Home LCDS Norway And Guyana’s rainforest: Why beggars do not choose
Norway And Guyana’s rainforest: Why beggars do not choose

For this week’s column, let me begin by re-emphasizing a couple of observations I have made about global inter-governmental negotiations thus far, as I continue to evaluate the low-carbon development strategy and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), between the Government of Guyana and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, as well as its related Joint Concept Note between the two parties to the agreement.
Diplomatic principle.

The first of these is that at the heart of the MOU are proposals for the treatment and utilization of the “pristine forests” of Guyana, in the context of their contribution to the reduction of harmful greenhouse gases on a global scale. Although the MOU is termed a “partnership,” in fact Norway makes no commitment in regard to its own regulation of harmful greenhouse gases emitted from its industrial and economic activities.
Guyana’s “pristine forests” are however the national patrimony of all Guyanese. This places on all readers not only the right, but the obligation as well to be fully engaged in discussions about its future disposition, particularly when cast in the noble role of contributing to save the world from atmospheric catastrophe.

Secondly, readers must constantly keep in mind that in today’s world, inter- governmental negotiations proceed on the diplomatic principle and expectation that each participating country would seek to protect its national interest first and foremost. A country cannot expect other countries to protect its national interest for it. Similarly, countries cannot blame others for failing to protect their national interest. Countries do not enter negotiations relying on mendicancy. In point of fact every inter-governmental agreement I have studied closely, whether in the area of trade (the World Trade Organisation and the Economic Partnership Agreement between European Union and Cariforum), finance (the IMF), development (the World Bank), or coordination of the global economy (through the G7, G8 and G20) this negotiating principle has stood out.
In negotiations countries routinely seek the maximum benefit for themselves, while striving to concede or give up the least possible concessions. Even in the face of the serious environmental risks Planet Earth now has to contend with, nations continue to operate on the ‘dog eat dog’ principle, as we Guyanese label it. It would therefore be extremely naive and dangerous for Guyana to rely on Norway’s ‘munificence’ and promise of good faith behaviour, untrammelled by any legal compulsions and sanctions.

On the basis of this diplomatic principle, when rich countries are not directly subjugating poor ones by force of arms, as in colonial and imperial times, they emphatically protect what they see as their unchallenged right to exploit the world’s resources for their principal benefit. In this regard Norway is not only a very rich country, but also a serious and dangerous polluter of the world’s atmosphere with its high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Norway’s environmental profile

Consider a few basic facts about Norway’s environmental profile. The world’s energy dependence on fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) is the leading cause of dangerous emissions of greenhouse gasses particularly CO2. Norway is today the world’s third largest net exporter of oil, which when used has led to dangerous CO2 emissions in all the countries to which it exports these products. Producing about 3 million barrels of oil, it is the world’s eleventh (11th) largest producer of oil. It is also the world’s third largest producer of natural gas. According to the publication Key World Energy Statistics, together with Russia, Norway may hold in the Barents Sea as much as one-third of the world’s oil and gas reserves!
On top of all this Norway has been estimated to have in its continental shelf areas, the world’s largest coal reserves. As readers would know, coal is dirty and has an abominable carbon footprint. Norway is therefore one of the world’s worst culprits contributing to dangerous CO2 emissions. Although it is a small country of about 5 million persons, thereby accounting for approximately 0.1 per cent of the world’s population, when its exports of fossil-based fuels are taken into account it has been estimated that Norway contributes three per cent of the world’s emissions. That is about 30 times its per person contribution to global population. Norway is therefore, by no means a benign collaborator with Guyana in rainforest protection. It will treat any avoided deforestation or degradation of Guyana’s pristine forests as its contribution to global targets set for its reduction of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, it is buying what are termed as offset rights for its own emissions from Guyana. As with all rich buyers of poor countries resources the transaction is intrinsically asymmetrical. Poverty makes poor countries desperate to sell. Wealth gives the purchaser wider options. Buyers and sellers do not meet on a level playing field.
Conclusion

As I conclude this column the question I want to respond to up-front is whether these observations on Norway’s environmental profile indicate some sort of moral ranking of Norway in the global environmental debate. Whether Norway is worse than other rich countries is not my specific concern. My categorical answer, therefore, is I am not seeking to evaluate Norway on a world scale. My concern is two-fold. First to debunk the myth of generosity Guyanese are promoting about Norway’s actions. Norway is doing what all rich countries have traditionally done and will continue to do in global inter-governmental negotiations, which is to safeguard its national interest.
If Norway is able to get away with ‘huffing’ our “pristine forests” for a bargain-basement price, the blame is ours. We cannot blame Norway for cheating us. We allowed ourselves to be cheated. As the saying goes: ‘a leopard doesn’t change its spots.’ It is therefore necessary for us to be continually on guard.

My conviction is that if the negotiating process for the MOU had been more open in Guyana, public anger at Norway’s rip-off would have served our negotiators better giving them leverage against Norway’s demands. As it is, with political expediency driving the negotiating process, the tactical and strategic dimensions of global negotiations gave way to regime enhancement and propaganda gains.
As I shall show next week, I have not been unnecessarily harsh or cynical about Norway’s well cultivated ‘benign’ image as a well- intentioned Nordic country. Several other commentators have called Norway’s bluff.
Its own domestic environmental NGOs have railed at Norway’s deception in environmental accounting and its reliance on purchasing from poor countries “offsets” to compensate for its continued rape and destruction of the planet with dangerous emissions of CO2 coming out of its own industry and export of fossil fuels.

 

LCDS

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Last week I concluded my rather extended discussion on the current global economic crisis and the lessons to be learnt from this. I trust readers would not infer from this that I believe the global crisis is over and we can safely return to business as usual. Far from it, while this is an appropriate point to introduce other topics to the discussion, I promise I will return to the global crisis if there are significant untoward developments in the coming weeks as we close out 2009 and enter into the New Year, 2010.

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Norway And Guyana’s rainforest: Why beggars do not choose

For this week’s column, let me begin by re-emphasizing a couple of observations I have made about global inter-governmental negotiations thus far, as I continue to evaluate the low-carbon development strategy and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), between the Government of Guyana and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, as well as its related Joint Concept Note between the two parties to the agreement.
Diplomatic principle.

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‘Dirty secrets’
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