When it comes to the issue of climate change, the President of Guyana, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali has reiterated that the nation will not be blamed or subjected to underdevelopment due to the inaction and planet degradation caused by developed countries. As a nation, the Head of State expressed that Guyana has a fundamental right to equitable development – a pursuit that will be achieved in a more sustainable manner.
“By exercising that fundamental right, we are saying to the world, ‘We will do it in a different way; in a sustainable way; in a way in which we secure the environment; in a way in which we keep that forest cover; in a way in which we continue to contribute to the global fight against climate change,” President Ali related in his World Environment Day address on Sunday.
The Head of State reminded that Guyana has been able to keep close to 90% of its forests standing. “Our forests, the second largest forest cover in the world with a deforestation rate that is 90% lower than other tropical countries, store 19.5 gigatons of carbon.”
He said in addition to those credentials, Guyana’s forests hold 2.4% of known plant species and 4% of known animal species.
“But what is the world paying us for that? What is the world paying us for the more than 90% of forest that is intact? These are important questions that global leadership must answer. This must not be a slogan, ‘One Planet, One World’; this must be a call to action, a call to realisation and a full recommitment by the world that we need to adjust the inequalities that exist globally if we are to truly fight climate change,” Dr. Ali related.
He went on to state that the sea level is expected to rise between 10 to 21 1/2 inches and reminded that this will not bode well for the coastline if climate adaptation and mitigation measures are not implemented soon. To this end, the President underscored the importance of Guyana exploring all revenue-generating activities to stimulate growth.
“Where is the money going to come from to protect this more than 425 kilometres of coastline that we have to protect to save lives, to save crops, to ensure we are food secure, to save livelihoods?” the President asked. “It is us; it is Guyana; we will have to find more than US$1 billion in adaptation just to meet this one singular need. Where will the revenue come from?… It has to come from real work in the economy from the productive sector. That is where it must come from.”
He said this is vital because so far, the world has been unwilling to pay the true costs of the damage that has been created. “I asked all the specialists who speak every day to tell us, how do we address this if we do not address our revenue needs and don’t pursue aggressively the forms of revenue that must come?”
Dr. Ali’s comments come at a time when the government is forging ahead with the development of vast oil and gas resources found off of its coast. The administration has been facing criticism from what Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo has described as an anti-fossil fuel lobby targeting Guyana.
The oil and gas sector is set to contribute significantly to Guyana’s development, with potential revenues exceeding US$2 billion a year from around 2026 when oil production tops 800,000 barrels of oil per day.