Letter: Govt is on right path to developing oil and gas sector

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Dear Editor,

It is quite unfortunate that, as a Guyanese, I had to sit and read the views expressed by international lawyer Melinda Janki regarding the prosperity of my beloved country. As someone with a keen interest in the budding oil and gas sector, I paid close attention to the points she stressed on in her expression, titled “PPP/C, Coalition incapable of leading Guyanese to safe and prosperous future – In face of climate change…. – Int’l Lawyer”. Most notably, she based her position on the fact that Guyana’s proposed petroleum production goes against President Joe Biden’s climate change aims and strategies.

I found this to be interesting because a simple internet search would indicate that the Leaders Summit on Climate is focused on underscoring the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action. Such aims of the summit reflect Guyana’s steadfast commitment over the years in terms of advancing a low carbon development pathway.

The Government of Guyana’s commitment in this regard is nothing unfamiliar, and is public knowledge; so, I do not comprehend how Ms Janki would posit that Guyana’s proposed petroleum production is in direct opposition to President Biden’s climate change aims and strategies.

In fact, I have done some research on Guyana’s petroleum production, and that research, coupled with several media reports over the years, indicates that Guyana would be able to strengthen its climate action from the benefits that would be derived from the petroleum production.

At the same time, the October 30, 2020 edition of the Guyana Chronicle newspaper covered His Excellency President Irfaan Ali’s address at a virtual Climate Change Conference with over 130 countries, wherein he stressed on the importance of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The President also expressed commitment towards protecting the natural environment, and called on the G-77 to focus on advancing development in the same regard.

If the Government of Guyana were not committed to improving its climate action, given its petroleum prospect, why would the President have taken such a strong stance on climate change at the virtual meeting with the G-77? Also, why would the Government outline in its manifesto that it intends to retain its status as a carbon sink economy if it were incapable of doing so? The fact that such is the reality causes me to question the views expressed by Ms Janki in her epistle.

Additionally, I found it alarming that Ms Janki wrote that it appears that the production from the Stabroek block is driven by ExxonMobil’s demands, rather than the concern for the wellbeing of the Guyanese people. I know for a fact that such a budding sector would offer a host of advantages for Guyanese. Notably, in terms of climate action, the petroleum sector would also boost Guyana’s mitigation and adaptation efforts significantly.

For instance, I know that the cost of transitioning to a net-zero economy would be very high. In order to achieve this without putting pressure on available resources, the petroleum sector would be able to allow such to happen easier. This is because Guyana would be able to make more major investments towards a new, clean, energy economy. Anyone can understand this, so I am not sure why Ms Janki is of a different view.

Lastly, Ms Janki concluded her expression by citing Article 36 of the Constitution, which states that the well-being of the nation depends on preserving clean air, fertile soils, pure water, and the rich diversity of plants, animals and ecosystems. She stated that this article should be the basis for Guyana’s immediate transition to a prosperous blue-green economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

However, I do not believe that Article 36 is applicable in this regard, given that it does not deal with the development prospect of the petroleum sector and climate action. In fact, natural gas is known to have one of the smallest carbon footprints.

As the Government of Guyana is focused on developing the gas-to-shore project, I know that, as Guyanese, there will be countless benefits heading our way. Therefore, the expression of Ms Janki’s regarding the Government being incapable of leading Guyanese to a safe and prosperous future is misguided. I believe that the PPP/C Government is on the right path to developing the oil and gas sector, and at the rate at which the sector is expanding, it is safe to say that prosperity is guaranteed.

Yours respectfully,
Erin Northe