Climate Co-operation
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GUYANA and Suriname recently participated in a Technical Meeting on Climate Change in Suriname. The meeting was jointly hosted by the two neighbouring countries in the run-up to the United Nations’ Climate Change conference. The idea behind the meeting was to come up with a common strategy in terms of environmental management in light of new oil and gas discoveries, which have exceeded initial projections by a significant degree. Guyana was represented at that meeting by Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo and Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat, among others.

The extraction of oil in the quantities envisaged is indeed good news from a developmental perspective, but it does come with a cost. And that cost goes well beyond financial and technological considerations. It also has to do, to a significant degree, with environmental issues and the need to ensure minimal damage to the eco-system, especially in the context of an emerging de-carbonised world.

This is why it is so important to coordinate and strategise with a view to arriving at common positions on this important issue of climate change. Both countries have been fortunate to have found oil in large commercial quantities which could be a game changer in terms of lifting them out of a historical system of underdevelopment and dependence. But, like any other resource, it has to be carefully managed.

The Guyana basin holds out much hope for both Guyana and Suriname. Within the coming months, that basin is projected to see its largest exploration plan with ExxonMobil and its partners likely to commence the drilling of multiple wells across several off-shore blocks.

According to a recent publication, ExxonMobil has already submitted a document to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in which it outlined its exploration and drilling plans. It is anticipated that Guyana’s oil reserves could more than double its confirmed nine billion plus barrels of oil equivalent in the Stabroek and Canje blocks. Exploratory works are expected to go until December 2025, during which time a total of 37 wells are expected to be drilled in the Stabroek block alone!

Our oil reserves, it must be said, go way beyond the Stabroek block, even though the majority of oil finds are within that geographical space. There are hopeful signs that major discoveries could also be made in the Kaieteur and Canje blocks.

All of this sounded too good to be true, but the fact is that our oil potential was in the past unknown until recently when drilling activities commenced and the true picture of our oil riches became known to the Guyanese people and the international community. We have now been catapulted to the league of oil- producing nations. Interest in Guyana is now on the rise and Guyana has now become a major investment destination.

No one except those who refuse to see can deny the impact oil is currently having on the local economy. The government is already in receipt of its share of oil revenues which is safely deposited in the Sovereign Wealth Fund and will be released for developmental purposes when the relevant legislation is put in place. The PPP/C administration has given an undertaking that the money from oil will be used to facilitate balanced and all-round development, especially in critical areas of human development such as education, health, housing and other sectoral development. Some US$400 million has already been deposited in the fund, which is expected to incrementally increase as the volume of oil outputs increase in the coming period ahead.

As pointed out repeatedly by Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, revenues from oil could give the economy a great boost, which potentially could lift all boats. But first the oil has to be drilled and sold. There is still a window of time within which that can be done, but such window in not infinite. As a developing country we have a duty to optimise our resources, even as we remain environmentally vigilant and utilise our money wisely to improve the quality of life of the Guyanese people.

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