by Gary Eleazar
The coalition A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government says it, “acknowledges” the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS)–flagship project of former, President Bharrat Jagdeo–but it is looking to adopt a different approach in terms of Climate Change challenges, since that strategy was limited.
This was among the many disclosures made on Wednesday when the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources was convened at parliament building. With Climate Change high on the agenda, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told the Committee, comprising Members of Parliament and Government Ministers, “…whilst we acknowledge the LCDS that was articulated by the previous government, our focus now is to transform this strategy into a truly national, economy-wide policy, that will propel us along a green economy…we acknowledge what has been done by the previous administration but that in our view was limited.”
The Committee was told that the Office of Climate Change (OCC) under the Ministry of the Presidency, was in fact constrained as a result of the LCDS program which seeks compensation for Guyana to retain its standing forests to absorb greenhouse emissions and reduce climate change.
Newly appointed Head of the OCC, Jenelle Christian, was among the team of technical department heads to appear along with Minister Harmon.
She testified to the Committee that, under the previous administration the OCC had been focused mainly on the LCDS project, whereas over the years the climate change challenges including issues, such as access to financing, have evolved.
“We are now constrained….the office now needs technical staff to position Guyana to benefit from international support available,” she said.
Christian told the Committee, the sole bi-lateral arrangement with the Kingdom of Norway, is insufficient.
She said Government’s approach to Climate Change cannot reside in a single office but rather in intertwined policies across Government agencies and Ministries, along with the private sector.
The Committee was told by Minister of State, Harmon, that the OCC Head did in fact meet with the heads of the various Budget Agencies on Tuesday, as part of the process to implement green initiative policies across the board to be financed from the 2017 Budget onward.
The Committee heard too that critical among the challenges facing Guyana’s Climate Change agenda is access to financing.
Marlon Bristol, of the Project Management Department in the OCC was among the technical heads to appear before the Committee with Minister of State Harmon. He spoke to the fact that in many instances the modalities in accessing the financing, is in itself time consuming and costly.
According to Bristol, in many occasions the financing is not made available directly to the country but instead to a third party partner whose interests may differ.
In terms of the way forward, Minister of State, Harmon and his team touted the concept of a green economy, still in its formulation stage.
Committee Chairperson, Lumumba lamented this state of affairs and said Government must present a policy paper on Climate Change to the people of Guyana and not just a concept.
The Minister sought to assure the Committee that this is being done and will benefit from the widest possible consultations and input from technical experts.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon was also aided in his appearance before the Committee by Presidential Advisers, Eric Phillips and Professor Clive Thomas and Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) Director, Professor Suresh Narine.
Other members of the delegation included, Renee Drewbury, Acting Head of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, and Legal Adviser at the Ministry of the Presidency, Geeta Chandan-Edmond.
Committee Members present included Minister of Finance Winston and Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, while opposition members present were former Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai, Neendkumar and Yyvonne Pearson.