Civil society organisation critcises Guyana’s carbon credit sale, queries how govt decided on 15 percent payout

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 February 2023, 13:27 by Denis Chabrol

The civil society organisation, Police Forum Guyana (PFG), on Sunday questioned the government’s decision to sell carbon credits, saying under the new Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) 2030 such payments amounted to an incentive for continuing to spew greenhouse gases at current levels.

“Buying credits is a device for companies to avoid reducing their fossil fuel emissions. To this extent, the re-vamped LCDS undermines the essential purpose of low carbon strategies namely reduction in fossil fuel emissions,” PFG said in a statement. 

The PFG quoted unnamed “reputable international studies” saying they concluded that 90% of the projects invested in by the carbon credit market are ‘worthless’, neither strengthening forest capacity to capture emissions nor expanding emissions captures.

That organisation- which said it is non-political and is an umbrella for watchdog on accountability and transparency issues related to natural resources, climate change and extractive industries- said Guyana has now shifted from the “pioneering” Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)+ Agreement with Norway 10 years ago to the repackaging of Guyana’s forests as an ‘eco-system service’ in the LCS 2030 in which the world’s leading fossil fuel generating companies are encouraged to invest.  Norway in 2009 had agreed to give Guyana $250 million to preserve its standing forests to absorb carbon emissions.

Seeking to support its contention, the PFG charged that money-making rather than reducing global warming “dominates the breezy but opaque text of the LCDS 2030 document, as typified in the following quote. ”In Guyana’s case, harnessing the value of the country’s ecosystem services can build a long-term, low- carbon diversification opportunity.”

PFG suggested that Hess’ US$750 million purchase of carbon credits at US$75 million per year over the next 10 years might be motivated by speculation to sell them for a “handsome profit” or obtain a tax write-off on its profits by the US Internal Revenue Service.

According to that civil society organisation,  the LCDS is emerging as a factor determining the future of Guyana’s indigenous communities. Noting that over the past 30 years, indigenous communities have begun to recover aspects of their indigenous identity, especially related to land ownership, language and culture, the PFG said renewed confidence in  Amerindians tribal identities have seen the emergence of the Wapishan South Rupununi Development Council, the Macusi-led North Rupununi Development Board, the Akawaio Upper Mazaruni Council and others which have all challenged negative features of coastal development.

Underlying the challenges to mining devastation, the PFG, said is a cosmovision shared by the communities, “one that clashes fundamentally with the LCDS.” “That cosmovision sees all forms of life as related and linked to each other. The notion of humans dominating nature which lies at the heart of the marketing of ‘natural assets’ is alien to indigenous communities. If the LCDS is as successful as the Government intends, communal ownership rights and other mechanisms that protect the communal nature of indigenous life are all threatened.”

In apparent reference to Toshaos- Amerindian village leaders- who support the LCDS and the Hess carbon credit sale, the PFG said the government would have no difficulty finding indigenous voices to shout down those views, given the decades of  “propaganda” that promote the need for Indigenous communities to integrate with the coastland. Supposing that its criticism is groundless, the PFG questioned why does the launching of the LCDS coincide with a campaign by government representatives denouncing indigenous activists and undermining their organizations.

The PFG said wants to know  the justification of communities receiving 15% of the HESS purchase and by what authority is the government determining how the communities should spend this money. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo last week told Toshaos that community meetings first have to agree to development plans and the decisions have to be contained in official records of those meetings before monies from the carbon credit sales are released. Also being queried is why the proceeds from credit sales not deposited in the Natural Resources Fund. He said the money, whose first tranche is GY$4.7 billion, would be distributed equitably based on population size of the 241 communities.

Mr. Jagdeo did not respond directly to Toshao for Kamarang  Lionel Thomas’ question about how government arrived at 15 percent, but said Amerindian communities would benefit from even more funds such as the delivery of education.  He last week lashed out at civil society organisations like the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) that seek to stay relevant by critcising government policies in order to get foreign financing.

The PFG said a more constructive response which would be widely welcomed would be for the relevant oversight mechanisms such as the Office of Climate Change, the Natural Resources Fund and the Guyana Forestry Commission to address to state with the immense wealth to be generated from oil, why does Guyana need a fire-sale of its natural resources – minerals, rivers, bio-diversity, beaches, and wildlife; what is the legality of the Government commercializing publicly-owned assets of which the State is only the Trustee, not the owner (Doctrine of Public Trust) and why was there a change from recognising Indigenous communities as owners of forests on community lands under the REDD+ scheme and payments were to be proportionate to deferred de-forestation.

The PFG also wants to know why were Guyana’s Nationally Determined Contributions to COP21 – approved formally and unanimously by a wide cross-section abruptly abandoned, and why is the Government by-passing the requirement in the Amerindian Act for the explicit agreement by two-thirds of the villagers in every village that holds titled land to agree to any decision regarding the disposal of their titled land.