Government is preparing to brief the National Assembly on the country’s forest agreement with Norway.
The five-year, US$250M arrangements, described as ground-breaking, was initiated in 2009, under the Bharrat Jagdeo regime, but the spending of the funds for approved projects have not gone so well.
The deal was supposed to have expired at the end of 2015, the same year the Coalition Government entered office.
However, with a number of the approved projects incomplete, Norway agreed in June last year for Guyana to continue implementing a number of forest reforms and other projects.
The two countries also committed to a considering a new arrangement once this one is completed.
On Thursday, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, during the Government’s post-Cabinet press briefings, made it clear that the arrangement is “alive and well”.
During the upcoming budget debate, Harmon said, he intends to update the nation on the latest.
He said that the GRIF Steering Committee, which is co-chaired by Norway, has recently approved US$17M for the improvement of ICT services in remote hinterland areas.
The Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) is a multi-contributor trust fund for the financing of activities identified under the Government of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
The minister explained that the ICT project will focus on three main pillars- policy development, access to both ICT and public e-services which will impact on education, health, business and security, to name a few.
The US$17M ICT project will impact 160 communities and villages, an important feature of the agreement itself. It will also deal with capacity development.
According to Harmon, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) played a critical role in bringing in having the US$17M disbursed.
The ICT was initiated following a recent needs-assessment conducted with additional funding expected to improve the capacity of the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission and some other projects relating to Guyana’s green state development strategy,
Already for this programme, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), as a partner, has also approved US$1.5M.
The minister also disclosed that the country’s strategies advocate for low emissions, as articulate in the green state strategy.
“Some of the funds under GRIF has been released…some are in the pipeline to be released…”, Harmon said.
As of now, it is unclear how much of that US$250M has been approved for and how much was disbursed.
As of early January, Norway published on its Government websites what it would have paid Guyana between 2008-2016. It amounted to NOK 1017.75M (US$122M).
However, it was noted that not all the disbursements were included with some arrangements to have been concluded by the end of January 2017.
There were NOK 29 million (US$3.5) to Conservation International to support the Guyana Forestry Commission’s work on developing a national system for forest monitoring and carbon measuring (MRV system).
Such a system is a prerequisite for being able to monitor changes in forest cover.
NOK 15 million (US$1.8M) was also released to support Guyana’s EU Flegt VPA Process.
Guyana and Norway’s partnership on climate and forest was initiated in 2009.
Guyana is a High Forest Low Deforestation (HFLD) rate country. The deforestation rate for 2014, verified by a third party, was as low as 0.065%, which is among the lowest deforestation rates of tropical forest countries.
The Norway-Guyana partnership was said to demonstrate how HFLD countries like Guyana can be incentivised to keep their deforestation low, and using the proceeds to establish a completely clean and renewable energy sector as well as a broader green economy.
Norway had committed to contribute up to US$250M to Guyana if the country keeps its deforestation rate low and reaches key forest governance targets.
Last year, it was said that Norway has disbursed about US$150M, rewarding Guyana’s achieved results.
Of this, US$70M has been transferred to Guyana REDD+ investment fund – GRIF (administered by the World Bank), and US$80M has been set aside in an account with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to cover Guyana’s equity share in the Amaila Falls Hydropower project. That project has since been shelved.
A project that enables Guyana’s indigenous communities to take part in the work to keep deforestation low, and to be remunerated for the results is currently receiving support under the partnership between the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund.
All the projects are being implemented by the World Bank, the IDB or the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and must adhere to their strict rules and safeguards, Norway had said.
As of June last year, eight projects were receiving support under the GRIF. At that time, there was an approval of 167 loans and grants worth over US$1M to micro and small enterprises in low carbon sectors.
With regards to the protection of forests, Norway has said that it will support the forest information and monitoring system Global Forest Watch with 115 million krone (US13.7 million) for the period of 2016-2018.
Also receiving payments for climate and forest initiatives in Latin America are Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Mexico.
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