Georgetown, Guyana – (February 12, 2019) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, within whose purview responsibility for the Department of Environment and the Office of Climate Change fall, is currently in Paramaribo, Suriname to attend the High Forest Cover, Low Deforestation (HFLD) Conference on Climate Finance Mobilisation, which began today and will conclude on February 15, 2019. The Minister will address the conference on Thursday.

In an invited comment, the Minister said Guyana’s participation at the conference is important given the climate financing opportunities and ways in which the country can benefit from international funding for its pristine high forest cover.

“Guyana is one of the countries with the lowest levels of deforestation and therefore, high forest coverage. In the last year or so, we have had one of the lowest levels of deforestation in the world and that is something that we are very proud of. It is important for countries that have this particular feature that there is some way of compensating them for the manner in which they allow the world to breathe. We are the lungs of the earth and the problem that countries like ours face is that access to financing for projects in this sector has become a problem. So this Conference is meant to look at ways in which we can access funds; there are recommendations that have been made by experts and we will discuss these at length,” he said.

Additionally, Minister Harmon said it is his desire to engage some participating countries in bilateral meetings on the side-lines of the Conference to determine how best partnerships or opportunities in this area can be formalised.

“We believe that some of the financing that are available now, for example, under REDD+ [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation], that we can look at more creative ways of expanding that. What you will find is that the available sources of funding for forest coverage work is shrinking and therefore, we have to be more creative in [looking] at that and so this is one benefit I expect. Another benefit to be had is the experience that we will share with countries. We have presentations from the Global Environment Fund, United Nations, Norway, among others. We will also seek bilateral conversations with these countries and agencies to see how best we can leverage opportunities that exist,” the Minister of State said.

“It is about the balance that must be struck to ensure that such services and the many livelihood opportunities are sustained. This is in-line with the tenets of Guyana's Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) and more importantly, it is the gathering of countries of similar forest profile (High Forest Low Deforestation, not just forested) and global benefits they provide as stewards of such important ecosystems. As underscored at the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, forests and trees play a crucial role in determining the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Acting as carbon sinks, they absorb the equivalent of roughly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. However, deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change after [the] burning [of] fossil fuels, and accounts for nearly 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than the world’s entire transport sector according to the Global Report on State of the World's Forest,” she posited.

Meanwhile, Head of the Office of Climate Change (OCC), Ms. Janelle Christian, also in an invited comment, said this Conference brings into focus, the important role that forests play for climate change mitigation and adaptation and the ecosystem services which they provide in general.

Ms. Christian noted that Guyana has included in its Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Forest Management among its mitigation commitment and the GSDS sustainable utilisation of its natural resources which includes forests. She also noted that the Conference provides the ideal platform for knowledge exchange among state and non-state actors on the challenges, opportunities and threats faced by HFLDs in pursuit of their national development which may involve exploitation of the resource and the expectation to provide a global environment benefit; sharing of country specific experiences; lessons learned and best practices as it relates to policies, strategies, plans; legal and institutional framework, capacity building and technology transfer required for continued sustainable management, and most importantly, an enabling environment required to benefit from existing and emerging global financial mechanisms for forests services.

“There is also the opportunity for international cooperation for greater impact and influence, a stronger, collective voice through multilateral cooperation for advocacy and negotiations at the international level and for mobilisation of support for HFLD countries, especially in areas of finance, technology transfer and capacity building and human capacity development among others,” she said.

According to its website, “The HFLD Conference on Climate Finance Mobilization will bring together leaders of the high-forest/low-deforestation nations (HFLD nations). Their objectives are to: strengthen cooperation, collaboration and exchange of knowledge and experience among the HFLD countries; develop joint strategies and positions to help maintain their intact forests and preserve forest cover; make international communities more aware of the significant global importance of HFLD countries and their productive landscapes in combating climate change; share knowledge about technical and financial mechanisms available or in development with regard to climate finance for the HFLD nations and strengthen the payment structure for ecosystem services that will be used to advance sustainable development whilst mitigating the risk of forest destruction and biodiversity loss.”