Should the developing world bear the burden of saving the earth? Jagdeo says no
By Vishani Ragobeer
Many have been critical of Guyana’s oil and gas exploits because the production of oil and gas is harmful to the environment.
Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, however, emphasises that it is the larger, developed countries that should stop the production of oil and gas. The developed countries of the world are the larger economies that have profited for decades from industrialisation, made possible through the burning of fossil fuels (non-renewable energy sources) like oil and gas.
Even now, the Vice President pointed out that these countries continue to harness oil and gas regardless of the harm caused by doing so. The harm caused includes pollution of the environment and global warming which contributes to other disasters like flooding.
Now that Guyana wants to produce oil and gas, and develop its economy as those countries have done, Dr. Jagdeo lamented that many are critical.
“We have heard internationally that we must not develop any fossil fuel-related infrastructure or assets from exploration or development, that the developed world will not support financing for any of these activities and that gas should not be part of the energy mix of the future because it is polluting.”
But the Vice President believes that this equates to the developed world shifting the burden of protecting the earth and saving lives to developing countries.
“If they succeed in that, what happens for the next 30 years (is) only those countries that are producing oil and gas can continue to supply to the rest of the world,” Dr. Jagdeo told a gathering of businessmen and women at the Pegasus Hotel last week as he delivered the feature address at the annual dinner and awards dinner of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Guyana (GCCI).
This means that countries like Guyana, which would benefit significantly from the revenues garnered through the production of oil and gas, would be unable to do so. And that, Dr. Jagdeo said, is unjust.
Guyana, for example, has long protected its forests, which suck in the harmful gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels and help slow global warming. For the most part, the country has protected these trees without any compensation.
And so, the country now believes that it can still be a net-zero carbon emitter, meaning that the harmful gases released into the atmosphere by oil and other sectors can be balanced out by the harmful gases which its trees suck in.
That means that the country can produce oil and gas. More importantly, Dr. Jagdeo alluded to the right of developing countries to now emit the gases so that they can develop.
“The developed world has used up their allowances [for emissions] but they don’t behave like that and so they want equal burden sharing,” the Vice President lamented.
The burden-sharing he refers to is the use of less fossil fuels and more renewable energy sources like solar, hydro and wind energy. It also means reducing deforestation, which Guyana already has a soundtrack record (less than one per cent deforestation) in.
Despite their calls for burden-sharing, however, Dr. Jagdeo highlighted that when ‘push comes to shove’ these same developed countries will rush to produce and use fossil fuels.
Illustrating the Vice President’s point was the United States of America’s (USA) recent use of oil from reserves, in coordination with other countries, to lower skyrocketing gas prices. There has also been the use of coal fire plants- which more seriously pollute the environment- in parts of Europe.
“When those countries are faced with crises, they look at any solution whether it is polluting or not,” he said.
The Vice President emphasised that the government will continue allowing Guyana to produce oil and gas but in a manner that allows the country to transition to more sustainable means of satisfying its needs.
Guyana’s electricity demand will triple in the next five years and the government is looking to meet the challenge, not by burning more diesel and heavy oil, but through natural gas (which is produced offshore) and hydropower.
And so, Dr. Jagdeo says that Guyana will not sacrifice expected benefits from the nascent oil and gas industry to pander to unfair positions.