Apr 19, 2016 News
– technical team due next week for assessment
A technical team from Norway is due next week to assess how the country is progressing with its
US$250M forest deal.
The historic deal, inked five years ago between the two countries, expired last year but there are ongoing talks to have a new one.
Guyana had collected almost US$150M but the money is lying in a number of accounts overseas, including some US$80M which had been earmarked for stalled Amaila Falls hydroelectric project in Region Eight.
Norway had agreed to grant Guyana an extension to the deal, which essentially meant that no more monies would be disbursed until a number of targets or deliverables are achieved.
Some of the monies had been earmarked for Amerindian development, including titling of lands.
Guyana is hoping to collect the rest of the monies and sign a new deal this year.
Under the current agreement, Norway has expressed concerns about a number of benchmarks.
According to a letter sent late February to the Government of Guyana from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, and made available to the media there under the freedom of information laws, Norway was concerned that some US$70M is in special account of the Guyana REDD Investment Fund (GRIF).
Norway is pushing to have the monies to be moved from the Ministry of the Presidency and placed under the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“I understand that you presently experience capacity constraints. Hopefully these can be remedied in the near future to enable the government to undertake the demanding tasks our partnership require, including
capacity to deliver on the forest governance indicators and implement strategic projects through GRIF,” wrote Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen.
Also raised in the letter was the need to review the Amerindian Act to help solve conflicts between that indigenous group and loggers and miners to “ensure that large forest areas are titled and managed sustainably”.
Norway is also pushing for Guyana to market what is called “opt-in mechanism” which allows Amerindians to participate in projects to help keep country’s forests standing.
In the letter to Minister of Natural Resource, Raphael Trotman, the Norwegian official also congratulated Guyana on making information on its logging concessions public.
Of concern also was the US$80M standing in the accounts of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and which expires in June.
Norway has hired an independent consultant to review the hydro project which stalled after the National Assembly, controlled by the Opposition Coalition, refused to pass a key environmental legislation.
The then Opposition, which now forms Government, insisted that the cost of the project was too much.
The Norwegian consultant will help determine if the energy project, slated as the most expensive one ever for Guyana, makes financial sense or whether it would not be better for it to be sunk into several, small sites.
Norway said it welcomes Guyana’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy.
“This is of course very encouraging and a keystone of our partnership,” the Norwegian minister said in the letter to Trotman.
Yesterday, the Natural Resources Ministry explained that the technical team from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, will be here from April 26 to May 4, 2016.
“The focus of the visit is to work with the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Office of Climate Change( OCC), the Project Management Office (PMO), Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and other stakeholders to improve capacity in executing the Joint Concept Note and taking advantage of REDD plus opportunities.”
The ministry said that since it took office in May 2015, the Government of Guyana has been making steady progress towards creating a stronger agreement and better outcomes for Guyana’s green growth.
“To date, the government has facilitated several meetings and discussions with Norwegian Officials.”
Trotman, speaking with this newspaper, noted that the administration is encouraged by the progress of meetings which remains supportive of Guyana’s “green growth” vision.
The minister also stressed that Government is not against Amaila Falls for a hydro project site.
Rather it is the financial model and costs that is raising concerns.
“The assessment by the Norwegian consultant will determine the way forward.”
The Norway deal was hailed as a milestone when it was signed five years ago, allowing Guyana and few other countries to benefit from cash. Norway in turn has established mechanisms to ensure Guyana meets certain targets, including deforestation rates.
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