President of Guyana Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali categorically asserted on Friday that the country’s climate agenda, as well as its activism, will not change or be eclipsed by its fervent desire to develop the more than nine billion barrels of oil equivalent resources found so far off the country’s coast.
The Head of State disclosed this position during a press conference that was held at the Hilton International Hotel with virtual participation from members of the local media fraternity. Ali, who is currently in the USA for the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), said several engagements were held since being there with other world leaders on Guyana’s development agenda in the context of its climate change aspirations and its vast oil resources.
He said, “We have been able to demonstrate to them that our plan for renewable energy, our plan in the area of standing forests, and our aggression in supporting the world economy to a decarbonized environment is as strong as it was in the past.”
Speaking to upcoming events, Ali highlighted that the government is looking forward to its participation at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland between October 31 and November 12, 2021, under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
The President reminded that Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo who joined him at the press conference and will be leading Guyana’s delegation to COP26, is working on a number of issues related to climate change and the environment which will be related at COP26. “So, we are mobilizing support around climate change and Guyana’s position, and we were able to explain same to other leaders and have a common agenda moving forward. On the issue of climate change, we have established contact with the Maldives.”
He added, “Yesterday (Thursday) we were able to set up technical working groups between Guyana and many other countries including Columbia. We have had discussions with Kuwait and many Latin American countries and CARICOM sister countries so that we can have a cohesive strategy going into COP26.”
While the government’s climate change activism continues on several fronts, Ali noted that Guyana has been able to maintain a keen interest in the protection of the environment even as it supports the accelerated development of its oil resources. Expounding further on this front was Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. He was quick to remind of the government’s no flaring policy which has been demonstrated by the introduction of a tax on this activity.
Jagdeo said, “We believe in a no flaring policy, but it is not just talk. ExxonMobil had secured two permits for Liza 1 and Liza 2 and when we got into office August last year, we were faced with the situation of having to issue a licence and an Environmental Permit for the Payara project. We examined the previous ones and found they were very deficient and set about in 6 weeks to fundamentally change the environmental issues surrounding the development of the oil and gas fields.”
The Vice President continued, “One of the big differences is that we have introduced a tax for flaring and that was not there before, and we have established that beyond the commissioning flaring…they will be taxed at US$45 per tonne of CO2e. Very few countries have a tax on carbon emissions and there is a second component.” In this regard, Jagdeo disclosed that Guyana will also be paid for the share of its gas that is flared.
The Vice President also pointed to other improvements in the Payara permit such as the introduction of a commitment for “cradle to grave management of waste” and ensuring wastewater is treated to international standards before being discharged or reinjected.
Jagdeo said, “The permit now obligates Exxon to manage waste from cradle to grave. This is an important provision as you would observe in many countries, the waste is left by the oil companies for the countries to handle after they are gone but this will not happen to Guyana as Exxon will have…manage waste from cradle to grave including through its subcontractors.”
In light of the improvements made on the oil and gas front and the continued activism on climate change, both Ali and his Vice President expressed confidence that Guyana remains on a steady path to sustainable development.