Guyana’s credibility on forest protection a ‘rare commodity’- Tony Blair

President Dr. Irfaan Ali makes a point during his conversation with Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The sit-down conversation, moderated by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Paloma Mohamed-Martin (Photo: Office of the President/ August 29, 2023)

For context, Guyana has lobbied for a global system that pays the country for keeping the forest intact for over a decade. Norway was the first to buy in, signing a deal for USS$250 million, once deforestation rates remain intact.

Last year, an end-user agreement for carbon credits was signed with the oil company Hess Corporation. The Hess deal, Guyana’s first carbon credit deal so far, was brokered after the country got special carbon credits issued to it last December.

Those credits are like a tradeable permit or certificate that represents the removal of a certain amount of carbon dioxide from the environment by trees.

Guyana plans to attend the upcoming United Nations’ climate change talks- COP28- in Dubai and demonstrate how it has sustainably managed its forests and how it has been able to balance oil production through its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

Mr. Blair thinks the experience of Guyana is important to share since countries, for years, have been trying to find a balance between harnessing their natural resources to raise money for developmental needs alongside environmental protection.

“We have to create a mechanism whereby the supposed contrast of ‘do you develop or protect the environment?’ is eliminated.

“And that’s where this LCDS is important because it has worked for you over the years but it can be developed over the next few years if you get the right propulsion from the COP28 to something very, very big,” he said.

President Ali spoke more about the dual pursuit of financing development while protecting the environment.

According to him, governments like his own have a responsibility to their citizens. As such, they must find ways of earning enough to support development.

Guyana could potentially cut down its forests and earn from that in ways such as logging or mining. But President Ali says the country is not doing that, instead it is saving the forests that store 19.5 gigatonnes of carbon. If those trees are cut down, all the carbon dioxide stored would be released into the atmosphere, causing further harm to the environment.

So the President argued the country must be paid more for the carbon it stores through its new carbon credit venture. He says the price for a tonne of carbon trapped by the trees should be about US$70 instead of the current price of about US$7.

Mr. Blair is on a two-day visit to Guyana.

This visit is seen as a historic one since it is the first time that a former or sitting British Prime Minister is visiting Guyana, which gained independence from British rule on May 26, 1966.