Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation strategies for Suriname

While Suriname’s greenhouse gas emissions are rather low (at least compared to more industrialized countries) and climate change mitigation (as for now) not being a real concern for the country, Suriname is particularly vulnerable to climate change due to its low-lying coastal zones. Sea level rise thus poses an important potential threat for Suriname’s mostly coastal based population as well as the agricultural activities practiced on the coastal plain where Suriname’s most fertile soils are found.

Simplified model of sea level rise’s causes and effects. I found this image on Wikimedia Commons – a quite funny one: have a look at the person drowning in the sea holding a spray can in its hand!

 

Adaptation measures to climate change will thus be the major concern for the country.

Nevertheless, Suriname still has lots of potentials in reducing its own carbon footprint through improvements in efficiency and pollution abatement in the energy, transport, industry and agricultural sector, among others!

The Surinamese government has therefore ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1997. (A first National Communication was submitted to the UNFCCC in 2005, a second national communication was submitted end of 2013.)

In this regard, the government has created the Climate Compatible Development Agency, and on several official sites of the government, I saw words of a “Climate Compatible Development Strategy” being developed, but then no proof of its existence or implementation can be found on the net or would someone ever have mentioned it to me (so I guess, it remains a myth). It does not seem as if climate change is playing a significant role on the agenda of the Surinamese government (no wonder when the country is making so much money from resource extracting activities such as mining! But shouldn’t governments also care for future generations’ rights and needs?).

I nevertheless hope that the Government of Suriname will really come to put in place a well-thought sustainable development strategy to guide the country into the right direction, instead of continuing its current ad-hoc policy-and decision-making.

 

REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation)

Nevertheless, Suriname can potentially play an important role in climate change mitigation, through its vast forest resources (more than 90% of its land surface is covered by forests). We know now that forests play a key role in global efforts to mitigate climate change. Trees store carbon by sucking in carbon dioxide (an important greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and locking it into their biomass (carbon sink and storage). Further, healthy soils beneath healthy trees also act as effective carbon sinks.

Tropical forests (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Tropical forests (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Thus, the idea was born to include forests in the climate change mitigations scheme and a mechanism called “REDD – Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” was created within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2008. Basically, REDD (and its further developed successor REDD+) gives financial incentives to leave forests standing rather than to cut them down:

REDD+ is a payment-based mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, plus the enhancement of forest carbon stocks, conservation and sustainable forest management. (Source: Tropenbois Suriname)

Since Suriname belongs to the so called HFLD countries: High Forest cover, Low Deforestation, Suriname has been included in the list of countries eligible to receive payments through REDD+. Despite its neighboring country Guyana, that has already received REDD+ payments, in Suriname no further action other than preparatory reports has so far been taken. WWF Guianas is involved in this process as well as the French National Forestry Bureau (ONF) through international cooperation with French Guiana.

I think, I will leave the discussion whether REDD+ can be a feasible climate change mitigation tool in another blog post (Guyana has more experience with REDD than Suriname).

Read more about REDD:

UN REDD Programme

Tropenbois Suriname

Forest Carbon Partnership

Project Proposal for REDD+ Readiness Preparation Report

Advertisements

Forestry & Agriculture in Suriname: hardly regulated mining, lumber and agriculture activities cause environmental deforestation and degradation of ecosystems

Approximately 90% of Suriname’s land area is covered by (primary and secondary) forests. Due to this abundance, many people would say that deforestation does not pose a heavy threat to Suriname. As of yet, I would say! The ever growing exploitation of natural resources, especially of bauxite and gold mining, as well as urbanization are both causing continuous deforestation. Since no law obliges neither the mining companies nor the small-scale miners to engage in reforestation and mining site rehabilitation after mining operations, mining sites are usually left in horrifying states of destruction with soil and waterways degraded. (Only the multinational companies would follow their own – voluntary! – Corporate social responsibility programs, standards and objectives. How or if nature will reclaim its original state in decades to come, or if professional eco-engineering will be required, remains to be seen.

Degraded area after small-scale mining operations (Source: WWF Guianas)

Mining is causing deforestation in many areas of Suriname  (Image Source: WWF Guianas)

Lumber industry is a growing business, since Suriname’s forests are home to many exotic wood species quite demanded in the developed world. But even less valuable wood has been exported a lot in order to produce simple pallets. Many Chinese companies have opened wood factories and export companies. Wood has been exported (especially to Europe and Asia) for a long time in logs only, but recent changes in regulation by the government have increased prices for wood exploitation and give thus incentives to process wood in Suriname rather than to just export logs.

Trees in Suriname

Trees in Suriname

Despite its large territory and favorable climate, Suriname produces little agricultural produce and is thus far from achieving food sovereignty. The most fertile areas are found on the coastal plains, particularly in the West around Nickerie. Rice is the dominant crop followed by bananas as well as other perennial and semi- perennial crops (palm oil, sugar, citrus fruits, etc). Use of pesticides and fertilizers is not regulated. In Nickerie I have been told about huge amounts of pesticides and herbicides sprayed on the fields, making it impossible to grow any other vegetables in the vicinity.

One of many, many rice paddies in Nickerie, Western Suriname

One of many, many rice paddies in Nickerie, Western Suriname