The fire-brand Chief Whip of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Ms Gail Teixeira, has written to the Norwegian Government expressing her party’s “grave concern” over what she described as the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government’s continued “lies and attacks” on the integrity of the Guyana-Norway partnership on climate change and forests.
In a letter dated February 16, 2016, to the Director of Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, Per Fredrik Ilsaas Pharo, Teixeira said that her party was gravely concerned about the recent attacks in recent days coming from the Government.
She singled out a recent statement in the National Assembly during the 2016 National Budget by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, who said that all of Guyana’s productive forest was allocated by previous PPP/C Governments, mainly to foreign investors.
Teixeira in her four-page letter said the attacks followed statements by Finance Minister Winston Jordan during his 2015 Budget presentation that it will be “a downright criminal act of deception were we to proceed with Amaila Falls.”
“These irresponsible public statements on Guyana’s forestry management and Amaila Falls seek to tarnish the Peoples’ Progressive Party’s track record on forest conservation, sustainable forest management and climate change,” Teixeira said.
She also charged that the statements also deliberately question the integrity of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and the Guyana-Norway partnership for which forest conservation is a key pillar and the Amaila Falls Hydropower plant is a flagship project.
Following is the full text of Ms Teixeira’s letter to the Government of Norway:
Mr. Per F.I. Pharo,
Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
Ministry of Environment.
February 16, 2016
Dear Mr Pharo,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Peoples’ Progressive Party to express our grave concern about the APNU+AFC Government’s continued lies and attacks on the integrity of the Guyana-Norway partnership on climate change and forests.
I assume that members of your staff are aware of the attacks of recent days when Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman asserted that all of Guyana’s productive forest was allocated by previous PPP/C Governments, mainly to foreign investors.
Minister Trotman stated that “we were met with an alarming situation where we discovered that 100% or all of our productive forest was allocated by the past Government.”
These attacks follow statements made by Minister of Finance Winston Jordan in August 2015 in his previous budget speech when he said it would be “a downright criminal act of deception were we to proceed with Amaila Falls.” Minister Jordan said that Amaila Falls will cost GPL US$2.6 Billion over 20 years. In fact, it will save GPL US$2 Billion over 20 years ! He also inaccurately stated that the IDB agreed with the APNU+AFC’s plans to shelve Amaila Falls.
These irresponsible public statements on Guyana’s forestry management and Amaila Falls seek to tarnish the Peoples’ Progressive Party’s track record on forest conservation, sustainable forest management and climate change. The statements also deliberately question the integrity of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and the Guyana-Norway partnership for which forest conservation is a key pillar and the Amaila Falls Hydropower project is a flagship project.
The PPP is today calling on Minister Trotman to issue a full retraction and apologise to the people of Guyana. His statements are not based on any facts – although the facts are actually quite straight-forward.
As shown in publicly available and internationally verified reports, Guyana’s forests cover an area of 18,483,000 hectares. The breakdown of this area is summarized on Page 5 of the latest Monitoring, Report and Verification (MRV) report which was independently verified by an agency engaged by the Norwegian Government. It summarises Guyana’s forest as follows:
Forest (‘000s hectares)
State Forest Area
Titled Amerindian lands (including newly titled lands)
We have called on Minister Trotman to explain to what he is referring when he makes the claim that 100% of this forest was allocated by the PPP/C Government. Had the Minister been honest, he would have stated the facts about the allocation of concessions:
• About 7 million hectares have been allocated for concessions, less than 38% of Guyana’s forest or about 55% of the State Forest Estate.
• Of the 7 million hectares, about 5 million hectares are allocated through large concessions.
• Of these 5 million hectares, about 2.8 million hectares of large concessions were allocated by PPP/C Governments between 1992 and 2015, and about half of the large concessions were issued by the PNC Government before 1992, including the current largest concession for Barama at 1.7 million hectares.
In summary, the PPP/C Government allocated approximately 15% of Guyana’s forest to large concessions, about the same as the PNC Government.
To this day, 5.5 million hectares, or close to half the State Forest Estate, remains unallocated.
Furthermore, as you are aware, forest management standards within the allocated concessions are among the highest in the world. Deforestation and degradation, as well as governance standards, have been independently verified and assessed since the commencement of the Guyana-Norway partnership on forests in 2009. The most recent Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) report dated October 2015 shows that Guyana’s forest cover has a deforestation rate of 0.062%, one of the lowest rates in the world.
We fear that Minister Trotman’s attacks are symptomatic of a wider attack on the Guyana-Norway partnership.
There have been no meetings of the LCDS Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee (MSSC) since the Government took office, despite the fact that two of the current Government’s Ministers were Members of the MSSC since its inception. Information about GRIF-funded projects is no longer available on the LCDS website. Amerindian and other stakeholders are no longer consulted about the LCDS or the Guyana-Norway partnership.
You will already be aware that the Heads of the LCDS Project Management Office and the Office of Climate Change were not retained by the new Government. You may also be aware that the Technical Lead for the Amaila Falls project resigned in recent weeks after a relentless attack on him and his family by agents of the Government – which culminated in illegal covert surveillance by members of the Army which was uncovered when the surveillance operation led to the deaths of three people.
We have real concerns about the Government’s commitment to the standards required by the partnership – especially as they relate to transparency, accountability and the quality of technical work.
We have noted that your pause on disbursing money to Guyana since the new Government assumed office has not been lifted, despite the fact that a payment of US$40 million remains pending. We have also noted that there is no progress towards a new agreement, despite the fact that the last payment under the partnership was to be paid for performance up to the end of 2014.
Our party continues to believe that the Guyana-Norway partnership can be good for Guyana and for the world and therefore, the Government must show it is serious about adhering to the standards the agreement requires.
The Leader of the Opposition previously called for an independent and factual investigation into the Amaila Hydropower Project, and we are pleased to see that this may now take place.
We also ask that you engage with Minister Trotman and request him to substantiate his recent statements.
Without being held accountable for their statements and actions, the PPP fears that the APNU+AFC Government will continue to undermine the basic foundations of the Guyana-Norway partnership.
In that situation, the PPP will have no choice but to support Norway putting on hold projects and funds to be administered under the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) pending independent investigation of Minister Trotman’s claims. This is the only course of action that would protect the partnership’s central elements from further damage, and would be the only responsible course of action in the long-term interest of Guyanese.
Our goal is to see the Guyana-Norway partnership regain its original high levels of ambition and to get back to progressively building a model that the world can look to for proof that national development and responsible stewardship of the environment can be compatible activities. We will support the Government in any action that is in line with this vision, but we cannot stay silent when the partnership is being progressively undermined.
Due to the urgency and importance of this issue, I am forwarding this to you via this means. However, l shall be forwarding a hard copy of this letter to you by mail.
PPP C Member of Parliament,
Chief Whip Opposition
Office of the Leader of the Opposition