Jun 02, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – President of the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Carroll Muffett is of the firm conviction that the most recent constitutional case filed by two Guyanese against ExxonMobil’s three projects—Liza Phase One, Liza Phase Two, and Payara—is crucial to protecting the health of current and future generations.
During a recent interview, Muffett noted that the case which was filed by Quadad de Freitas, a 21-year old Indigenous tourist guide from the Rupununi region, and Dr. Troy Thomas, a university lecturer and former president of the anti-corruption organisation Transparency Institute Guyana, highlights that more than 90 million tonnes of greenhouse gases will be emitted directly from those three projects alone. To put this into perspective, Muffett said it is tantamount to burning more than 260,000 hectares of Guyana’s forests or practically removing close to 80 percent of Iwokrama, which comprises 371,000 hectares of forest.
Muffett stated, “In the Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) Guyana submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Government of Guyana estimated that Guyana’s forests store up to 350 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Assuming the government’s estimate is accurate, then the direct emissions from the operation of those three wells alone would be equivalent to burning 260,000 hectares of Guyana’s forests.”
He added, “…It is important to recognise that the direct emissions from operating the wells will be dwarfed by the carbon dioxide emitted when the oil and gas they produce is burned. Those emissions will affect Guyana, its people, and the planet no matter where in the world they are released.”
The CIEL President said too that one ought to bear in mind as well that the case filed by the two Guyanese have not taken into consideration, the emissions released from flaring due to the Liza Destiny’s gas compressor being plagued by faults. Thus far, ExxonMobil has flared more than 14 billion cubic feet of gas since starting operations at the Liza Destiny vessel in 2019.
Furthermore, Muffett said the case is critical as it is supported by a strong constitutional provision, which vests an explicit responsibility in the State to ensure current and future generations are able to enjoy a healthy environment. Also striking about the case, the CIEL President articulated, is the fact that it contains exhibits in the form of government documents and quotes from officials such as Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, which all acknowledge the clear and present danger that is climate change.
Ultimately, the case which is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, finds itself as part of a rising tide of action by citizens who are going to courts to accelerate action in response to the climate crisis, Muffett stated.
According to the case, which lists Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, SC, as a representative for the State, the High Court is being asked to determine whether ExxonMobil’s operations violate the Constitutional right of current and future generations to a healthy environment.
The case Kaieteur News understands refers to the overwhelming scientific evidence of the devastating effect of greenhouse gas emissions, pointing out that oil and gas production are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Guyana is particularly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels while ocean acidification threatens the Guyanese livelihoods that depend on healthy marine ecosystems.
The case cites Guyana’s international obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement in support of its claim for declarations that emissions from oil and gas production make the environment more harmful to health and wellbeing in violation of Article 149J of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to a healthy environment and requires the State to protect the environment for present and future generations. Article 149J specifically states that: (1) Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to his or her health or well-being. (2) The State shall protect the environment, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures designed to – (a) prevent pollution and ecological degradation; (b) promote conservation; and (c) secure sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
The case also seeks to protect children, young people and future generations who bear a disproportionate burden in having to live with the effects of climate change.
The legal team consists of Ms. Melinda Janki and Mr. Ronald Burch-Smith, with support from Richard Lord QC at Brick Court and Joshua Jackson of Cloisters in the UK.
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