– boosts equality, democracy for a sustainable region
President Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday underscored the importance of equality, democracy, and energy security to the sustainability of countries in the Americas and the Caribbean, noting that the region has the potential to address these pressing issues.
He was at the time addressing regional leaders at the Second Plenary of Summit of the Americas being held in California, United States, under the theme: “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future”.
The Guyanese Head of State told his colleagues from the western hemisphere that issues plaguing countries such as inequalities, threats to democracy, and energy insecurity among others cannot be divorced from the sustainability and prosperity of the region.
“We’re living among these challenges in a region that has the potential to be fully energy secure; bring prosperity to every home; have the greatest access to natural resources – abundant land and access to water resources to ensure food security; enough rainforests and technology to make a meaningful contribution to climate change; enough access to finances to bridge the inequality and support sustainable development for all. The question is why have we not achieved this?” he posited.
Zeroing on energy security, President Ali contended that this cannot be achieved without exploration of the region’s natural resources.
While there are heightened efforts to shift from fossil exploration activities to combat climate change, especially by big economies in the Americas, the Guyanese leader highlighted that those very top income-earners in the region are responsible for 21.1 per cent of the region’s total carbon and energy footprint. In some cases, these translate to more than 12 and seven times above the carbon output by the lowest earners in the region.
According to President Ali, on the other hand, Guyana’s bountiful forest stores 19.5 gigatons of carbon and he noted that the country would not be reckless and irresponsible in managing these resources in the interest of the region and the world.
“We understand that we are not alone in this world and this region, and the prosperity that we seek to achieve cannot be done alone. We belong to the family of humanity and we are ready to make our contribution to that family of humanity,” he stated.
However, even as the hemisphere confronts this challenge of its carbon footprint, President Ali contended that there are opportunities within the region to offset this with alternative renewable energy sources including natural gas. In fact, he pointed to Guyana’s reserves of 11 billion and counting barrels of crude and its natural gas capacity, of which an assessment is being done to ascertain the quantity.
“This coupled with the potential of Suriname, Trinidad, and Tobago, and possibilities through investment and exploration with gas in Barbados can make this region energy secure. Let us get together and have a conversation that defines a pathway to energy security for this region. We have the potential and we must use every available tool, all the asset that is available to us to reach that potential. And we can do it if we commit ourselves to doing that,” the Head of State noted.
He further outlined that Trinidad and Tobago alone has an opportunity to contribute with proven reserves of about 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and an estimated potential of 23 trillion cubic feet.
“They must be part of the equation in finding a solution to this problem,” he asserted.
Currently, the Ali-led Guyana Government is working on piping natural gas to shore from the Stabroek Block offshore, where United States oil giant ExxonMobil and its coventurers are conducting oil production and exploration activities.
The highly-touted gas-to-shore project, which is pegged at approximately US$900 million, will be feeding some 200-250 megawatts of energy into the national grid by 2024 thus significantly reducing electricity costs and enhancing power reliability in the country.
Nevertheless, President Ali told regional leaders at the Summit of the Americas on Friday that there needs to be a frank fact-based conversation and a collective approach towards resolving the systemic problems facing the region.
According to the Guyanese Head of State, steps taken over this past week during the summit have demonstrated that leaders are ready to move forward along this path.
“We are encouraged by the immediate action to set up joint committees to look at important issues of food security, climate change, energy security, and financing. This should be expanded to the Americans in finding a solution based on a time frame. Let us say to the people of this region, that as political leaders, we are ready to tie ourselves to time-bound initiatives in delivering the prosperity we all speak of. We need as a region to have these tough conversations that are necessary to make the best possible decisions for the people of this region,” he stressed.
Moreover, President Ali also emphasised the need for leaders in the Americas and the Caribbean to define a pathway for the integration of infrastructure, people, and economy within this hemisphere.