April 7 ,2021
President Biden will host a Leaders Summit on Climate on 22nd and 23rd April. The summit will deal with urgent action to tackle climate change plus the economic benefits of doing so. Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda and Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica are among the 40 leaders selected to attend.
Guyana has been left out. Yet, when it comes to climate change Guyana is a key state:
(1) Guyana is a world leader in combating climate change. Our forests and our ocean make us one of the world’s few carbon sinks. Guyana does more every day to reverse climate change, than almost any other country on the planet. Climate leadership is not the hollow promises made by States to reach net zero by 2030 or 2050. Climate leadership is not reliance on geo-engineering, carbon capture storage or other unproven/risky technology. Climate leadership is Guyana’s simple act of removing from the atmosphere every day more greenhouse gas than Guyana emits. Climate leadership means protecting the marine and terrestrial ecosystems which remove that greenhouse gas. If every country followed Guyana’s lead on these issues, climate change would be reversed.
(2) Although Guyana is currently a climate leader, Guyana is a ticking carbon bomb. ExxonMobil claims to have discovered about 9 billion barrels of oil. Unless that oil production is stopped it will emit 3.87 billion tons of greenhouse gas. That’s more than 250 years’ worth of emissions from Delaware, the state that President Biden represented in the Senate for 36 years. President Biden plans to spend US$2 trillion to address climate change including US$650 billion on a clean energy transition and US$174 billion to switch to electric vehicles. Guyana’s proposed petroleum production directly conflicts with President Biden’s climate change aims and strategy. Furthermore, this petroleum production appears to be driven by the demands of ExxonMobil, a struggling American oil company, and not by concern for the wellbeing of the Guyanese people.
(3) Guyana is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change. The Guyana government admits it. Last year President Ali warned that Guyana is ‘particularly vulnerable’ to climate change. Vice-President Jagdeo called climate change an ‘existential threat.’ The draft Climate Resilience Strategy and Action Plan produced by the APNU+AFC Coalition warned in 2015 that Guyana was already experiencing the ‘adverse and potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change’. Guyana’s wealth, food production and a significant part of the population are concentrated on a belt of coastland that is either low-lying or already below sea-level. All this is directly threatened by rising sea-levels and extreme weather events. At the same time, Guyana’s forests and hinterland communities are threatened by the increase in global temperature and by droughts and floods brought on by climate change.
The PPP/C and their predecessors the APNU+AFC Coalition have shown repeatedly that they are too weak to stand up to ExxonMobil (and partners). Both the PPP/C and the APNU+AFC Coalition have squandered Guyana’s global political capital as a carbon sink. It is clear that the PPP/C and the APNU+AFC Coalition are incapable of leading the Guyanese people to a safe and prosperous future in the face of the existential threat of climate change.
Article 36 of the Constitution states that the well-being of our nation depends on preserving clean air, fertile soils, pure water and the rich diversity of plants, animals and ecosystems. Article 36 is the starting point for Guyana’s immediate transition to a prosperous blue-green economy powered by 100% renewable energy.
Guyana’s people can and must align now with the global movement to avert climate catastrophe, even while Guyana’s political elite remain stubbornly on the wrong side of history.