GUYANA becoming a ‘green state’ forms a major part of President David Granger’s vision for the country’s advancement by ensuring environmental sustainability is aligned with economic development. Since his assumption to office, President Granger has placed Guyana squarely on the path towards the sustainable exploitation of resources, and the protection and proper management of the environment.

The Government of Guyana, through the Office of Climate Change (OCC) has been working assiduously with all local and international stakeholders to take collective action to mitigate the effects of climate change across all sectors.

The Green Development Agenda
President Granger believes that the Green Development Agenda will promote increased investment in biodiversity, coastal zone and solid waste management, ecological and environmental services, eco-education and ecotourism, Information and Communication Technology, the extension of protected areas and in the generation of renewable energy. These are the main objectives of the ‘green’ state.

Speaking at the University of Guyana’s Diaspora Engagement held at the Princess Hotel on July 24, 2017, the President pointed to the fact that Guyana, due to its location at the centre of the Guiana shield has one of the world’s last remaining areas of virgin rainforest, which is rich in biodiversity. He deemed this as a “green global asset” which must be protected for humankind and for the sustainable development of countries, which belong to the shield.

He noted that, “Guyana therefore, possesses abundant natural capital- capital which ranges from the islands of the Essequibo, the three largest of which are the same size of the British Virgin Islands, from the lowlands and wetlands of the coastland, from the highlands, the grasslands, the rainforests of the hinterlands, the spectacular rapids, rivers and waterfalls and the lakes. All of these provide the habitat to scores of rare animals, including 20 of the world’s largest, including high level of endemicity. Guyana possesses priceless natural resources. We cannot sit on our hands; we cannot sit on these bountiful resources.”

Speaking more recently on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which was held in New York, the Head of State said that his main message to his fellow Heads of Government is the need for a more tangible demonstration of commitment to the protection of the planet. He said, “We are deeply concerned about the planet; that is an environmental concern. In the Caribbean we know what happened with Hurricane Irma, we know what happened with Harvey and we know that these are catastrophes as a result of global warming. Guyana has committed itself to becoming a green state, Guyana has committed itself to contributing to the adaptation to measures to deal with global warming and climate change.”

While the Guyanese Leader has committed to preserving Guyana’s natural resources, he has said that focus must also be placed on the need for collective commitment by the greater part of the international community. They must begin to collaborate with smaller States such as Guyana to continue their pursuit of a low-carbon, low-emission path to sustainable development and to constrain the rise in global temperatures. “Even as these international partnerships continue to grow, the road to a ‘green’ economy must be lined with policies and strategies that seek to first manage the environment as a whole,” the President said.

The issue of climate change and environmental protection were also high on the agenda during two bilateral engagements between President Granger and the President of Costa Rica, Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta, Mr. Joseph Muscat. President Granger said that it is prudent for Guyana to seek greater cooperation and partnerships with like-minded states such as Malta, which has a strong commitment to the environment. “We know that Malta has a commitment to the environment and we in Guyana want to intensify our cooperation with Malta because we are a low lying coastal state. The Caribbean, I don’t put myself as a spokesman for the entire Caribbean, but the Caribbean is a maritime zone that is affected by or could be adversely affected by rising sea levels as a result of Global warming, so the environmental aspect was an important element of our discussions with Prime Minister Muscat,” the President said during an interview.

Similarly, he said that his meeting with President Guillermo was aimed at opening the door of cooperation between Guyana and Costa Rica, a country, which he noted has distinguished itself as a major player in the maintenance of the environment and from which Guyana can learn a lot.

Climate Change financing
The OCC, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP), over the past two years, has been making great strides in advancing President Granger’s ‘green’ agenda through tangible, transformative initiatives at both the community and national levels. Head of the Office, Ms. Janelle Christian in a recent interview said the OCC in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is in the early stage of a US $1.6M programme, known as Mainstreaming Low Emissions Technology in Guyana. The funding is being secured through the Global Environment Facility.

She said, “there will be a component specifically that would be looking at to pilot, co-finance small projects under this initiative… and beyond all of that broadly, not just specifically for the work that the Office of Climate Change would be doing but for all sectors, we have engaged, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) to position ourselves access the resources of the Green Climate Fund.”

Earlier this month, the Office opened a three-day workshop, which focused on building the capacity of community leaders and private and public sector stakeholders to apply and access funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for projects which promote low emission and climate resilience development.

The Green Climate Fund was set up in 2010 at the 16th Conference of Parties in Cancun, Mexico and is now the world’s largest dedicated climate fund, which is intended to be the centerpiece of the global efforts to mobilise $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020. As of March 2017, the GCF has raised the equivalent of US $10.3 billion in pledges and Guyana has received US $300,000. Ms. Christian, in her remarks at the workshop, said that for Guyana, the Ministry of the Presidency has been appointed to act as the GCF’s National Designated Authority (NDA). The NDA plays a crucial role in facilitating, supporting and creating an enabling environment for GCF processes within the country. She also noted that various barriers currently hinder Guyana’s NDA at effectively undertaking its fund-related responsibilities, including low levels of awareness and understanding among NDA personnel and their respective roles and responsibilities in relation to Guyana’s engagement with the GCF.

“It is against this background that the Government of Guyana and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) has received funding from the GCF and has commissioned to implement the project ‘GCF Readiness Preparation Support Project for the Enhancement of Guyana’s capacity to access and deliver international climate finance through targeted institutional strengthening,” she said.

The workshop included participants from the National Toshaos Council, the Guyana Forestry Commission, the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous People’s, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, the Project Management Office, the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, among other agencies and organisations.

