Caribbean leaders look to Guyana to integrate regional ambition for energy, food security


By Kurt Campbell

All states across the Caribbean, Latin America and South America have committed at the individual national level to take steps now to secure future energy and food needs.

At the forefront of those efforts is great investment in the accelerated transition to non-conventional and renewable energy sources with many governments using oil and gas proceeds to support that transition.

But regional leaders believe that Guyana offers great promise for integrating national ambitions for the benefit of the entire region and the world at large.

The promotion of Guyana to this leadership role was clear as several leaders addressed the opening of the 2023 International Energy Conference in Georgetown on Tuesday.

President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi did not attend the event in person but in a video message, he spoke of domestic transition efforts while acknowledging that it was not enough to support the region on its own.

With both Guyana and Suriname being new oil producers, Santokhi said Suriname remains open to exploring the opportunities together with Guyana.

Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves shares a light moment with President Dr Irfaan Ali and Prime Minister of Guyana, Mark Phillips (Photo: Keno George/February 14, 2023)

He reminded the gathering of an existing joint programme to share expertise and resources.

This model, he said, can be extended across the region and stands to save cost, reduce risk, improve relations and develop border protection and increase production while producing greater transparency and accountability.

“I am speaking about the creation of an economic free zone.

“We must make a fundamental decision for strategic energy cooperation,” the Surinamese President said as he referenced ongoing talks between Suriname, Guyana and Brazil.

Santokhi supports the development of an all-inclusive policy that leaves no one behind.

Endorsing Santokhi’s comments, but also expanding the conversation, was elder statesman and Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

“Guyana is at a very special location, particular crossroads, particular juncture.

“As we say in the Caribbean, the stone that the builder reject has now become the head cornerstone,” he said.

He observed that with newfound oil wealth, Guyana has embarked on the building of a modern, competitive many-sided post-colonial economy that can serve citizens, the region and the world.

He said individualistic societies are not sustainable and said with oil being a blessing and a curse in countries across the world, it is vital to work together.

To this end, he recognised the leadership role Guyana can play on this front.

“Successive Guyanese government has been a centerpiece for regional integration.

“From this (Guyanese) government, there is a concept of integration which holds great promise for the region and for Guyana to play an important role in that integration movement,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

He referenced too ongoing efforts to address the issue of food security in the region and again the leadership role Guyana is playing in this regard, while also keeping the region’s carbon emission low.

“The issue is how we address climate change, which is very complicated and makes the transition to clean energy.

“Guyana, T&T, St Vincent and the whole Caribbean contribute very little to global warming,” Dr Gonsalves noted as he offered support for oil exploration to spur development and help with the transition to clean energy.

Meanwhile, the opening speaker at the energy conference, former President of Colombia, Ivan Duque believes that Guyana can develop an energy transition model that the world can rally around.

He stood in support of the exploitation of oil and gas resources, while at the same time, accelerating the transition to non-conventional and renewable energy.

In fact, he believes Guyana is presented with a historic opportunity to develop a model and prove to the world that conservation and non-conventional renewables do not need to be in opposition to oil and gas development.

He said there are two sides to the coin on these issues but believes the balance between climate action and energy security exists and Guyana can show the world.

“The balance can happen and shall happen.

“It is not a ying yang, not good or bad, not day or night… it is complementary,” he told the gathering.

The energy conference continues until Friday and while the politicians have spoken, they have also underscored the role of the private sector.

Many more presentations will come from industry experts in Guyana, across the region and the world.

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