APNU+AFC did not earn a cent for Guyana in environmental services – Govt

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The Department of the Environment on Wednesday reminded the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) of its mediocre record when it comes to the environment.

In a statement, the Department noted that the coalition failed to undertake any major initiatives on protecting the environment, climate change, biodiversity, or conservation.

It also noted that Guyana did not earn a cent in revenue for environmental services while APNU/AFC was in Government, nor was a new agreement with Norway established, owing to poor performance.

See full statement: 

The APNU+AFC Coalition continues to demonstrate that they have no regard for the people of Guyana or for the principle of truth. Their latest attempt to deceive was reflected by their missive to the international community, which sets out a series of lies about the PPP/C Government’s commitment to the environment.

It must be stressed that attention to the facts and the track record of the APNU+AFC Coalition on the environment cannot be diminished. Guyanese are fully aware of the following:

· The Coalition undertook no major initiative for the protection of the environment, climate change, biodiversity or conservation.

· The Coalition did not earn a single cent of revenue for environmental services while in Government.

· The Coalition inherited close to US$200 million earned by the PPP/C Government under the original Guyana-Norway Agreement, having tried to block the release of the same funds by writing to Norway when they were in Opposition. Much of that money was then spent by the Coalition, who took credit for the activities funded by those resources.

· The Coalition failed to establish a new Norway Agreement because of poor performance.

· The Coalition replaced the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) with the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS), which took five years and millions of dollars to develop, but had no serious implementable deliverable and no one was clear on what it was about.

Further, despite a flurry of overseas trips, the APNU+AFC Coalition maintained an invisible presence internationally and showed no leadership on the global stage – thereby destroying the momentum and leadership that had been created by the former PPP/C Government. At the United Nations and elsewhere, Guyana punched above its weight, and was invited to the top tables where real global influence is possible. Once APNU+AFC was in power, Guyana’s participation was lacklustre. The invitations, consequently, stopped coming.

Guyana deserves competent oversight of the environment through sound environmental policies and action – and the Government should be held to account by responsible politicians, civil society and the citizenry. This takes on even more significance now that the country is about to experience a period of unprecedented development. Fact-based and truthful debate can support progress that aligns with prosperity, equality of opportunity and good environmental stewardship.

The PPP/C Government welcomes such debate, and last week announced that a national consultation will take place on the updated Low Carbon Development Strategy, starting in July 2021. As the Government said last week, a draft LCDS will be released and “…at that point, all Guyanese can be informed of potential proposals, examine the various options, express their opinions, and be part of the finalisation of a way forward that benefits everyone in this country.”

This will be a vital step in the PPP/C Government’s efforts to re-establish Guyana’s position as a country that leads on climate change and the environment – where global models to complex challenges can be found through practical experience. The Government will restore ambition and momentum and build on previous efforts through the LCDS.

As such, as part of the national consultation, the LCDS Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee (MSSC) will be re-established to guide the LCDS as it did in the period from 2009 to 2015. Representatives from all major civil society organisations, the private sector, conservation organisations, indigenous peoples’ organisations, organised labour and other stakeholders will be able to offer their ideas and suggestions, and to help shape the approach for how Guyana can achieve developmental goals that will benefit people across the country.

MANGROVE PROTECTION AND RESTORATION

While further details will be set out before the national consultation begins, work is already ongoing across a wide range of areas, to set out draft policies and strategies, including the Mangrove Protection and Restoration. The PPP/C Government will establish and implement a national strategy for mangrove protection and restoration along our coastline and rivers.

It has been noted that the APNU+AFC Coalition has been trying to misrepresent the managed clearance of an area of mangrove fringe along the Demerara River for development activities. This mangrove fringe in the lexicon of the Coalition has been transformed into a ‘mangrove forest’, seemingly, intended to excite attention. The Coalition ignores the mitigation measures to prevent flooding in this area, which have been detailed by the Ministry of Public Works. That said, this façade by the Coalition will not distract from the fact that they illegally handed out over 30 plots of land on the riverbank to their party’s funders and supporters – majority of the transfers being done after the December 2018 No Confidence Motion and, worse yet, after the March 2020 General and Regional Elections. Despite this week’s feigned concern, the truth is that the former APNU+AFC Coalition government did absolutely nothing for mangrove protection and restoration.

Additionally, all the initiatives currently in place – the National Mangrove Management Plan, Restoration and Management Programmes, etc. – were started by previous PPP/C Governments. The PPP/C Government also understands the urgent need for a holistic strategy to maximise the protection that mangroves can give our coastal and riverine communities. This can be done in a way that expands the protection and expansion of mangrove forests while also ensuring that crucial development objectives can still be met, accompanied by appropriate mitigation actions.

FLARING

Perhaps the most glaring example of APNU+AFC’s failure to act on the environment was their acquiescence in allowing 14 billion standard cubic feet of gas flaring from the Liza 1 project. While they were busy giving away land and abusing the powers of government, they issued an environmental permit for Liza 1 that failed to address excess flaring in any way.

By contrast, within weeks of taking office, the PPP/C Government ensured that the environmental permit for the Payara Project activities included robust and enforceable conditions on excessive flaring – the provisions in this permit are as strong as those in the United States and elsewhere.

The PPP/C Government also worked to correct the massive flaws in the Liza 1 permit, and last week, the PPP/C Government issued a new environmental permit which realised a US$30/t payment for excess flaring.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Additionally, between 2011 and 2015, the APNU+AFC Coalition, then in Opposition, used its one seat majority to prevent key projects under the LCDS from advancing, and, in particular, made great efforts to block the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project.

In 2015, the APNU+AFC, now in Government, inherited the project, which was to be built in accordance with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)’s world-class social and environmental safeguards, and would have resulted in over 50% reduction in the price of electricity for Guyanese citizens and businesses by 2020, with almost no government debt. All they had to do was review the contract and work with Norway, the IDB and others to make it a reality. Yet they did nothing and by August 2020, Guyana’s electricity system was as unreliable and expensive as ever.

Despite this loss of time, the PPP/C Government is still committed to achieving most of Guyana’s electricity requirements through renewable energy, but now will use natural gas as a bridge, while renewable energy opportunities are pursued.

GUYANA-NORWAY AGREEMENT

Of note as well is that in 2015, the APNU+AFC Coalition inherited the Guyana-Norway Agreement, with close to US$ 200million available and ready to be invested. Moreover, the conditions were ripe for a new agreement – building on Guyana’s world-leading forest Monitoring, Reporting and Verification System (MRVS), which had been created over the previous seven years and was the subject of international praise for its quality.

First, the APNU+AFC Coalition took credit for the Agreement, while ignoring that they had tried to destroy it for years, including sending missives to the Government of Norway that were totally devoid of truth (and which Norway, rightly, ignored).

Second, the APNU+AFC Coalition failed to actually make any progress with the money they had inherited – while earning not a single new cent in revenue under the Agreement.

Finally, the APNU+AFC caused disbursements of over US$135 million to be suspended after the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled that the APNU+AFC was illegally hanging on to power, following the successful passage of the December 2018 No Confidence Motion.

The PPP/C Government has since re-engaged Norway and commenced discussions towards a new Agreement for forest climate services, while, once again, seeking opportunities to help international efforts on forest and climate.

The PPP/C Government will welcome the engagement of all interested Guyanese and consultation will provide the means for a fact-based and scientific discussion around climate change, including its relationship with oil.

The people of this country will, once again, be able to contribute to solutions to national and global problems, based on science, fact and reason – without being demotivated by the lies of those who believe that 32 is greater than 33.