The Office of Climate Change (OCC) with direction from the Minister of State, over the past two years, has been working committedly with support from local and international partners to address the local challenges associated with climate change and to take Guyana further along the ‘green path.’

Building partnerships and support mechanisms

Head of the Office, Janelle Christian speaking on a recently televised programme said support from local, regional and international partners has been forthcoming.

She noted that “we were quite fortunate to receive quite a lot of support from development partners and in that effort, we were fortunate to work with Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). Specifically, the work with the Caribbean Development Bank is the support the government’s initiative to articulate National Climate Change Policy, National Climate Change Communication Strategy and Plan, and the Five-Year Strategic Plan for the Office of Climate Change”.

The OCC benefitted last year from a regional conference hosted by the CDB, aimed at building the capacity technical officers with respect to the preparation of project proposals and project idea notes for submission to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Another critical partner within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), that the Office works with is the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

Christian noted that “we are particularly grateful for the unwavering support we continue to receive from this agency…Working with CCCCC over the last year we are working to strengthen the NDA [National Designated Authority], the mechanism under which the Green Climate Fund interacts with countries”.

Since the OCC falls under the purview of the State Minister, he serves as Guyana’s NDA.

Under the initiative, the OCC has elaborated the work programme, which will include the profile of priority projects to be submitted to the GCF for financing. The CCCCC, the OCCC Head pointed out, also mobilises resources to support the government’s vision for Bartica to become the first model ‘green’ town.

This financing to the tune of US$650, 000 came from the Italian Government to conduct a number of baseline studies in Bartica.

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been working along with the office to conduct research in the Agriculture Sector.

“The FAO last year submitted a Readiness Report to the GCF, they fielded a mission to Guyana [and] their technical team worked with all the sub-sectors under the Ministry of Agriculture to put together a Readiness Proposal. We have since submitted that to the GCF and the FAO has also committed its own resources to conduct the feasibility studies which would then inform a full proposal to address particular climate challenges within the Agriculture Sector.”

Locally, the OCC works closely with the Department of the Environment (DOE) in common areas, mainly renewable energy. The DOE leads the process for the elaboration of the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS).

The Office has also been consistently reaching out to the Private Sector to play a role in the fight against climate change by engaging with the Government agencies to find solutions.

In terms of climate change mitigation, Christian said the Private Sector is now more involved in solar energy projects. She noted too that there is a way that the Private Sector can tap into the GCF by highlighting the projects they want to implement and gain access to low-interest loans.

The Government will this year partner with the Global Green Growth Initiative to specifically bring some support and discussions with the Private Sector.

Christian said there is adequate support available for the country to tap into, however, she acknowledged that there is a need for the OCC to aggressively tap into these opportunities.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), developed countries are mandated to make resources available to developing countries such as Guyana, which are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Education and Awareness
Acknowledging that the OCC is not fully where it should be in terms of climate change public awareness, Christian said a department was established to deal specifically with communication.

“We realise that often times the technocrats speak in a language and it’s above the head of the people and the impacts of climate change we are already experiencing those challenges and so we thought it was important for us to craft messages for various sectors that would really speak to their [public] interest.”

In 2017, with support United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the Japan/Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, a study was conducted in Regions Five, Four, Seven and Nine to gather the public’s perception of climate change.

The findings of that study resulted in the completion of a video titled “Siege on my Land” which speak to challenges specific to Guyana. To support this, two posters which focused on the impacts of climate change, on the Coast and Hinterland and adaptive measures that can be implemented, were produced to be distributed in schools.

The Office wants to ensure that school-aged children understand the implications based on the climate models and scenarios for Guyana.

During 2017, an education outreach was conducted in collaboration with the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN), Guianas Chapter, targeting the primary to tertiary institutions in Regions Four, Five, Six and Ten.

A successful pilot project was also executed targeting the nursery schools utilising puppetry.

With the necessary support, the OCC plans to continue producing content for the schools with the first sessions to be hosted in March 2018 and then throughout the year.

This year, the focus is not only on climate change but the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) and Guyana becoming ‘green.’

The OCC is in the process of finalising its 2018 work programme to commence rolling out these outreaches.

According to the OCC Head, members of the public can easily recognise some of the environmental changes, however, the challenge remains to make the connection between those changes and the global issue of climate change.

“We now need to make the connection outside of the traditional sectors. We always think about flood, rain, and agriculture, but these things also have implications on health with vector-borne diseases.”

There is a need, Christian noted, for country-specific research so that informed decisions can be taken in areas such as infrastructure.