Guyana's extraordinary offer to Britain to save one of the world's most important carbon sinks

By Daniel Howden in Georgetown, Guyana

Published: 24 November 2007

Man-made climate change is a clear and present danger. Decision-makers from around the globe will converge on Bali in a fortnight in an attempt to do something about it. And the call has gone out for the world's leaders to take bold action to avoid a catastrophe.

Enter Guyana. The former British colony, sandwiched between Venezuela and Brazil, is home to fewer than a million people but it is also home to an intact rainforest larger than England. In a dramatic offer, the government of Guyana has said it is willing to place its entire standing forest under the control of a British-led, international body in return for a bilateral deal with the UK that would secure development aid and the technical assistance needed to make the change to a green economy.

The deal would represent potentially the largest carbon offset ever undertaken, securing the vast carbon sinks of Guyana's pristine forest in return for assisting the economic growth of South America's poorest economy.

Read more: Guyana: Take over our rainforest

Rabobank, the Dutch bank that is the world’s biggest provider of finance for agriculture, is preparing to launch a carbon credits scheme to encourage replanting of forests illegally cleared in the Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon.

Its organisers hope the scheme will become a blueprint for conservation in the rest of the Amazon forest.

In a pilot programme to begin next month, Rabobank will provide R$150,000 ($83,000, €56,000, £40,000) to eight soya farms and cattle ranches in the Xingu region in Mato Grosso state.

Read more: Dutch bank to unveil Amazon carbon credits

Foreign Legion tries in vain to tackle region's biggest environmental threat


Alex Bellos, River Oyapock
The Guardian (UK)

Monday December 17 2007

Sitting in a bar near the Brazilian side of the border with French Guiana, Antonio Luis is waiting for nightfall to make his move. Once it is dark, he will be able to cross the frontier and follow one of the well-trodden jungle trails. The French want to stop him and his colleagues, he says, "but they won't manage it. The jungle is very big and us miners are tenacious beasts."

Luis is one of thousands of illegal miners panning for gold in the rainforest of French Guiana, a former colonial territory that is now treated as an integral part of France.

Up to 15,000 Brazilians are believed to be hiding in French Guiana, working in up to 1,000 clandestine mine sites. Campaign groups say that the gold rush, which started about 10 years ago, is the region's greatest environmental problem and, with the price of gold at a 28-year high, they fear it will get worse.

According to Benoit de Thoisy, a conservation biologist, more than 3,000 miles of rivers have already been polluted by displaced soil. "Also, the miners have to eat, so there is a problem with hunting. There is a depletion of large species. And they are using mercury, which is still going into the water and the air."

Read more: The Gold Rush in French Guiana

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