Jan 12, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – In redirecting its efforts to fight the main drivers of climate change, namely deforestation, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and the corporate capture and other abuses of power driving these destructive activities, Global Witness has withdrawn its Signed Away report.
In this damning report, the international non-governmental organization (NGO) had detailed how a poor negotiation process and questionable behaviour by government officials had led to the inking of a lopsided oil deal with an Exxon-led consortium for operations in Guyana’s lucrative Stabroek block. As a result of the unfair fiscal terms, Global Witness had estimated that Guyana stands to lose US$55B over 40 years.
“Our February 2020 report on Guyana’s oil sector, Signed Away, is not consistent with [our] focus and for this reason we have decided to remove it from our website and stop using it in our campaigning work,” Global Witness said yesterday in a statement.
Global Witness reminded that since its advocacy work began in 1993, it has sought to end the environmental destruction that harms millions around the world, holding the powerful accountable, while advocating for people who have lost their livelihoods or lives.
However, the NGO noted, as the destructive impacts of the climate crisis – flooding, desertification, famine – have become more acute, it has become clear that its work needs to change. To this end, it said, “It is no longer enough for Global Witness to demand that oil and gas businesses operate in a more transparent and accountable manner. We firmly believe that to save the climate, we need to work with others to achieve a just and equitable phase out of fossil fuel extraction. To do this, we need to elevate the voices of activists fighting the forces driving the climate breakdown around the world.”
It continued, “Our Signed Away report focused on how much revenue Guyana could obtain from oil if the government negotiated a fairer deal with Exxon, an oil major. Our revenue analysis assumed that the Paris Agreement climate commitments would not be implemented – leading to an overestimation of the amount of oil Guyana would likely produce and the value of that oil. Under the new organisational strategy we have rolled out this year, this is not a scenario that we would accept because greenhouse gases have to fall by half over the next decade, for the sake of the planet and all of us living on it.”
Global Witness also highlighted that since its publication, oil prices have dropped by more than a third. As COVID-19 continues to depress demand for fossil fuels and as countries implement policies to restrict the use of fossil fuels in order to tackle climate change, the prospects for sustainable income generation from new oil projects are increasingly questionable, it added.
“These factors led us to overestimate the potential economic benefit of oil extraction,” the NGO said, while recognizing that its report has made it more difficult for civil society to argue the case for cessation of oil production in Guyana.
But even as it withdraws its report, Global Witness insisted that it stands by the integrity of the evidence presented in its report. In fact, the NGO was keen to note that its decision to withdraw Signed Away is not an endorsement of the way Exxon or Guyanese officials negotiated the oil licences awarded to the company.
“We also stand by the fiscal model produced by OpenOil that was commissioned by Global Witness. Expert, transparent, and instructive, OpenOil’s work and its fiscal model are standard-setting,” it added.
But “most importantly,” the NGO has given strong support to the “inspiring” investigations and campaigning that Guyanese reporters, campaigners, and experts have undertaken in recent years, all with the aim of increasing accountability around the deals between Guyana’s government and Exxon, and other oil companies.
“It is this work that will hold the powerful to account and Guyanese people should be proud to have such relentless advocates working for them,” Global Witness added in its statement.
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