“HUNDREDS of years ago, there was a planet to worry about, but everybody did whatever it was, in the name of growth, without any regard for the planet,” President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Hyginus Gene Leon said confidently, in response to questions on the future of Guyana amidst growing calls from the developed world for countries to scale back on the production and consumption of fossil fuel.
It is his firm view that Guyana, considering the historical progress of the developed world, has a simple task at hand, and that is to decide where the people of Guyana will have more prosperity than they did yesterday, using the nation’s natural-resource endowments.
The task is simple because the nation which is nestled at the edge of South America and culturally connected to the Caribbean, has already outlined a plan of how it intends to strike a balance between resource exploitation and environmental preservation.
This plan, the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) 2030, is a framework meant to reshape society to pursue low-carbon development while also attempting to maintain Guyana’s high forest cover.
Guyana’s LCDS is a model that outlines the country’s viewpoint on how a platform for co-operation can be created in which developing countries are seen as equal partners in the search for solutions to the catastrophic effects of climate change.
“The fact that [Guyana] has a low-carbon [development] strategy means they are in the right direction,” Dr. Leon commented.
This is the case even as the oil and gas industry in Guyana, and several other oil producing nations in the Caribbean are currently driving growth in the region.
However, with Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other low-lying countries in the Caribbean region receiving the worst impacts of climate change, questions have been raised about the production of fossil fuels by smaller countries.
With over 11 billion barrels of oil discovered so far offshore, Guyana, over the past few years, has faced questions over its aggressive oil production against the backdrop of being a champion of environmental preservation.
However, with much of the revenues garnered from its oil and gas industry being injected into the diversification of its economy, as well as being invested into the development of renewable energy sources, the country has hit back about not just its rights, but also its need to benefit from its national patrimony, especially since small-island developing states and low-lying countries like Guyana contribute the least to carbon emissions.
“That place of having a Low Carbon Strategy tells me that one of the goals Guyana is looking to achieve is a green future for the people as defined in the development strategy. It’s not just that they want the country to be prosperous, it’s that they want them to be prosperous with an environment that is still reasonably safe,” Dr. Leon said.
He went on to say: “The issue of a balance does not have right or a wrong. You have to establish where you are, your initial conditions and where you want to go. Then you end up with how do I get from where I am to where I need to go? Where Guyana needs to go is very simple, it’s to a point where the people of Guyana will have more prosperity than they had yesterday.”
So, even though Guyana’s oil discovery comes at a time when there is a call for the scaling back of fossil fuel production, it does not negate the needs of Guyana’s economy nor erase the fact that many developed countries have already had their chance to fully exploit their resources without hindrance, and even continue to do so amidst calls for reductions in emissions.
Also, the fact that Guyana is a huge net carbon sink given that its forest stores 19.5 gigatonnes of carbon, even with the development of its oil and gas industry the country remains a net zero carbon contributor.
The sheer scale of Guyana’s forest has allowed the country to begin selling its carbon credits specifically designed for the voluntary and compliant carbon markets for successfully preventing forest loss and degradation – a process known as jurisdictional REDD+. In December, Guyana signed a multi-year agreement with Hess Corporation for at least US$750 million.
Judging from its achievements of the government and its clear plan, there is no doubt that the country is moving in the right direction.