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In delivered remarks on 6th May at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, told the attendees that the world “can no longer afford big fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere.” He warned that “fossil fuels are now more expensive than renewables” imploring that the “move from polluting to renewable energy must be a just transition, involving local governments, unions and the private sector to support affected communities and people, generating green jobs.”
Offhand, the future of fossil fuel is not optimistic news for Guyana who only a year ago became an oil and gas producing nation. Where business and people tend to gravitate to less overhead spending, Guyana cannot ignore that in order to compete it cannot rely solely on fossil fuel as a major revenue earner. Neither can Guyana assume, based on its supplies and prime grade of crude, that production and consumption patterns will offset the Secretary-General’s warning.
Guyana’s discovery of fossil fuel in commercial quantities has come at a time when the world is more sensitive and responsive to Climate Change and the adverse impact of fossil fuel on the environment if not properly exploited. But it is not too late for Guyanese to think and act smart in response to the evolving dynamics. Guyana is already a signatory to the UN 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. Ensconced in that agreement are measures that could be taken by participating countries to switch to renewable energies, including opportunities for accessing financing to do so.
Fossil fuel is not an infinite resource. The oil giants operating here have already predicted how many years, based on present findings, they will extract this resource in Guyana. It makes sense therefore for Guyana to use revenue received from the sale of its oil and gas, including royalty paid, to fast track the development of a reliable renewable energy base. The point cannot be belaboured doing this requires a National Programme on Sustainable Development and the creation of said programme after national engagement. Such engagement cannot be superficial but meaningful.
No political party, business sector, trade union, civil society, government or opposition has all the answers about what is to be done and how this can be achieved. It matters not the field or competencies for it has been proven, time and time again, that diversity plays an important role in business and development. Humility and recognition of these facts would necessitate heads coming together and moving as a matter of urgency to develop a Sustainable Development Programme.
In the meantime, the Secretary-General has sought to remind attendees and reaffirm the UN’s commitment that by “2030, we must cut global emissions by 45 per cent compared to 2010 levels to get to net zero emissions by 2050.” Extreme weather and climate disasters were also drawn to the attention of attendees in reinforcing the seriousness of meetings goals on Climate Change. But where does this leave Guyana? Hopefully not in the cold and forced to resort to the usual reactionary knee-jerk approaches.
The Government of Guyana, Opposition and others must take seriously the Secretary-General’s prognostication and act as matter of national urgency. Guyana cannot afford to be left behind. Guyana cannot lull itself into false complacency that fossil fuel would always be sold at significant profit and concomitant revenue assured. People’s preference will change based on the times, affordability, and access to alternatives. A country’s development rises and falls on this.