OCC Head mulls capacity development for this crucial responsibility
By Kiana Wilburg
Over the last century, Guyana has experienced significant changes in its climate. Particularly because of its low-lying coastal region which hosts over 90 percent of the population as well as
the main livelihoods, economic activities and infrastructure of the country, there have been valiant calls for the country to increase its efforts to adapt to climate change.
On the cusp of this campaign however, Guyana discovered billions of barrels of oil equivalent resources. These assets which were found in the Stabroek Block are being pursued for development in several stages by American oil giant, ExxonMobil.
As is well known, fossil fuel is a significant contributor to the release of greenhouse gases. Taking this into account, many local and international stakeholders have questioned how the development of these resources will affect the nation’s efforts to remain a net carbon sink.
Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams has told this newspaper on several occasions that ExxonMobil’s Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are often examined to evaluate the expected greenhouse gas emissions as well as the release of other associated gases and how that would affect Guyana’s climate change efforts or goals.
EPA Head, Dr. Vincent Adams was keen to note that the regulatory body does the best it can with its limited resources on these issues but stressed that the best entity to involve in such a discussion would be the Office for Climate Change.
Dr. Adams said that the OCC has not been part of ongoing discussions that he is aware of. He also said that he is unaware of whether the OCC is doing its own work on the sector.
Dr. Adams said that perhaps, the EPA has neglected to include the OCC in this important discussion but he noted nonetheless that this newspaper should make contact with the Office regarding what aspects of the discussion it would contribute to. Recently, Kaieteur News made contact with the Head of the Office of Climate Change, Mrs. Janelle Christian. During a telephone conversation, Christian was keen to note that the EPA has the remit for environmental impact assessments.
Thus it is mandated to ensure that all development projects based on type, scale and potential impacts on the environment etc., including by ExxonMobil or any oil company for that matter, undertake their investments using the best available technology and application of best practices for the respective sector.
This includes considerations and actions which are in keeping with the nation’s policy direction for addressing climate change as well as ensuring that there is compliance with the relevant laws and regulations covering these and other issues.
With respect to the OCC, Kaieteur News understands that the heart of its responsibility lies with elaboration of climate policies, strategies and plans; and coordination for climate change mainstreaming across the whole of government; reporting and monitoring on Guyana’s climate change efforts to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In this regard, Christian was keen to note that Guyana is a signatory to the UNFCCC, and as a Non-Annex I Party to the Convention is required to submit national reports to the Conference of Parties (COP) on its efforts to implement the Convention and address climate change.
In doing so, Christian explained that the OCC would have to collect information from every sector on their emissions. Going forward this would also include the oil and gas sector.
She was keen to note however, that the agency would have to improve its capacity to collect, manage and store this type of data and move to establish a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory System for accurate annual reporting.
She said too, that it would be a requirement for the respective sectors to do the same, as they would have to work in partnership with the OCC on consolidating this information.
This establishes the country’s emissions profile by sector and the information is used to inform national policies particularly as it relates to climate change mitigation ambitions. Secondarily, it also constitutes a significant component of periodic reporting to UNFCCC and the Conference of the Parties (COP).
It is important to note that in 2002, Guyana submitted its Initial National Communication (INC) to the COP. Furthermore, on July 10, 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture on behalf of the Government of Guyana and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed an agreement for the preparation of Guyana’s Second National Communication (SNC) to the UNFCCC. Through the preparation of the SNC, the institutional and technical capacity of Guyana has been strengthened to allow the country to meet its UNFCCC obligations.
Kaieteur News understands that the SNC comprises seven main components/chapters, namely: National Circumstances of the country; Greenhouse Gas Inventory from base year 2000; Measure to facilitate Adaptation to climate change; Measures to Mitigate climate change; Research and Systematic Observation Systems including a Technology Needs Assessment; Public Education and Capacity Building; and identification of gaps and constraints related to financial, technical, and capacity needs.
Christian said that Guyana is in the process of preparing its third report which is expected to be completed by the end of the year for submission by the next COP. She said too, that subsequent reports would be required to report on associated greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector. It is expected that the EPA would make such data available (also the Department of Energy) to the OCC. It therefore means that the EPA would have to improve its capacity to independently monitor and record the greenhouse gas emissions by ExxonMobil and others. Kaieteur News also understands that the Office for Climate Change would need to collect data, ideally, on greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors.
RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
There are some who contend that Guyana should leave its oil resources in the ground since its extraction and subsequent development would only lead to the nation increasing its carbon footprint. During her insightful discussion with Kaieteur News, the Head of the OCC said that she does not agree with this notion. Christian is of the view that Guyana has a right to development even though it has expressed a commitment to reducing its dependence on fossil fuels. It should be about finding the right balance between environment and development.
She acknowledged that even as the world transitions to renewable sources, she stressed that there is still a demand for fuel now. In light of this, she posited that Guyana should take advantage of this window of opportunity before it closes.
The OCC Head noted however that the monetization of oil and gas resources can provide Guyana with the revenue it needs to transition to a low-carbon climate resilient economy, which it has expressed for many years now as articulated both by the Low Carbon Development Strategy and the Green State Development Strategy. At the end of the day, Mrs. Christian said, “We have to ensure that oil and gas developments are in keeping with our development philosophy and climate change ambitions and ensure that it does not erode the gains we have made over the years with our environmental stewardship, known globally as it relates climate change mitigation through sustainable forest management.”