Apr 29, 2016 News
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, yesterday received a courtesy call from a visiting Norwegian delegation which is here to meet with their counterpart agencies to discuss Guyana’s REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF)
The meeting took place at the Minister’s office at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Guyana’s Office of Climate Change and the Project Management Office for the GRIF Project both fall within the Minister’s purview.
The team was led by Hege Ragnhildstveit, Senior Adviser, Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative and included Tron Lovdal, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Department for Climate, Energy and Environment and Ane Marit Lid, Adviser and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
Minister Harmon was joined by Presidential Advisor on the Environment, Rear Admiral (ret’d) Gary Best and Nikolaus Oudkerk, from the Project Management Office, Ministry of the Presidency.
“The Norwegian delegation will hold talks with their counterpart agencies on the GRIF Projects’ development, challenges, implementation and scheduling with the Project Management Office, (PMO) and other matters connected to the Guyana-Norway Agreement,” the Ministry said in its statement.
The delegation will also meet with other connected agencies, including the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the United Nations Development Programme, the Inter-American Development Bank and civil society.
The GRIF Projects are at different stages of implementation across Guyana.
In an invited comment, Ragnhildstveit said that the meeting was fruitful and appreciated.
“The Minister of State was very kind to receive us this morning and it was very encouraging to hear his remarks that Guyana appreciates the cooperation with Norway. The Minister of State is very concerned about Guyana’s rainforest and the people who live there as well as the importance of combating climate change,” she said.
The technical team from Norway is here specifically to assess how the country is progressing with the 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 the stalled Amaila Falls hydroelectric project in Region Eight.
Norway had agreed to grant Guyana a time 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 a 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.
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.
Earlier this month, Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, explained that the technical team from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, will be here 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.”
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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