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