Guyana’s credentials on environmental are unquestionable – President Ali

…to work jointly with Suriname to tackle climate change, environment issues

With mounting global pressure for new fossil fuel exploration and production to halt and the transition to renewable energy be fast-tracked in light of the worsening impact of climate change, President Dr Irfaan Ali last week again defended Guyana’s push to exploit the oil and gas resources offshore to develop the country and its people.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

He premised this regurgitated argument on the fact that Guyana’s environmental credentials are unmatched.
“We don’t have to hide from any discussions on environment because our credentials on the environment is unquestionable,” he contended during a joint press conference with Surinamese President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, who was on a four-day visit here last week.
Guyana’s total forest cover of some 18.4 million hectares hold carbon in high density of up to 350 tons/hectare and store nearly 5.31 gigatons of carbon. This amounts to approximately 6638 tons/person, which is the second-highest forest carbon stock per capita of any country on earth.

Net-zero carbon emitter
The Government maintains that even with ongoing oil exploration, and more specifically production activities in the Stabroek Block offshore which has a reserve of more than nine billion barrels of “light sweet crude” oil, Guyana will still remain a net-zero carbon emitter.
In fact, efforts are being made now to market the country’s carbon credit. In the past, Guyana had earned some US$250 million in a deal with Norway to keep its pristine forests intact.
But according to President Ali, while the issue of climate change is global, Guyana is already in a positive situation regarding the environment. In the same breath, however, he posited that the country needs the trickle-down benefits from developing its oil resources.
“Our credentials on the environment outmatch anyone… We can say that, in a net way, we are a positive story on the environment side. Now, what do we do? We have this natural resource that is critical for the transformation of our people; that is critical to make other sectors competitive… More and more there’s a timeframe that we have to exploit this natural resource and bring benefits to the other sectors, in making the other sectors competitive, in getting the necessary revenues to create the fiscal space so [that] our food programme can develop in a competitive way to meet regional, and global demand; so our tourism product can develop, and more importantly, so [that there can be] the provision of services – medical, educational services – the creation of opportunities and the opening up of new opportunities,” he stressed.
The Guyanese leader went on to outline that while Guyana, like many other countries, continues to commit to international best practices and international target on climate change, it has recognised the lack of commitment by developed countries to pledge resources to fight the climate crisis. But even as new commitments are being made by developing countries, Ali pointed out that Guyana and many other developing such, especially in the Caribbean region continue to face the brunt of the impact of climate change.
“While we continue to commit to the protection of the environment and securing the environment, we have been at the receiving end of the inaction of climate change and the consequences but there is no vulnerability fund. We don’t contribute to the climate disaster now but we have floods as a result of climate change. The Caribbean have changing patterns. Caricom (Caribbean Community) itself; the region suffers the greatest from climate related incidents. All the reports point to this.”
“What mechanism is there to protect the region, to safeguard the region, to help the region to mitigate against this, to help the region to recover from this. Look at what is happening with Haiti; look at the more frequent hurricanes, the floods. Where is the mechanism to help these countries in the region, to help us when we face climate disasters? So, we understand our responsibility but we understand, also, we have to find a balance in ensuring we create prosperity for our people, and prosperity for our people is prosperity for the region as a whole,” the Head of State argued.

Tackling issue together
Nevertheless, recognising that the issue of the environment is critical as they pursue a joint economic development agenda to exploit shared resources, Presidents Ali and Santokhi during last week’s engagements agreed to tackle the issue together.
“We have had good credentials in the area of the environment. We also recognise that we share similar conditions and opportunities, challenges too as it relates to the environment and climate change. To this end, we have agreed that we’re going to jointly approach the area of environment and climate change, to come up with a common strategy for both Guyana and Suriname especially in preparation for COP26 and also in exploring the possibility of merging our forest asset in the carbon credit market.”
He further pointed out that with both Guyana and Suriname in the same forest basin, if they merge potentials then the type of impact and benefit that will come to the table will be massive.
To this end, the two South American neighbours will be tapping into the expertise of Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo to advance a common environmental agenda. Jagdeo will be leading a delegation to Suriname before COP26, which is billed for October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, United Kingdom, to coordinate strategies in dealing with climate change and the environment in both nations.
“Environmental parameters and environmental challenges, and the issue of the environment itself will be and has to be addressed in a holistic way. Because as you know, we are pursuing a Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and President Santokhi is also working on a strategy that ensures a green economy. So, issues of the environment are important to both countries and that will definitely be part of the [Joint Development] Strategy,” President Ali stated.
The LCDS is a brainchild of Jagdeo during his second term presidency. It was this initiative that Guyana brokered the deal with Norway and received payment for keeping its forests intact to offset global carbon emissions.