‘Ban export of logs’

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—pro-democracy urges; mocks Ali speech at COP26

The Pro-democracy group Article 13 has called for the banning of log exports here and also mocked President Irfaan Ali’s speech at the recently concluded climate change conference in Scotland where he called on world leaders to remove subsidies from fossil fuel, while in Guyana his administration stoutly defends granting oil companies a range of concessions.

“The greatest contradiction by President Ali however is his simultaneous declaration abroad of support for the removal of subsidies from fossil fuel production while in Guyana his Administration stoutly defends granting to oil companies concessions of all types imaginable, including the payment of their taxes, reimbursement of their expenses and limitations on the audit of their books and records. While boasting that Guyana’s forests are “almost the size of England and Scotland”, President Ali failed to inform the gathering that in the case of one of more than a dozen Petroleum Agreements entered into with oil companies, a group of two American and one Chinese company has been granted exploration and production rights over an acreage of territorial waters which exceeds the entire 83,000 sq. miles of the land territory of Guyana,” the group said in a statement on Saturday.

It added: “This inconsistency with the laws of Guyana, common sense, and sanity is aggravated by its permission of flaring and weak regard for responsible environmental laws and management. The President announced in Scotland his government’s plan for a 70% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, presumably as a result of the US $750 million Amaila Falls Hydro Project and the US $900 million Gas to Shore Project. Of direct interest to Article 13 is that these projects are shrouded in secrecy and announced even before any consultation with the Guyanese people has taken place. “


According to the group, successive administrations have had difficulty in comprehending the need for inclusion, consultation, and transparency on large projects. Article 13 is deeply concerned that in the absence of such consultations, Guyana can suffer the fate of Skeldon Project, the economic, financial and social consequences of which are still being felt. “The only difference this time around is that if these projects were ever to materialise, the costs to the country will be unmanageable and will have to be borne by future generations.” Article 13 said President Ali’s speech was a demonstration of the wide gap among countries between their spoken word and reality. “His clear attempt to avoid the whole truth and the absence of full disclosure and prior consultation with the people of Guyana on critical, existential issues are not only unacceptable but amount to a violation of Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana for which our Group stands.”

Meanwhile, according to Article 13, President Irfaan Ali’s speech to the Climate Conference Committee of Parties (COP) 26 Conference in Glasgow, Scotland was a model of brevity. It noted that the President’s unambiguous call for immediate action to avoid a global disaster contrasted with the platitudes that have emerged from these conferences for the past 26 years, including promises not kept and long-term commitments with no measurable intermediate markers.

“President Ali repeated the absolute and urgent need to reduce emissions and reminded world leaders of the numerous broken pledges by developed countries to assist developing countries. Specifically referring to deforestation, Ali spoke of the need for developing countries “to be provided with incentives necessary to keep forest intact”.

Article 13 lauds the President’s position on the impact of and focus on climate change and its effects, including the ever-present and increasing threat from rising sea levels, hurricanes, droughts, forest fires, and in some areas of the world, famine as well.

“The President’s reminder would therefore have resonated across both the developed and developing countries, and particularly among low-lying countries, such as Guyana, in which huge swathes of their territory face an existential threat,” the group said in its statement.

Lofty ideals
Unfortunately, however, the group said the President’s lofty ideals on the crisis of Climate Change and the Environment have not translated into policies and practices in Guyana. “Recent media reports indicate that his Administration has reopened the door for the return of Asian logging companies and Canadian interests in gold mining. And that Guyana is opening up more territory for gold mining which, outside of a strictly enforced regime, can do grave harm to the environment, as a result of uncontrolled land clearing and the use of mercury. We are aware of the distinctions between commercial logging for export, for local use and for clearing to facilitate infrastructure and other developmental purposes.”

Article 13 demands full information on all activities, including planned activities, of foreign deforesters operating in Guyana. “In this connection, we make a clear distinction between commercial deforesters and local operators who satisfy the local demand for housing and construction. The people of Guyana deserve to know the present rate and quantity of forest degradation, including a breakdown delineating foreign versus domestic usage. In this regard, Article 13 holds that Guyana must immediately ban all exports of logs.”

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