Improved forest management should be included in ongoing discussions of REDD policy
While the Government of Guyana leads the world in plans for low carbon development, the considerable carbon emissions’ benefits of improved forest management are not being sufficiently stressed. This oversight is not unique to Guyana – around the world, deforestation and not forest degradation is in the limelight in debates about climate change policies.
As a mostly forested country with vibrant forest industries and a dedicated forest regulatory authority, disregarding forest degradation is difficult to understand.
Given that I have spent less than two weeks in Guyana, my opinions carry little weight and my calculations are suspect. These limitations notwithstanding, I want to make a case for including improved forest management in ongoing discussions of the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) policy.
First of all, how much carbon is at stake? Assuming that 500,000 m3 of timber is being harvested from Guyana’s forests per year, and most of that by conventional logging practices, I estimate that 100,000 Mg of carbon could be retained annually in the forest by universal adoption of reduced-impact logging (RIL) practices.
This reduction in emissions would be secured with no reduction in harvested volumes. Assuming a market price of US$10 per Mg (tonne) or carbon, then simply by using the RIL techniques taught at the Mariwa (Essequibo) Forestry Training Centre Inc, then US$1,000,000 could be generated each year.
This money could be used to subsidize forest worker training and increase supervision of harvesting operations. Carbon funds could also legitimately be invested in clamping down on the illegal operators who keep timber prices down and otherwise jeopardize sustainability.
If selectively logged forests were treated to improve commercial tree growth rates (thereby increasing carbon sequestration), then the sum of carbon money for which forest management would be eligible doubles to $2,000,000 per year.
Additionally, the adoption of RIL would represent a big step towards forest certification (and the concomitant increased marketing opportunities), a step that could be paid for with carbon funds.
But to legitimately claim all this money for retained carbon in properly managed forests, a solid research base is needed. Unfortunately, unless substantial funds are invested in local research capacity building, Guyana will remain dependent on foreign experts.
As one of those foreign experts, I shouldn’t complain about the status quo; that said, having spent most of my time in Guyana working with a group of brilliant young forest researchers from the University of Guyana, University of Suriname, University of the West Indies, and the Guyana Forestry Commission, I know that this neo-colonial attitude is unjustified. The alternative is to use carbon funds to build Guyanese capacity up to the highest levels.
Professor Francis E. Putz
University of Florida