in Guyana, Norway

ExxonMobil strikes US$200 billion offshore oil reserves in Guyana. Gives US$10 million to Conservation International

Conservation International and the University of Guyana recently accepted US$10 million from ExxonMobil Foundation. This grant (or “investment”, as ExxonMobil likes to call it) reveals a lot about Conservation International and its support for the REDD carbon trading scheme.

ExxonMobil isn’t just any oil and gas company. It’s the world’s biggest. And it has played a key role in promoting climate science denial.

A 2015 investigation by Inside Climate News revealed that Exxon knew for decades that burning fossil fuels causes climate change.

In July 1977, a senior company scientist at Exxon called James Black spoke at a meeting in Exxon’s headquarters. He told them that,

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

Climate denial

But Exxon’s response was not to stop profiting from oil. The company spent decades refusing to acknowledge publicly the role of fossil fuels in climate change. Exxon expanded to become ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil and gas corporation.

Exxon funded climate denial organisations, such as the Global Climate Coalition, which argued nonsense such as, “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood.”

Today, ExxonMobil states on its website that,

The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is a broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.

At least ExxonMobil now admits that increasing carbon emissions are causing climate change. Obviously though, it is still a step too far for ExxonMobil to admit that action must be taken to dramatically reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, rather than just to “further quantify and assess the risks”. And ExxonMobil is still funding climate science deniers.

While ExxonMobil may have adjusted its rhetoric slightly on climate change in recent years, its actual policy remains the same: Drill as much oil and gas as possible, as quickly as possible.

Massive oil find in Guyana

Since 2015, ExxonMobil has drilled 10 exploration wells in the Stabroek exploration area off the coast of Guyana, 8 of which have struck oil. The company has identified a further 19 exploration wells to drill and estimates that Stabroek holds at least 4 billion barrels of oil. That could be worth more than US$200 billion.

Neil Chapman, senior Vice-President at ExxonMobil, describes the oil discovery in Guyana as a “fairy tale”.

Conservation International’s green PR

Conservation International doesn’t care about ExxonMobil’s record of climate denial, or about its ongoing contribution to climate change. Last month, Conservation International and the University of Guyana accepted US$10 million from ExxonMobil Foundation.

The money will be given over a five year period and is “to train Guyanese for sustainable job opportunities and to expand community-supported conservation”.

A press release from ExxonMobil explains that,

The investment is also intended to support Guyana’s Green State Development Plan, the country’s 15-year development plan that aims, among other things, to diversify Guyana’s economy and balance economic growth with the sustainable management and conservation of the country’s ecosystems.

None of this should come as a surprise. Conservation International has a list of “corporate partners” that includes representatives of some of the most polluting companies on the planet.

The money from ExxonMobil shows that there is no corporate polluter too dirty for Conservation International. The reality is that Conservation International is not much more than a green PR company.

Oil money and REDD

Conservation International is closely involved in developing REDD in Guyana. In 2009, Conservation International helped set up and fund a REDD Secretariat within the Guyana Forest Commission. According to Global Canopy’s REDD desk website, Conservation International was “closely involved with the development of the Low Carbon Development Strategy and the Readiness Preparation Proposal.”

This cosy relationship between a so-called environmental organisation and the world’s biggest oil and gas corporation is typical of REDD. Conservation International has long been in favour of allowing the oil industry to continue polluting while generating carbon credits to “offset” the greenhouse gas emissions.

ExxonMobil’s massive oil discovery in Guyana helps guarantee that climate change will continue to get worse, putting forests everywhere at increasing risk of going up in smoke as the climate warms and rainfall becomes erratic.

Meanwhile, in July 2018, Norway announced that it would release the remaining US$135 million of the Norway-Guyana US$250 million REDD deal. This is despite the fact that the deal expired in 2015, and the fact that since the REDD deal was signed in 2009, Guyana has made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in the country. Gold mining and destructive logging has continued just as it did before the REDD deal.

In late 2017, Per Fredrik Pharo, the director of the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative, told the Stabroek News that in order to get the remaining money under the REDD deal,

“Guyana needs to establish a credible pathway to a clean and renewable energy transition in line with its NDC [Nationally Determined Contributions] and our original agreement.”

Obviously four billion barrels of oil makes talk of a “clean and renewable energy transition” sound like a bit of a joke. But Guyana promised to build a 100 MW solar farm and Norway agreed to release the money.

Norway’s riches come from the country’s oil industry. And Norway has no interest in reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels. When Earth Island Journal asked Pharo about ExxonMobil’s offshore oil drilling, Pharo replied, “It would be bordering on the hypocritical if we told them not to develop their oil resources.”

Leave a Reply

  1. I am an old Scottish man who has been involved with environmental and animal welfare matters for fifty of those years. I have been gullible when I once donated to and collected for charities that were supposed to be saving the planet’s natural environment, and campaigning against extinction of species and easing the suffering of animals. I learned over time that some of those organisations were really fronts for harmful developments. This exposure by REDD, has not come as a surprise. In my very wee country, Scotland, our Government has allowed Mr Trump to create a golf course on a protected site, and has now got egg on its face, over letting two similar Trump figures get permission for another golf course on a Ramsar protected site. Due to a storm of protest, from scientists, the public and conservation groups, the consent has been put in abeyance by Government Ministers. Guyana’s politicians are no different from our supposedly more environmentally enlightened ones. They see the vast scope for massive development, which will increase exponentially, as their jungles are cut down and mineral extraction on a grand and devastating way takes place. Its indigenous people and unique plant and wildlife will be much reduced, as we are seeing in the Far East’s once great forests, and unique habitats. Greenpeace Australia has launched an appeal for Australian politicians to waken up to the threat to many of their country’s wildlife species, in the form of extinction. The same goes for its marine life about to handed over to super trawlers, and their hoovering up of all marine life, to feed the population of China. China is an example of a once marginalised economy, and now its rich people are childishly and cruelly demanding ivory, rhino horn, and the bits and pieces of many other wild creatures, to satisfy an irrational demand for imagined health benefits from such material, or to produce art worked products to store as signs of wealth. The oil wealth from Guyana will be squandered like all the other incomes to make more rich people with destructive demands. Our world will become a looted landscape and a plastic covered marine environment with most of fabulous life forms gone or dwindled to gross rarity. Meantime, China, Russia and the USA are all producing multiple times as fast as the speed of sound missile systems, that could annihilate anywhere within minutes. Instead of ridding the human race of diseases and distributing wealth more fairly, we have allowed the wherewithal to be squandered. Instead of a world government controlling mega companies, and directing human effective demand into non-destructive goods and services, we have allowed a debauchery and a hangover that will descend painfully on mankind. Our religions and philosophies are proving ineffective against this rampant human greed and cruelty. We are a species that should never have been given a fast speed evolution into becoming the Bad Ape, a “chosen” species that has lost its role as steward of the planet. Can some power not intercede and put an end to the unnecessary suffering of the vulnerable among humans, and in the suffering animals brutalised by us? Guyana is just another state about to lose its innocence, and eventually become a place just like the politically violent and impoverished ones elsewhere in South America, due to hundreds of years of exploitation of human life through slavery, and to today with their respective resources being taken offshore as the profits of big companies.