Million acres of Guyanese rainforest to be saved in groundbreaking deal

A A A

A deal has been agreed that will place a financial value on rainforests – paying, for the first time, for their upkeep as "utilities" that provide vital services such as rainfall generation, carbon storage and climate regulation.

The agreement, to be announced tomorrow in New York, will secure the future of one million acres of pristine rainforest in Guyana, the first move of its kind, and will open the way for financial markets to play a key role in safeguarding the fate of the world's forests.

The initiative follows Guyana's extraordinary offer, revealed in The Independent in November, to place its entire standing forest under the protection of a British-led international body in return for development aid.

Hylton Murray-Philipson, director of the London-based financiers Canopy Capital, who sealed the deal with the Iwokrama rainforest, said: "How can it be that Google's services are worth billions but those from all the world's rainforests amount to nothing?" The past year has been a pivotal one for the fast- disappearing tropical forests that form a cooling band around the equator because the world has recognised deforestation as the second leading cause of CO2 emissions. Leaders at the UN climate summit in Bali in December agreed to include efforts to halt the destruction of forests in a new global deal to save the world from runaway climate change.

"As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide rise, emissions will carry an ever-mounting cost and conservation will acquire real value. The investment community is beginning to wake up to this," Mr Murray-Philipson added.

Guyana, sandwiched between the Latin American giants Venezuela and Brazil, is home to fewer than amillion people but 80 per cent of its land is covered by an intact rainforest larger than England. The Guiana Shield is one of only four intact rainforests left on the planet and at its heart lies the Iwokrama reserve, gifted to the Commonwealth in 1989 as a laboratory for pioneering conservation projects.

Iwokrama, which means "place of refuge" in the Makushi language, is home to some of the world's most endangered species including jaguar, giant river otter, anaconda and giant anteater.

Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo, a former economist, has appealed for state and private sector help for the country to avoid succumbing to the rampant deforestation currently blighting Brazil and Indonesia, in an effort to raise living standards in one of Latin America's poorest countries.

"Forests do much more for us than just store carbon ... This first significant step is in keeping with President Jagdeo's visionary approach to safeguarding all the forests of Guyana," said Iwokrama's chairman, Edward Glover.

The deal, drawn up by the international firm Stephenson Harwood, is the first serious attempt to pay for the ecosystem services provided by rainforests.

"We should move beyond emissions-based trading to measure and place a value on all the services they provide," said Mr Glover.

In addition to providing shelter to half the world's terrestrial species and one billion of the earth's poorest people, forests such as Iwokrama act as pumps, drawing water from the Atlantic Ocean inland to the Amazon and Guiana Shield where they help to seed clouds and deliver moisture over vast distances.

The Amazon generates the rain that falls on the vast soya estates of Sao Paulo, helping to make Brazil the second biggest agricultural exporter in the world.

Guyana's attempt to secure its entire standing forest has received the backing of the British environment minister Phil Woolas and Downing Street has told The Independent that it is "considering the offer". President Jagdeo met with Gordon Brown on the sidelines of a recent Commonwealth Summit in Uganda where they discussed the proposal. The UN road map to a deal to replace the Kyoto protocols foresees payments from wealthy climate-polluting nations to developing countries to compensate for potential income lost through avoiding deforestation. But there are fears that this formula may simply displace the demand for timber and cheap agricultural land.

Andrew Mitchell, head of the Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of rainforest scientists, said: "The decision on forests at December's conference in Bali is a major step in tackling climate change but it fails to reward countries such as Guyana that aren't cutting down their forests."

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn