Letter: Guyana’s role in the world will be shaped by oil, not wishful thinking

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Dear Editor,

I write to respond to Mr Jamil Changlee’s letter published recently, wherein he argued for Guyana to sit down with the UN Security Council to “discuss payments to leave our oil in the ground.”

Such musings are at best wishful thinking and furtherance of a narrative that would leave us behind.

The very body to which Mr Changlee would have us subsume our sovereign right to produce has been unable to agree with all manner of international issues, including a united front on climate change.

The five permanent members of that body, namely: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are all voracious consumers of energy and producers of oil themselves.

Russia’s Gazprom, China’s CNPC and CNOOC, France’s Total, BP in the U.K., and ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips in the U.S. are among the world’s largest energy producers. These companies exist for the sole purpose of selling a commodity that is fundamental to the global economy – oil.

In what world would the UN Security Council commit to underwriting the costs of a payments for avoidance scheme for Guyana when they are busy producing at levels that eclipse Guyana’s oil production many times over?

I am obliged to think that Mr Changlee’s message is aimed at positing other avenues to fund Guyana’s resilience in the face of a warming world, but, as the saying goes, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. No one will save Guyana, and any overtures to that end are likely to result in a bureaucratic malaise that would see sea-level rise and flooding reach our shores long before any help from the U.N. Security Council or other body arrives.

Guyana’s good fortune puts it in proximity to some of the most powerful nations of the world. The warm reception at this week’s UN General Assembly in New York and the reported standing-room-only audiences for Guyana’s appearance at the Oil and Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas should indicate that Guyana has emerged on the world stage.

With the analyst predicting we could see another rise to $100 a barrel of oil by early next year, we are in a much-advantaged position to reap real and tangible rewards. By this time next year, the Natural Resources Fund could reach one billion US dollars, money that belongs to the people of Guyana without strings or preconditions.

Guyana did not emit the gigatons of greenhouse gases that will increase global temperatures. We were a carbon sink for much of our existence, trapping more carbon in our forests than we emitted. Norway recognised this fact, and their attempt to compensate for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation was a meaningful investment, but a tiny one in comparison to oil. Norway, incidentally, generates much of its own wealth through offshore oil revenues, while still maintaining a well-deserved halo of sustainable innovation and a high development level.

Our best chance for improving lives here in Guyana is to do the same.

Sincerely,
Donald Singh