Guyana is known for its abundant natural resources, including its rich array of plants and animals. The extractive and agricultural industries have been the primary contributors to Guyana’s economy since there has been an average economic growth of 5% annually.
Located in the neo-tropical bio-geographical territory of northeastern South America, our country is also part of the Guiana Shield region which forms part of the Amazon Biome. This spans 6.7 million km2, is the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world, and is home to at least 10% of the world’s known biodiversity.
The biodiversity which Guyana possesses provides an important basis for climate regulation; poverty reduction; provisioning of freshwater; economic growth and development in areas such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries; payment for forest climate services and community-based economies, particularly in hinterland communities. For these reasons, it is important to ensure that development occurs in a sustainable manner.
Generating income through biodiversity use
In simple terms, eco-tourism refers to those activities that use biodiversity, and include benefits to the local community while ensuring the protection and conservation of the very plants and animals that are the tourism product. The land of the giant and untold endemic species offers numerous opportunities for bird spotting, sport fishing, and other wildlife spotting and sporting activities.
The vast landscapes that exist in Guyana also offer opportunities for income- generation through tours to waterfalls, mountain hikes, and boating.
Plants, and to a lesser extent animals, often contain compounds to treat a wide variety of illnesses, from ginger and caffeine to treat headaches, to aloe vera for treating menstrual cramps and burns. These applications have all been developed and commercialised locally and by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Fees and taxes
Besides direct economic benefits to tour operators and communities, biodiversity generates financial revenues for countries through fees and taxes. Non-tax revenue from biodiversity includes Government, NGO, and private biodiversity-related revenue generated from user fees, licences, permits, etc.
* Payments for accessing biodiversity resources and areas (extractive uses)
Fees, licences, or permits for accessing natural resources, eg. hunting permits, fishing licences, and permits for collecting medicinal plants.
* Payments for accessing biodiversity areas (non-extractive uses)
User fees are collected for accessing parks and protected areas, and for conducting leisure activities. They are a good example of the user-pays principle in that they affect only those individuals or groups that directly benefit from biodiversity.
Non-extractive uses means that biodiversity resources are not depleted or sold in the process. Examples include entrance fees to protected areas, and biosecurity services fees.
* Volume-based resource user fees (water, wood)
Volume- or scale-based fees include rents, concessions, dividends and royalties collected in exchange for the right to extract renewable natural resources. Examples include royalties for resource extraction for timber, water tariffs or water extraction fees, royalties from bioprospecting contracts and transportation licences, export permits, and other fees and charges for transporting biodiversity products.
* Land-based or infrastructure fees (tourism concessions)
Payments made for business access to natural land, the establishment of infrastructure on natural land, and the creation of marketable services on public lands. Examples include concession agreements, payments made to Government from directly outsourcing protected areas’ management and rights of way; or use for telephone, electricity or water infrastructure.
* Revenue from environmental funds
A biodiversity endowment fund is a fund in which the capital is invested in perpetuity, and only the resulting investment income is used to finance grants and activities. It is a common vehicle to mobilise resources from donors, national governments, the Private Sector, as well as private citizens.
* Environmental fines and penalties related to biodiversity
Environmental fines and penalties are collected because of an illegal act, such as illegal logging, poaching, illegal dumping, and unplanned pollution, which directly harms the environment. Fines and penalties may be set as a flat rate for specific illegal acts, or as fixed amounts. Fines can either be paid to the treasury or Local Government, or placed in special accounts to cover environmental remediation and compensation to affected people and communities.
Environmental fines can be set firstly to form a threat that is sufficient to discourage the illegal behaviours. Secondly, the collected revenues can be used to recover the costs associated with rectifying the environmental impact.
Fines, similarly to environmental taxes, should not be seen only as a source of revenue-generation. This can have the perverse effect of allowing transgressions to happen simply to collect a fine.
Certain revenues from biodiversity and ecosystem services are explicitly linked to natural resources’ extraction, eg. logging.
Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030 is seeking to explore new avenues for the sustainable use of biodiversity for income-generation. The Environmental Protection Agency, with the support of sister agencies, ministries and NGOs, is joining forces to make the necessary changes and implementations for this achievement. Research and surveys are being conducted where the LCDS will continue to prioritise the strengthening of measures for low-impact mining, rehabilitation and restoration of mined-out areas, and improved transparency in the mining sector, in addition to aiding in the development of strict sustainable forest management rules and guidelines.
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