There is no solution to climate change without sustainable forestry management. Forests act as natural carbon storage that when destroyed emit CO2 into the atmosphere. The conversion of forests to other land uses is responsible for at least 10% of net global carbon emissions.
Ecosystem services provided by forests – while essential for the well-being of people and the planet - remain undervalued and cannot compete with the more immediate gains delivered from converting forests into commodities.
In the small South American state of Guyana, rainforest covers about 85% of the total land mass. Therefore forestry management was central to Government of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy, which was adopted in 2009.
Part of the strategy saw Guyana sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Norwegian Government, agreeing that Norway would provide Guyana with payments to protect its rainforests.
The payments are results-based and linked to two criteria:
1) continued low deforestation, and
2) improved governance in the forestry sector.
Under the first criteria, payments are dependent on Guyana keeping the deforestation rate below 2010 levels. If this level is exceeded payments are reduced proportionately, and stop completely above a certain threshold (0.1% deforestation). Results relating to improved governance in the forestry sector are based on an objective appraisal.
Guyana implemented the world’s first national scale REDD+ measurement, reporting and verification system (MRVS) for forest monitoring in 2010. This provides the basis for reporting Guyana’s forest cover and associated carbon content. The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and the Office of Climate Change (OCC) are the agencies responsible for preparing Guyana's MRVS reports and Indicators of Enabling Activities respectively.
The MoU foresaw payments of up to USD 250 million over five years (2010-2015). The payments were to be channelled through the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), which was launched in 2010 and is administered by the World Bank.
So far, Norway has paid Guyana about USD 150 million for results relating to low deforestation and improved governance. Though the partnership was expected to end in 2015, due to some delays a decision was made to continue until Guyana has reached its goals as stated in the MoU.
In the absence of a global agreement on REDD+, this was the first national-scale agreement of its kind, and the Governments of Norway and Guyana believe that this can provide a replicable model of how REDD+ might operate for a High Forest Low Deforestation (HFLD) country.
Initial teething problems included defining a mechanism to administer the payments. This led to the creation of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), which is administered by the World Bank.
This model has subsequently been replicated by other countries, especially in South and Central America. GML 9