenhouse effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which leads to global warming and desertification: the complete antithesis of a ‘green’ economy.
The utility of this carbon sequestration has been recognized by the UN. Its REDD+ program is intended to provide monetary incentives to countries such as Guyana that are prepared to sacrifice the polluting ‘quick and dirty’ development path followed by the now developed countries in their early days of industrialisation.
Some countries, such as Norway, have also acknowledged this ‘green’ path followed by Guyana and some other forested tropical countries, and are paying the latter for providing this service. There are some elements in Guyana, including members of the Opposition, that seem to suffer from the misapprehension that the monies from Norway (and soon from the UN) are actually ‘aid”. They are nothing of the sort and are payment for services provided by our country.
The other track of our green development efforts is the pioneering, more explicit Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) introduced by the previous administration. This strategy outlines a comprehensive blueprint in all sectors of the economy that takes into cognisance the need to ‘go green”. Take for instance our traditional reliance on fossil fuels to generate our electricity and to power our vehicles. These activities contribute carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The government has suggested a host of initiatives to reduce our usage on fossil fuels. Firstly, there is the intention to produce enough ethanol from sugar cane and other bio mass to, at a minimum, substitute 10% of our vehicular fuel requirement. One T&T firm, Ansa McAl has already conducted a feasibility study for one such production project and the government has committed to leasing the company the necessary land.
The second prong in securing green energy, of course, is the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project. When this comes on stream, its projected 165 MW generation will reportedly, at one stroke, save us from consuming 10,000 barrels of oil daily – and the concomitant polluting carbon dioxide waste. While there are valid concerns that we must rein in the cost of the project, there is no escaping its necessity.
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