Thanks to Guyana's sparse population (fewer than one million people), the country's lush tropical rainforests and highlands have been largely untouched. Other than significant but scattered indigenous groups, the majority of Guyanese live in a narrow strip along the Atlantic coast, leaving intact over 80 percent of the country's interior tropical forest.
In 2009, Guyana and the country's president, Bharrat Jagdeo, are using these forests to show the world how conservation action can both mitigate climate change and boost local economies.
EXPEDITION: Guyana's indigenous Wai Wai live in and preserve the Konashen region. Learn more about the biological diversity and the people of this area.
The country's relatively undisturbed landscape rests on an ancient geological formation, the Guayana Shield – an area that includes all of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana and extends into western and southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. These forests are the source of 20 percent of the world’s fresh water and represent 18 percent of the world's tropical forest carbon. They serve as a remarkable global-scale utility that benefits not just Guyanese but people all over the world.
The Government of Guyana, under the leadership of President Jagdeo, is taking major steps to protect its natural resources. In 2002, the government granted Conservation International (CI) the world's first "conservation concession" to protect 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of primary rain forest in the Upper Essequibo watershed.
IN THE NEWS: CI and Guyana have established a conservation concession.
VIDEO: Learn more about Guyana's Conservation Concession
But the impact of Guyana's forests reaches far beyond the country's borders.
Through collaboration with CI and other organizations, President Jagdeo has brought Guyana to the forefront of the climate change action movement, looking to the newly-emerging carbon market to protect standing forests and improve the livelihoods of Guyana's people. In June 2009, President Jagdeo launched a "Low Carbon Development Strategy", creating a CI-funded secretariat within the Guyana Forestry Commission which plans to evaluate the amount of carbon stored by Guyana’s forests and sell carbon credits to other countries.
As the world looks towards the drafting of new climate legislation in Copenhagen in December, Jagdeo emphasizes the need to compensate High Forest Cover, Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries for protecting the forests that sequester carbon and benefit us all.
LEARN MORE: Climate Week 2009 in New York City