Transforming Guyana, Episode X: Unlocking Guyana’s Oil and Gas Potential, Balancing Energy Development and Environmental Stewardship

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By Terrence Blackman, Ph. D. & Utamu Bell

In Episode 10, “Unlocking Guyana’s Oil and Gas Potential,” in the Transforming Guyana webinar series hosted by the Guyana Business Journal (GBJ) and the Caribbean Policy Consortium (CPC), the episode explored a recent white paper on Guyana’s difficult position as a significant oil producer and its commitment to climate change mitigation. 

Dr. Ulric Trotz, Dr. Thomas Singh, and Dr. Anthony Bryan were guest speakers, examining the challenges of reconciling these conflicting roles, the need to prioritise climate resilience, and the role of climate finance. The discussion also highlighted the importance of managing the environmental impacts of oil production, transparency in managing oil revenues, and the need for regional collaboration to pursue a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

Guyana faces the unique challenge of being an oil and gas producer while remaining vulnerable to climate change. Dr. Ulric Trotz, Past Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize, emphasized the importance of utilising oil and gas production resources to benefit the Guyanese people. He noted that the country has already begun implementing its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) through various mitigation efforts, including the Gas-to-Energy project, Amaila Falls Hydropower, and renewable energy systems for the interior. He observed that Guyana’s small carbon footprint uniquely positions the country to build climate resilience. Climate finance, he observed, has been a major obstacle in global discussions, with current estimates falling short of what is needed to address the issue significantly. 

Dr. Anthony Bryan, CPC Co-Chair and Fellow, as well as Senior Fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies (UWI), highlighted Guyana’s President’s commitment to using the oil windfall to diversify the economy, improve access to social services, and promote investment in non-oil sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. Dr. Bryan noted that, as a developing country, Guyana has the resources, influence, and global attention to contribute to the international climate agenda and he also called for developed countries to rebuild trust and confidence in international cooperation to make progress on climate mitigation and development goals.

Dr. Thomas Singh, Director of the GREEN Institute and Senior Lecturer within the Department of Economics at the University of Guyana, stressed the importance of using public policy incentives to drive desired environmental outcomes, especially in the transition to renewable fuels. He suggested shortening the horizon for the extraction of associated gas instead of allowing it to run with the timetable of oil extraction.

The resource boom from oil and gas production in Guyana presents an opportunity to develop local and foreign skills to handle the demands of a world-class economy. Dr. David Lewis, CPC Co-Chair, highlighted the pressing need to advance the skills base and focus on institutional and human capacity development to successfully manage oil and gas growth. He proposed strengthening government, private sector, and civil sector society capabilities. “The excuse can no longer be, ‘there is no money.’ There is money at the government level and the private sector level. The challenge now is can we use those resources adequately, properly, and in a timely manner to build up this capacity which is needed”, Dr. Lewis said.

Guyana’s low-lying coastal plains are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. It is inevitable that climate change will have a significant impact on Guyana. In 2014, the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change Project sounded the alarm that: “the entire fabric of Guyanese society—population, agriculture, industry, and infrastructure—is vulnerable to even slight increases in sea level rises, Guyanese must be prepared to adapt to natural disasters. One recalls the floods of 2005 when heavy rains left two-thirds of Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, flooded, affected over 120,000 people, and killed six. More than 40% of Guyana’s population lost some or all of their possessions and an outbreak of Leptospirosis added to the death toll.

Preparation requires resources; thus, Guyana must aggressively exploit its oil and gas resources as it simultaneously addresses climate change concomitants. By harnessing its resources and influence, Guyana can develop its economy, contribute to, and shape the global climate agenda, and strengthen its capacity to adapt and to be resilient in this era of climate change.

Episode XI will premiere on Wednesday, April 12, and broadcast live via the GBJ Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms.

By the Author

Dr. Terrence Richard Blackman, associate professor of mathematics and a founding member of the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics at Medgar Evers College, is a member of the Guyanese diaspora. He is a former Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT and a Visitor to The School of Mathematics at The Institute for Advanced Study. Dr. Blackman has previously served as Chair of the Mathematics Department and Dean of the School of Science Health and Technology at Medgar Evers College, where he has worked for almost thirty years. He graduated from Queen’s College, Guyana, Brooklyn College, CUNY, and the City University of New York Graduate School. He is the Founder of the Guyana Business Journal & Magazine.

Utamu Belle is an award-winning Guyanese journalist with a career spanning over a decade. Her experience includes writing for print, television, and online media. She has worked as a Radio and Television host. She is the Founder of A-to-Z Media (Guyana) and a News and Digital Editor with Upscale Magazine.

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