Senior Economic and Financial Analyst at the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Valas Gobin, said that he will be utilising his training and knowledge gained in his department to coordinate with other agencies, including public, private and non-governmental organisations, to guide them in the direction where they would be able to get a better understanding of accessing funds for the GCF. He said, “the Green Climate Fund is accessible to all agencies, both government and private, or at least that’s the model that they are working with so hopefully we can help to direct projects or advise agencies on how they can access these fund for specific projects that contribute to the country’s programme.”

The OCC also embarked on an awareness programme through its Communication department to keep the public informed about its efforts and what they as citizens can do to contribute to the green agenda. The first workshop with students was held at St. Gabriel’s Primary School and aimed at teaching the school children about the impacts and effects of climate change. Twenty schools were targeted for sessions in the first half of 2017. The programme caters for all levels of school institutions. It is a collaborative effort between the OCC and the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN).

In addition, on July 28-29, 2017, the Office hosted a series of workshops for Journalists and Government Public Relations Officers, which focused on the communication and dissemination of information on the country’s steps to mitigating and adapting to the effects of Climate Change. The sessions, which were hosted at the Cara Lodge Hotel, were conducted by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD) with funding from the United States’ Department of State. It is part of the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Communication Strategy development process. The NAP will be used as a means of identifying medium and long-term climate change adaptation needs. It will also seek to develop and implement strategies and actions to address those needs. The workshops, which laid the groundwork for a communications strategy for the NAP, trained government representatives in Climate Change communications skills while the other for Journalists focused on strategies for telling stories about climate change adaptation.

Notably, the Head of the OCC said that while it is costly, consultations with the public is top on the agenda. “I believe that it’s important that we hear from people and so we trust that we would have the necessary resources, whether by Government or through our partners to ensure that we are able to take consultations and engagements outside of Georgetown so that we could inform community representatives, members of the public, people who have a general interest,” she noted.

Greening Bartica
It is the President’s vision to see Bartica becoming the first ‘green’ town in Guyana and the Caribbean region as a whole. Several main pillars of Bartica being a green economy include: sustainable harvesting of natural capital, integrated planning and data management, environmental security, disaster risk reduction, financial mobilisation and technology science and innovation.

The President has said, “it must also be a model town for energy; it must also be a model town for ecology and we want to work with the non-governmental organisations, with the Regional Democratic Council, with you as private citizens, with the miners to make sure that this revolution doesn’t falter, that we continue to show the Caribbean, to show the continent what we mean by having a ‘green’ economy.”

To this end, the OCC has been assiduously working with the Mayor and Town Council to bring projects on stream, which can bring this vision to reality. Already, they have secured funds for several main projects including the installation of LED street lights. More recently, a US$650,000 project, which is aimed at establishing a reliable point of reference for the existing state of energy use in Bartica, was launched by Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon in the town. The financing was received from the Government of Italy in support of the Model ‘Green’ Town, Bartica Project. The data generated will be used for future measurements and predictions for evidence-based decision-making and pursuance of projects and programmes.

Minister Harmon said that the project is a demonstration of the Government’s continuing efforts towards the achievement of the vision of becoming a ‘green’ state. Bartica, he said, “must lead the way as a model town in areas of alternative energy including solar, wind and hydropower, solid waste management and economic diversification. It is our vision that this community will serve as an example to other towns and regions across the country. Bartica will be a microcosm of what greening is, not only in Guyana but the entire region. So as a Government, the President has committed that political will to the development of what is taking place and so Bartica will continue to see this type of development.”

Ms. Christian at that event said, “at the centre of development is cheap, renewable energy and so we felt that we at the OCC, which is mandated to lead Government’s efforts with regard to climate change mitigation and adaptation, must provide the means and work with our development partners to leverage resources to make Government’s vision a reality. We felt that is our responsibility to see how best we can work with Bartica to realise the President’s vision. This project will also position us for further and larger infrastructural type projects.”

Mayor of Bartica, Mr. Gifford Marshall, while expressing the town’s appreciation for the Government’s drive, committed to supporting the pursuit of a ‘green’ town and ‘green’ agenda. He noted that as the world continues to grapple with the effects of climate change and global warming, it is the duty of every individual to play a role in the mitigation and adaptation efforts.

“Sound environmental practices are pivotal to reducing the impacts of Climate change. It starts with us, the model town, the dumping of bottles, tyres, drums and other receptacles in our drains, the disposal of solid waste in unregulated dumpsites… are all against environmental practices. Further, the development in the Kaieteur National Park (KNP), the continued pollution of our rivers by mining, deforestation, land degradation and our continued addiction to fossil fuels are all threats to the environment. We must accept and realise that the only way is ‘green’ solutions. ‘Green’ solutions are needed to address the challenges and threats facing our country. Bartica will be an example to the rest of the country and Caribbean as a ‘green’ town,” he noted.

Sustainable land use planning, the development of protected areas and the drafting and implementing of ‘green’ building codes are just a few of the measures the Council will be looking at, as the Town continues to push ahead with realising the Government’s vision for a model ‘green’ town.

The efforts of the OCC in Bartica did not stop there. In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on July 13, 2017, the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) was launched in the town. Through that initiative, the town benefitted from the installation of a 20Kwp grid connected Solar Photovoltaic (PV) system at the 3-Mile Secondary School along with the installation of energy efficient lighting, as well as light-emitting diode (LED) street lighting. The Partnership was funded by the Government of Japan to the tune of US $15 million, and supports countries in advancing the process of improving energy security planning for adaptation to climate change.

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of Climate Change and the effects continue to be felt by countries in the Caribbean, President Granger is lobbying for a broader platform to effectively provide protection and relief to Caribbean States that are vulnerable to natural disasters. He noted that urgent efforts must be made to strengthen the capabilities of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the regional mechanism that deals with disaster preparedness and response. In the meantime, the OCC will continue to play its role in the achievement of the ‘green’ Guyana and a ‘good’ life for all Guyanese.

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