Guyana Canoe resize


Forests make up over 85% of Guyana’s land area, containing over 8,000 plant species, half of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Read more

Historically deforestation rates in Guyana have been low, making it a special case in efforts to preserve forests in the fight against climate change. In 2008 the country presented itself as a candidate for financial compensation to keep its forests standing under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD) initiative. A year later the government of Norway committed finance worth up to US$250 million over five years to ensure the protection of Guyana’s forests.

Global Witness played a key role in the debate around how the Guyana-Norway partnership would be shaped. We hosted a public meeting in London with the then President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, to explore the opportunities and risks of the country’s ambitious plan to stop deforestation and embark on a low carbon development path.  The event exposed the tension that exists between incentives of developing countries to generate much-needed revenues from cutting down their rainforests, and those of wealthier countries to pay for rainforest protection.

This tension is playing out in Guyana’s forests. Between 2010 and 2013, logging rates have been higher than those permitted under the Guyana-Norway partnership, yet the penalties provided for in the partnership have not been invoked. According to one estimate the income from an illegally logged tree can be up to six times higher than the potential financial penalties.

Without the right checks, aid money for forest protection risks funding the very forces that work against it. To ensure they are effective, REDD schemes need to prioritise securing indigenous land tenure, clamp down on industrial offenders of illegal logging, and agree real reductions in deforestation – with penalties for failure that bite.