By Kiana Wilburg
Today, Guyana joins over 140 countries in celebrating World Environment Day. Instead of it being an occasion to be proud of, it is enveloped by sadness says
Conservationist, Annette Arjoon-Martins. She said her comment is premised on the fact that since last Christmas, ExxonMobil has been burning significant amounts of gas which releases toxins into the atmosphere.
Earlier this year, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams, had said that some amount of flaring is allowed during the start of production while noting that it is catered for in ExxonMobil’s permit. That permit notes that flaring is allowed for start-up, routine maintenance, and emergencies.
He had said that the burning of gas should have been over with since the end of December last but due to mechanical glitches with a gas compressor, over nine billion cubic feet of gas was flared. The EPA Head up to a few days ago shared that ExxonMobil is still flaring but at reduced levels. He said the American oil giant is flaring 15 million cubic feet of gas per day.
Arjoon-Martins was keen to note during her interview that the foregoing speaks volumes. The Conservationist said that it exposes the country’s present state of unpreparedness for holding the oil sector accountable while noting that six months of flaring is certainly not routine.
She said, “…At 15 million cubic feet per day, this is equivalent to approximately 800,000 tonnes of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). Given that Guyana deforests 10,000 hectares annually and this equates to approximately 10 million tonnes of CO2, it can be implied
that this daily rate of flaring equates to 800 hectares (2000 acres) of forest being cleared daily…”
Arjoon-Martins who has dedicated her life to protecting the environment, is also of the firm belief that Guyana’s treatment of this matter is unacceptable. She told Kaieteur News that Guyana is showing the lowest level of environmental stewardship. The Conservationist said, “It is completely unacceptable and needs to be investigated. How could you have a six-month challenge with a gas compressor? Why aren’t they being asked to stop their operations until it is fixed? And where is the manufacturer of the equipment in all of this? That company should bear the cost of this problem too.”
Further to this, Arjoon-Martins was keen to note that the issue of climate change remains a real and present danger to Guyana as the country is ranked as highly vulnerable due to its challenges to adapt. Expounding further, the staunch advocate for the protection of the environment reminded that the country is a signatory to the Kyoto protocol and the Paris Agreement which require all countries—rich, poor, developed, and developing—to do their part and slash greenhouse gas emissions.
Arjoon-Martins also reminded that the Office of Climate Change (OCC) which was established in 2009 is tasked with ensuring Guyana fulfills its obligations as a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including periodically updating a national inventory of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removal by sinks of greenhouse gasses. Arjoon-Martins noted that the OCC is in the process of submitting its Third National Communication on Climate Change to the UN which requires the factoring in of carbon emissions and its contributions to climate change into national development planning.
Even as Guyana pursues the exploitation of its resources in the Stabroek Block, the Conservationist categorically stated that the authorities of the day must not neglect the nation’s commitment to addressing climate change. Arjoon-Martins said Guyana’s authorities need to at all times, factor in the environmental costs of projects.
The Conservationist said, “Environmental costs associated with flaring have a significant impact on our climate and is conveniently pushed aside since these costs are not monetized in our management of these sectors like oil and gas. This untenable situation is exacerbated by failing to account for medium and longer term impacts in planning with thinking of the current impacts.”
She added, “We may not feel the impacts of flaring now but this is certainly affecting our climate for future generations. Thinking only of the current is short sighted to the detriment of our sustainable development of future generations.”
Arjoon-Martins also noted that Guyana has signed on to several international and bilateral agreements including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Guyana Norway Bilateral Cooperation on climate and forests. The advocate for the protection of the environment said it is critical that every man, woman, and child understand that the recent spike in flaring puts these in jeopardy as it is counter to those commitments.
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