This week, we are reminded that Bharrat Jagdeo was designated by the UN as a Champion of the Earth. It is not something we should, or ought to, forget, because it is not just a personal accolade; it is something Guyana was, and must continue to be, proud of. But, like everything else, we got used to knowing we have an officially designated Champion of the Earth among us. Today, we are reminded that, almost 15 years ago, the UN honoured Bharrat Jagdeo, our then President, and Guyana with the title Champion of the Earth. President Bharrat Jagdeo brought honour and glory to our country.
We are reminded today of this high honour because the UN has this year chosen to honour Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Barbados with that same honour. We congratulate Prime Minister Mottley and Barbados. She has championed democracy, and has spoken out strongly against global inequity. Caricom must be proud of the Barbadian PM, and we must be proud that, as a Region, we have produced now two Champions of the Earth.
Bharrat Jagdeo was truly the mover and shaker of one of the world’s earliest low carbon development strategies in the early years of his presidency of Guyana. It became a model for other countries to emulate, and a strategy that the UN embraced as one of the ways to tackle global warming and climate change. In fact, Norway was convinced that the low carbon development strategy was worthy of support, and signed an agreement with Guyana to pay for carbon credit.
A new pillar for economic development was born. Today, Guyana is again taking the lead in pushing a low carbon development strategy. It is not a fly-by-night strategy; it is one that has gained international accolades. Under President Irfaan Ali, a new LCDS has been launched. Mark my word, Guyana and Caricom will produce a third Champion of the Earth soon.
Guyana had abandoned the LCDS in 2015. Guyana replaced the LCDS with a new strategy called the Green State Development Strategy. It turned out that it made us more of a laughing stock in the world. The most visible sign that there was a new “Green State” economy was that everything began to be painted green, all Government workers had to begin wearing green.
Even the State House was repainted green. Government Ministers started to wear only green shirts or green dresses. As part of the new “Green State” development strategy in 2015, Guyana abandoned the Amaila Falls Hydroelectricity Project. We also abandoned the distribution of solar panels to households in unserved electricity areas of Guyana.
At the same time, Guyana made a promise at the Paris Agreement that, by 2025, we would attain zero transmission by moving to 100% fossil-fuel-free electricity system. The truth is that we added to the fossil fuel need for Guyana’s electricity. It was a promise the whole world laughed at; it was a promise that the whole world knew we could not in any way reach, even if we were serious. Most significant is that the whole world knew we were just talking, we were not serious, and we think we could hoodwink them.
The new LCDS has resuscitated the Amaila project. Not only has the new LCDS brought back to life the Amaila Hydroelectricity Project, but we have added a number of smaller hydroelectric plants for hinterland regions, such as Moco-Moco in Region 9.
We have resuscitated the solar distribution panel programmes, and we will build several solar farm projects around larger communities to support economic projects. Guyana has now admitted that we cannot significantly reduce fossil fuel use by 2020, but our goal is now to reduce fossil fuel use by 50% by 2025, and by 70% by 2030. These are doable goals. But the new LCDS does not only have a clear goal and navigation pathway for reducing the use of fossil fuels through development of hydro- and solar power, there is the plan to add wind power. In addition, Guyana expects to have a new gas-to-shore capacity built by 2025, and this will facilitate a significant reduction in Guyana’s dependency on fossil fuels.
The new LCDS has embarked on an acceleration of the Amerindian Land Titling exercise that was so dramatically abandoned by the previous Government in 2016. The Amerindian Land Titling Project was a significant outcome of the LCDS. But the LCDS funds were earmarked for this project not only because it brings the Amerindian people into Guyana’s low carbon development plan, but because it also was a condition for Guyana’s independence in 1966. However, granting titles to their land is not the only way to help our Amerindian sisters and brothers, we must create economic opportunities.
The original Amerindian Development Fund, which was essentially abandoned in 2015, has returned into the LCDS in a bigger way. The new LCDS, while seeking to maintain the pristine lives of Amerindians, also seeks to bring them into mainstream economic opportunities; promoting enterprise, entrepreneurship and business for the Amerindian people.