Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo speaks to U of T about tropical rainforests and climate change (past event summary)

Friday, December 4, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Tropical Rainforests: An Abatement Solution to Climate Change
Special Lecture by Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana

October 22, 2009. University of Toronto

His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana presents a special lecture on “Tropical Rainforests: An Abatement Solution to Climate Change” at U of T’s Hart House. (Photo by Johnny Guatto.)
PHOTO: His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana presents a special lecture on "Tropical Rainforests: An Abatement Solution to Climate Change" at U of T's Hart House. (Photo by Johnny Guatto.)

By Tim Welsh and Ingrid Leman Stefanovic

On October 22, 2009, the Centre for Environment hosted a special lecture by His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana.  The event was held in the Great Hall in Hart House and focused on the theme of "Tropical Rainforests: An Abatement Solution to Climate Change."  It marked the first time that the Centre has hosted a sitting Head of State.  In her introduction, Centre Director Ingrid Stefanovic noted Jagdeo's international influence on debates around climate change, as well as his progressive stance on the relation between economics and conservation.  She praised President Jagdeo for his international leadership in "stepping up to the plate" on these issues and fostering dialogue between developing and developed countries.

President Jagdeo spoke primarily about the need to generate political will from the ground up, leading to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December.  He outlined the economic and scientific rationale behind adopting aggressive policies towards climate change, and noted that a lack of public support, particularly from academia and civil society, is the largest obstacle which politicians face when attempting to advance conservation-minded legislation.  President Jagdeo spoke of the need for ambitious goals going into the Copenhagen conference, both in terms of the challenges around the global reduction of carbon emissions, and in the need for investment of developed nations in environment-based economic initiatives.

The leading role that Guyana was playing in rainforest conservation was another theme of President Jagdeo's talk.  He noted that such conservation is both a relevant issue to Guyana, which has over 16 million hectares of forest, as well as a critical step in the wider process of consciousness-raising, which can feed into other, more ambitious environmental efforts worldwide.  President Jagdeo, who was trained as an economist before entering politics, has proposed a model for a forest carbon economy, in which developed nations invest in the preservation of Guyana's forests to counterbalance their own carbon consumption.  This investment contributes to the sustainability of worldwide growth and energy usage, while offsetting the loss of revenue which would have been gained through logging and farming in Guyana. 

President Jagdeo then addressed questions from the audience, emphasizing that a forest carbon economy should not be thought of in terms of the standard provision of aid to a developing country but instead, as a market-driven solution.  It is a model, he noted, that is specific to Guyana, but also is part of a larger process of awareness-raising about the true cost of energy use.  In her closing remarks, Dr. Stefanovic warmly thanked President Jagdeo for his presentation and for his international contribution to advancing the cause of sustainability in general. 

Tim Welsh is Research Coordinator and Ingrid Leman Stefanovic is Director, respectively, at the Centre for Environment.