Guyana already going above & beyond in climate change fight – PM Mottley

– has right to explore, produce oil on its way to Net Zero by 2050

Questions about the pairing of climate change mitigation with oil exploration continue to rear their head, particularly in the Caribbean region. These questions were recently dealt with head-on by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who in the process lauded the role Guyana has been playing in the climate change fight.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

During a press conference at the end of the 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government, Mottley fielded a question on countries like Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago producing oil while the world seeks to reduce carbon emissions.

Not only did Mottley point out that developing countries need to use oil revenues to transition to renewable energy if they are to attain net-zero status, but she also highlighted the important role Guyana has been playing as one of the world’s foremost carbon sinks, with 80 per cent of the country covered in forests.

Barbados PM, Mia Mottley

“Guyana already has one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, so you can’t talk about Guyana’s use of fossil fuels without recognising that Guyana is in fact playing its role way beyond most countries in the world already,” Mottley said.
“I think we need a strong public education programme in the region. Net-zero does not mean zero fossil fuel, and regrettably, because we use those phrases, people have assumed that net-zero means zero fossil fuels,” she also explained.
Mottley noted that net zero by 2050 means countries having a minimum of 20 per cent fossil fuels in use in order to transition to a net-zero world. According to this Prime Minister, the reality is that countries like Guyana have to finance their development, and cannot therefore afford to ignore their natural resources.
“And to that extent, there needs to be a nuance to the discussion as to how all countries benefit within the context of the containment of the fossil fuels we produce. But if you say no new fossil fuels from any of these countries, all you’re doing is preserving an old World Order which in fact does not in any way help developing countries being able to achieve net-zero and play their role,” she said.
“And when you add to that the absence of a development compact, and you add to that COVID-19, and you add to that the climate crisis, it’s almost a veritable perfect storm. Not everything can be reduced to four columns or 60-second soundbites. There are some things that require complex discussions because the issues are complex, and this is one of them,” Mottley added.

80 per cent of Guyana is covered with forests

The United Nations (UN) Global Roadmap sets out the target that the world must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It involves balancing the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.
At the 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) last November, Guyana had committed to reducing carbon emissions by 70 per cent by 2030. The cleaner energy mix to be undertaken involves the use of natural gas through a 250-megawatt plant, reducing the use of fossil fuel. This is in combination with the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) and solar farms.
In January, President Dr Irfaan Ali had said that Guyana is poised to lead the Net Zero by 2050 Agenda through its robust plans for energy security and renewable generation, while continuously recording increased economic prosperity.
Earlier this year, Brazil, Suriname and Guyana agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore the development of an energy corridor linking the three states. The Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is also being expanded to include the provision of environmental services, the protection of biodiversity and water resources, the development of marine economy, and the promotion of climate resilience.
The enhanced LCDS would allow Guyana to further decarbonise onshore economic activities.
Electricity generation and heating accounts for more than 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Head of State had said these efforts come as countries cannot reduce generation, thereby putting pressure on economic growth. Rather, it must diversify to cleaner generation, pushing investors’ confidence in such reliable energy.