Environment Minister restates Guyana’s commitment to tackling forest illegality

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By Kurt Campbell

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Persaud. [iNews' Photo]
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Persaud. [iNews’ Photo]
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Guyana’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Robert Persaud has restated the administration’s commitment to tackling forest illegality and the realization of the country full economic potential.

He was at the time addressing a seminar on Tuesday, November 18 at the International Conference Center, geared towards the sharing of experiences on the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) which were entered into with the European Union and individual timber producing countries.

Over 80% of Guyana’s landmass is covered in rain forest and has seen the country embarking on a national development plan that outlines how the country could use its vast forest to forge an economy based on low deforestation, low carbon emissions and climate resilience.

It is against this back drop that Guyana started formal negotiations with the EU in March 2012, with the aim of signing a VPA which Persaud said the country is on target to completing by September 2015.

“We have zero tolerance for illegal mining,” Persaud said as he warned that people caught carrying out illegal mining activities will be penalized along with those who fail to enforce penalties.Head Table

The Minister said the administration has nothing to hide in relation to its forest and mining activities which pose a threat. He said the government is open to any external Body reviewing operations here and is similarly open to constructive suggestions.

Persaud is hopeful that the work Guyana is doing, particularly under its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), will be given due credit.

He reiterated that the forest remains the best low cost solution to climate change and says Guyana is making a big sacrifice through preservation of its forest.

Guyana forest cut is currently far below its annual allowable level. Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Guyana, Robert Kopecky reminded that the objective of the European Union Timber regulation is to counter the trade in illegally harvested timber.

It has now been in application for more than 1.5 years (3rd of March 2013). It is centred on 3 main points and covers both imported and domestic products:

  1. It prohibits placing on the EU market for the first time illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber;
  2. Also for the first time, it requires EU traders who place timber products on the EU market for the first time to exercise ‘due diligence’;
  3. It also requires economic operators in the sector such as traders to keep records of their suppliers and customers.

Guyana is among nine countries currently negotiating a VPA with the European Union.

“Guyana has a lot of advantages, and is in many ways well prepared for the process,” he added.

Guyana also has an existing solid forest monitoring system and legality assurance scheme in place. Several external studies have confirmed that the tagging and monitoring system is functioning well, even though there is of course still room for improvement.

 

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