Exploring environmental co-benefits from reducing emissions from deforestation, forest degradation plus forest enhancements (REDD+), was the focus of a workshop hosted on December 10, 2013 by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).
The overall objectives of the very enlightening event were to provide a brief background on the environmental co-benefits of carbon and water, the current status of water quality markets/trading programs, the potential for combining Guyana’s National REDD+ credits with water quality improvement credits (i.e. stacking of environmental credits), report on the historic water quality baseline, assess future water quality under different scenarios and provide recommendations for improving the baseline and establishing a system for monitoring and reporting water quality.
Pradeepa Bholanath, Project Co-ordinator, GFC chaired the opening session. She commenced by contextualizing the objectives of the workshop and explained that through collaboration with the Guiana Shield Facility (GSF), the Guyana Forestry Commission was successful in the implementation a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification System (MRVS).
Ms. Bholanath further emphasized that water has not received much attention even though it has high value. It is against this background that it was posited that water was chosen since it is easier to quantify than biodiversity and it has potentially a broader impact in that it enhances REDD+ activities.
Ms. Chisa Mikami, Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) delivered brief remarks. She extended congratulations to the Government of Guyana through its technical arm, the REDD Secretariat of the GFC, for enthusiastically pursuing the development of a national MRVS for REDD+. She posited that it is an important building block for the full implementation of REDD+ as a means to incentivize the conservation of forests, and for the protection of the environment.
The very technical presentations were then conducted by Mr. Michael Netzer from WINROCK International which focused on:
- what are ecosystem services?
- what does co-benefits mean?
- why water was chosen as the environmental co-benefit under this project?
- review of the existing markets that pay or trade water credits
- how those markets function and how Guyana might establish a water trading system in coordination with carbon credits?
- Steps in development of water monitoring system that aligns with the REDD+ framework, stratification, selection or water quality variables, drivers and agents, and establishing a baseline
- report on the results from National scale hydrological model (using the SWAT Model) that will estimate the historic baseline and then project future water quality given different land use scenarios associated with REDD+
Numerous debates and discussions ensued from the presentations. Approximately forty (40) participants ratified on the mechanism / framework for the implementation of the system. They questioned the current laws in place for carbon and water quality, who will enforce the laws, who will measure and monitor water quality, how it will be financed and who will manage the market distribution.
The GSF was among many other agencies such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Iwokrama, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and representatives from the REDD+ Secretariat at the GFC at the workshop who collectively proposed some actions for the successful incorporation and implementation of water into the MRVS.
It was a consensus that the potential benefits of water quality trading systems in Guyana outweighed its disadvantages. Importantly, the participants expressed the view that the buyers for water should be industries that are typically the users that contribute to water pollution.
Moreover, the participants contended that the national government will receive the payment and subsequently disburse to the municipal governments upon request for community development.
Importantly, the participants acknowledged that it would not be an easy task to incorporate the monitoring of water quality into the MRVS. However, they noted that the EPA, GGMC, and the Hydro Metrological Department are the agencies that should be responsible for measuring and monitoring water quality.
The GFC will continue to engage stakeholders until the implementation becomes a reality, while the GSF remains committed to supporting the Government of Guyana in fulfilling the objectives of REDD+ and MRVS.