Paramaribo, Suriname – (February 14, 2019) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, issued a call to the international community for High Forest Cover, Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries to be recognised as a special, priority group for sustainable and predictable financial flows to facilitate the urgent undertaking of mitigation and adaptation efforts to climate change.

Minister Harmon was at the time addressing the HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation Conference, which had in its attendance, President of Suriname, Mr. Desi Delano Bouterse, representatives of the United Nations, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and climate funding agencies such as the Global Environment Fund (GEF).

The Minister of State, who has oversight of the Department of Environment and the Office of Climate Change in Guyana, said that the nation considers itself fortunate to be numbered amongst the few countries in the world that are defined as HFLD countries, with over 87 per cent of forested lands at its disposal. 

“Guyana serendipitously stands within the Guiana Shield – one of the world’s last remaining spheres of virgin tropical rainforest. The Guiana Shield spans an area of 2.7 million km², and is shared by five other South American countries – Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Suriname and Venezuela.  The Guiana Shield represents 18 per cent of the world’s tropical forest carbon and 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water which allows it to capture large quantities of carbon dioxide. It is one of the largest contiguous and relatively intact, forested eco-regions in the world and undoubtedly an area of both regional and global significance in the fight against climate change.  As an HFLD country, Guyana takes its responsibilities to ‘Mother Earth’ very seriously and is proud to stand as an exemplar and reliable global partner in tackling climate change,” he said. 

Minister Harmon noted that Guyana is committed to ensuring sustainability in the forestry sector and would welcome measures that would improve timber monitoring and maintaining a high level of timber legality; increase value-added activities in the forestry sector so as to augment carbon storage in long-use wood products; intensify the sustainable management of Indigenous communities which own 14 per cent of our national territory; add an additional two million hectares of land and waterways to the national protected areas system, bringing the total protected areas to approximately 20% and facilitate greater certification of forest products and increasing access to markets so that this commitment can be realised. 

However, the absence of adequate international finance, technology transfer and capacity building to enable HFLD countries to transition towards climate resilient and low emissions development is a bane and a blight on development efforts, he posited. 

“It retards us from meeting our long term national goals and from effectively responding to and meeting our international targets like the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Guyana is on an unequivocal path to becoming a ‘green’ state by the year 2040 through our Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040. We are eager to demonstrate that low-carbon, low-deforestation, climate-resilient development is possible for HFLD countries. I therefore call on the international community to recognise HFLD countries as a special, priority group for sustainable and predictable financial flows to facilitate the urgent undertaking of mitigation and adaptation efforts to climate change,” he said. 

These sentiments were echoed by majority of the countries present, as they noted that while they are prepared to protect and conserve their forests, it is an effort that must be supported in tangible ways. 

Meanwhile, President Bouterse, in his remarks, said it is imperative that financial mechanisms be put in place to ensure that countries which emit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere duly compensate countries which absorb the carbon through their forests. 

“We are aware that our forests provide significant benefits to the world by storing large amounts of carbon. Long before global warming and climate change were acknowledged, HFLD countries were preserving their eco systems. Unfortunately, contributions to especially HFLD countries to combat the climate change challenge is not reflected in the available finance. Cooperation among countries is therefore imperative. When I see the world participation in this Conference, I am confident that we are on the right track,” he said. 

At the close of the session today, the participating countries adopted the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration on HFLD Climate Finance Mobilisation. 

Points 12 and 13 of the Declaration state, “We noted that HFLD developing countries are receiving a considerably small portion of the benefits from international mechanisms on climate finance, despite our utmost efforts for centuries in protecting and conserving our forests by contributing consistently and significantly to storing carbon and mitigating the impacts of climate change at all levels for current and future generations. We underscore that many HFLD developing countries are in dire need of adequate international climate finance, technology, transfer and capacity building to support the transition towards climate resilient and low emissions development and to achieve the goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.”

Further, Points 15 and 16 state, “We call upon the international community to explore practical ways to simplify and better align the financial frameworks and mechanisms including those designed to implement the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks) with the urgent and specific needs of HFLD developing countries in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change. We invited relevant financial institutions, developed country donors, the private sector, philanthropy and other countries in a position to do so, to increase financing for sustainable forest management, including conservation and to give special consideration to HFLD countries.” 

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