Guyana will aggressively pursue oil for national development – Pres Ali to BBC

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

An interview between President Dr Irfaan Ali and Stephen Sackur, the host of BBC’s “HardTalk” show, saw the Head of State forced to defend Guyana’s oil and gas production against the interviewer’s line of questioning and efforts to paint Guyana as a major contributor to global warming.

In his preamble to his question, the interviewer told President Ali that over the next decade, the US$150 billion worth of oil that Guyana is expected to produce will translate to more than two billion tonnes of carbon emissions.

As Sackur questioned whether President Ali was present at the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where commitments were made by countries around the world to combat climate change, the Head of State was forced to interject.

“Let me stop you right there. Do you know that Guyana has a forest, that is the size of England and Scotland combined? A forest that stores 19.5 gigatonnes of carbon? A forest that we have kept alive?” President Ali questioned.

Asked if that gave Guyana the right to produce its oil, the President questioned “does that give you the right to lecture us on climate change? I am going to lecture you on climate change.

Because we have kept this forest alive, that stores 19.5 gigatonnes of carbon, that you enjoy, that the world enjoys, that you don’t pay us for, that you don’t value, that the people of Guyana has kept alive.”

President Ali pointed out that Guyana has the lowest deforestation rate in the world and that even with peak exploration for oil, Guyana would still be net zero (producing less carbon emissions than extracted from the atmosphere).

The President further acknowledged that Guyana was indeed committed to aggressively exploring and producing oil within the existing timeframe, noting that the country has developmental needs that only massive financing could solve.

“We are practical. You can say we are rushing. But we are very practical. We have this natural resource. And we are going to aggressively pursue this natural resource, because we have to develop our country. We are committed to development of this region. We have to create the opportunity for our people, because no one is bringing that for us,” President Ali further said.

For some time, Guyana has gained recognition on the global stage for its management of its forest management. This recognition saw Guyana being issued 33.4 million tons of Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART)-certified carbon credits – the first jurisdictional-scale programme in the world.

Guyana also entered into a US$750 million deal with United States energy major Hess Corporation, for the sale of the high-quality carbon credits during the period 2016 to 2030.

The Guyana Government has committed to injecting 15 per cent of all proceeds from this carbon credits deal directly into Indigenous villages to finance their development. Monies have already been disbursed to benefiting communities.

During last year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Ali had cause to call out developed countries over their failure to fulfil the US$100 billion per year pledge to assist developing nations’ fight against climate change.

According to the Head of State, Guyana is committed to a clean energy transition and is aiming for over 80 per cent reliance on renewable energy by 2030.

But he had also explained that COP28 would not achieve the desired objectives of definitively putting the planet on a net-zero trajectory, if certain realities, including the need for financing and the massive price tag to transition to net zero by 2050 of US$375 trillion (McKinsey and Company), continue to be ignored.

President Ali had contended that net zero by 2050 as a target could only be achieved by a combination of measures that include: a cut in fossil fuel production; incentivising the introduction of renewables at scale; exploring advances in technology in using carbon capture and storage; cutting deforestation and land degradation, and introducing measures to curb the demand for energy.