Jan 18, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Cognizant of the harsh reality that Guyana lacks the capacity to regulate the oil sector, Attorney-at-Law and transparency advocate Christopher Ram is of the opinion that it will be an even tougher task for the government to handle the multibillion dollar gas-to-shore project.
During a virtual Moray House Trust discussion on Saturday titled, Guyana’s Oil: Priorities for 2021, a question was posed to panelists Ram, the former Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Dr. Vincent Adams and Professor Dr. Janet Bulkan, on whether Guyana should pursue gas-to-shore. In addition, the panelists were asked whether the country is moving recklessly by pursuing this project without known studies on its financial and environmental soundness.
“It is clear that we are moving far too fast,” Ram said in response, while weighing in that “You would not normally, unless you have the capacity to enforce the laws passed. But we don’t have the capacity to regulate the petroleum, and now an additional element.”
One also has to bear in mind, Ram added, that gas in this case is a byproduct, so a strategic plan to assess the environmental, social, financial, and technological impacts of such a project should be conducted, he says. Until those assessments have been completed, this Attorney believes that the Guyana would not be in a position to make well-informed decisions.
Professor Janet Bulkan proffered a different perspective. Dr. Bulkan categorically stated that she is not in support of this project simply because it is not compatible with Guyana’s Internationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) commitments to the 2016 Paris Agreement.
According to the World’s Resources Institute, the climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, which are to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.
Dr. Bulkan, however, said that given the heavy petroleum production occurring in the Stabroek Block, the country might have already surpassed what its predetermined global contributions are.
“Gas-to-shore would exacerbate that,” she pointed out, while echoing statements by International Environment Lawyer Melinda Janki that this project is “a recipe for disaster”.
Further in her remarks, Dr Bulkan, who lectures Forestry at the University of British Columbia, indicated that “In Guyana, we seem to be unable to manage even keeping the Demerara Harbour Bridge working. Ships which are coming in and hitting the bridge and [are] not paying the costs. That’s because of poor management of those ships, much less a gas-to-shore pipeline.”
Rather than going forward with this gas-to-shore project, the Professor said that the county should instead invest in renewable energy, which she noted, will give the population secure energy.
Notably, Janki has challenged President Irfaan Ali to provide the nation with evidence that the venture is economically sound. According to Janki in her January 13, 2021 letter to the Head of State, it is critical that this justification be provided to the citizenry in the interests of transparency, accountability and good governance. Towards this end, she has asked Ali to provide a series of plans which span the economic spectrum of this major project that could cost almost US$400M.
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