MORE STUDY OF LOCAL CARBON CREDITS POTENTIAL NEEDED - Cassels
Patrick Denny Stabroek News December 1998
Preliminary research suggests that the potential of Guyana's forests to earn money from the sale of carbon emission may be less than previously thought.
However, according to David Cassels, Director General of the Iwokrama International Centre, more research is needed to clarify how Guyana might take advantage of any of the trading frameworks that might develop under the proposed Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
"Following the Kyoto (Japan) meeting of the parties to the Climate Change Convention Last year, there was considerable excitement about the potential for the Clean Development Mechanism to generate a significant amount of money for forest rich countries like Guyana. Furthermore, early back-of-the-envelope calculations suggested that the systematic investigations of this potential was warranted"
For this reason, Cassels told Stabroek News that Iwokrama began work with the Government and the United Nations Development Programme to develop a best information picture from research already done in Guyana and the surrounding counties of the Guinea shield.
" The UNDP Global Partnership Programme hire an experienced forest ecologist, Dr. Hans ter Stegg, to work with Iwokrama and Government officials to rapidly review the available research information for the Guinea Shield forests. The Idea behind this work was to see if we could help the government to develop an early case for investment in offset projects in Guyana that it might have been able to promote at the recently concluded Conference of Parties in Buenos Aires."
According To Cassels, this work did not provide the sort of information that would have allowed such a case to be developed . Rather, he said< "it indicated that considerably more research will be required to close gaps in information and overcome major areas of uncertainty."
"We will now subject Dr. ter Stegg's work to rigorous technical review to help refine the picture and define the next steps more clearly."
The non-presentation of the project at the Buenos Aires conference did not put Guyana at a disadvantage.
Cassels pointed out that Costa Rica, which has been a pioneer in the carbon credits trading scheme, has not been able to generate the US$10 million it had hoped to gather by selling futures in carbon storage at US$20 a tonne on the Chicago Stock Exchange.
Cassels said too that it would take sometinme before the rules for the trade were settled.
Guyana which has usually taken the lead in the region on the environment was not presnet at the Buenos Aires conference and the ministerial representative from Trinidad and Tobago spoke on behalf of the rgion.
Cassels said that despite uncertainty over the trading rules, it was clear that emissions from landd use activities in Guyana's forests were quite low in comparison with other tropical countries.
"Most of Guyana's forests occur on soil with very low agricultural potential so historically there has been little pressure to convert the forest to other land uses."
Logging in Guyana, Cassesl said too, "also tends to be low intensity in comparison with rainforest logging in south-East Asia and other areas. As a consequence, the ability to reduce carbon emissions through the adoption of reduced impact harvesting was less in Guyana than other forests.
He said that "logging in actual greenheart patches approaches the intensities in South-East Asia but these patches form only a small part of the forest with the best estimated of only 1,700 to 2, 000 hectares of these being logged every year."
"Much of the forest between the greenheart patches remains undisturbed because there are no markets for the timber species at the moment." Cassels added.
Among the areas needing more research, he added, are the effective growth rates from forest biomass after logging, breakdown times for both fine and coarse litter and the residence time for organic matter.
"Relatively minor changes in the estimated rates for any of these parameters had quite dramatic influences on the likely carbon dynamics of the forests, changing them from carbon sources to sinks or vice versa."
Cassels said that those uncertainties would also apply in other forest types outside Guyana and "considerable research will therefore be required before buyers could be certain enough that a particular forest management practice would, in fact, lead to a reduction in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that could be traded through the Clean Development Mechanism."
He observed that "we need to know about these values just as we need to know about wildlife values, timber values, and the potential value of ecotourism. We must have a much greater understanding about the way forest ecosystems function and their various values if we are to build sustainable futures."
"This is what Iwokrama is ultimately all about - helping Guyana and the world to make better science -based decisions about forest use so that our children will have futures at least as good as the ones we inherited from our forebearers."
But the Iwokrama official stressed that there was still considerable interest in investment in forest conservation activities despite the uncertainties about the carbon dynamics of forest ecosystems and the current lack of clear rules under the Climate Change Convention for forest bases activities.
He said that a few weeks ago, French car manufacturer Peugeot announced that it was going to plant some 12,000 hectares of forest in Brazil and that it would pay for this by a small charge on the cost of each of the cars it sells. Peugeot will not get any carbon credits for this in the short run.
However, according to Cassels, they will get good public relations and they might even be able to sell a few more cars to people concerned about the environment.
"Rainforests have many values and we need to keep a watching brief on all of them if we are to take advantage of opportunities that might arise in the future."
Cassels said that Iwokrama would "continue to direct its research to areas that show potential for greater sustainable income generation from the forests.'