‘Not enthusiastic’ but UN Head says he understands oil and gas use

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By Vishani Ragobeer in Suriname

Vishani@newsroom.gy

Though not enthusiastic about oil production since it is harmful to the environment, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres says he understands the use of these resources.

Guterres, during a visit to Suriname for an ongoing meeting of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, lamented that the larger countries of the world contribute about 80 per cent of harmful emissions worldwide.

The oil and gas sector is viewed as a notorious contributor of harmful greenhouse emissions, particularly in larger, developed countries. As such, there have been global calls to cut those emissions in a bid to slow climate change and save the environment.

Moreover, the UN Head acknowledged that these emissions increasingly expose small, developing states like those in the Caribbean to the harmful effects of climate change like rising sea levels and flooding.

What is even more alarming, Guterres said, is that these small states have not been large emitters and have preserved their forests to slow climate change across the globe.

But the Secretary-General, during brief remarks at the Surinamese Presidential Palace on Saturday, did not comment on new oil and gas finds and production in Suriname and the wider Caribbean.

The News Room asked about his position on Suriname and Guyana – the Caribbean’s new oil hotspots – using their newfound oil wealth to fund efforts to protect their countries from the harmful effects of climate change.

“Obviously, I’m not an enthusiastic supporter of oil and gas projects but I have been Prime Minister of my country [Portugal] and I can imagine the (President) of Suriname looking into the resources of his country.

“… I think we need to understand that it is difficult to look into Saudi Arabia or the Emirates and to think that their oil is different from yours,” the Secretary-General responded.

United Nations (UN) Secretary- General António Guterres visiting an area of Suriname where mangroves will be replanted in a bid to protect the country’s coast from rising sea levels (Photo: António Guterres/ Twitter/ July 2, 2022)

In Guyana, much like the sentiments of the Secretary-General, Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo argued that there will continue to be a demand for fossil fuels and Guyana couldn’t just leave all the oil it has in the ground while other countries pursue their industries, feeding their growth and development.

“We can’t have a great policy domestically and the rest of the world continues to burn fossil fuels. It’s going to have the same impact on climate change,” Dr. Jagdeo said in an exclusive interview with the News Room last year.

But he said Guyana’s aim is to pursue the development of the oil and gas sector in a responsible way.

And on Saturday, the UN Secretary-General also opined that all of the world’s oil reserves may never be “entirely consumed” but he noted that “maximum restraint and maximum care” should be exercised when exploiting those resources.

PROTECTING FORESTS

Preserving the world’s forests has been seen as a mechanism to counter the existing damage caused by harmful gas emissions. But Guterres lamented that the world’s forests are continuously destroyed, worsening the climate crisis.

Some 93 per cent of Suriname’s landmass is covered by forests. Though he commended Suriname for preserving its rain forest which he deemed “a precious gift to humanity,” he lamented destruction elsewhere.

“What I have seen here in Suriname gives me hope and inspiration but what we are seeing around the globe is cause for deep shock and anger.

“Rampant deforestation and worsening climate impacts are increasing forest fires and drought. This is outrageous and shameful and it is global suicide in slow motion,” the Secretary-General stated.

At Saturday’s press conference, Surinamese President Chandrikapersad Santokhi underscored the vulnerability of his country and others in the Caribbean to the harmful effects of climate change. And so, he called on world leaders to meaningfully pursue climate change solutions, including funding and a fairer financial system.

At last year’s UN climate conference, COP26, both President Santokhi and Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali championed payments to keep their countries’ forests intact and consequently, help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change such as flooding.

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