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‘Does That Give You the Right to Lecture Us?’: Guyana President Rips Apart BBC Journalist Who Questioned Climate Change Impacts of Country’s Oil and Gas Reserves

Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali reprimanded a BBC reporter who questioned him about the harmful environmental impacts of the South American country’s oil and gas extractions along its coast, drawing the approval of many online who admired how he shed light on an “existing hypocrisy” influencing worldviews on the climate change crisis.

In a sitdown with Stephen Sackur of BBC’s HardTalk show, President Ali was quick to criticize Sackur after the journalist questioned him about the country’s booming fossil fuel industry that would reportedly add more than 2 billion tons of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Sackur also mentioned Guyana’s offshore productions will garner the country roughly $150 billion over the next two decades.

Ali cut Sackur off and countered his line of questioning, asking Sackur about his knowledge of Guyana’s forests.

“Let me stop you right there. Let me stop you right there. Do you know that Guyana has a forest––forever, that is the size of England and Scotland combined? A forest that stores 19.5 gigatonnes of carbon? A forest that we have kept alive,” Ali told Sackur.

“Does that give you the right to release all this carbon?…” Sackur asked.

“Does that give you the right to lecture us about climate change?” Ali interrupted. “I’m going to lecture you on climate change because we have kept this forest alive that stores 19.5 gigatonnes of carbon that you enjoy, that the world enjoys, that you don’t pay us for, that you don’t value, that you don’t see a value in, that the people of Guyana has kept alive.”

“Guess what? We have the lowest deforestation rate in the world. And guess what? Even with our greatest exploration of the oil and gas resource we have now we will still be net zero, Guyana will still be net zero with all our exploration we will still be net zero,” Ali continued.

Ali continued to take Sackur to task over what he called an “existing hypocrisy” in the world.

“The world in the last 50 years has lost 65 percent of all its biodiversity. We have kept our biodiversity, are you valuing it? Are you ready to pay for it?” Ali asked. “When will the developed world pay for it? Or are you in their pockets? Are you in the pockets of those who have damaged the environment? Are you and your system in the pockets of those who destroyed the environment through the Industrial Revolution and are now lecturing us? Area you in their pockets Are you paid by them?”

A clip of the interview went viral and has been reshared thousands on times.

Many people praised Ali online for highlighting the climate change rhetoric and “colonial” mindset that much of the developed world employs against developing nations that extract fossil fuels, yet don’t emit greenhouse gases at the rates that Western nations do.

As one of South America’s most densely forested countries, Guyana relied heavily on eco-tourism as a chief economic driver for a time. Tropical rainforests cover approximately 90 percent of the country’s landmass. However, over the last decade, the country has experienced impressive economic gains due to its bounteous oil and gas supply and production.

Oil conglomerate ExxonMobil has been increasing its offshore natural gas production in Guyana since it discovered copious oil supplies off the coast in 2015. As of early 2024, the corporation now produces more than 600,000 barrels of oil per day from drilling 40 wells in one Guyanese region.

Those productions have generated more than $3.5 billion for Guyana so far. World Bank data shows that Guyana is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world with GDP per capita growing from $6,477 in 2019 to $18,199 in 2022.

That windfall has made it possible for Guyana to improve its infrastructure and build new schools, hospitals, and highways. The country has also invested in a nearly $2 billion pipeline to carry natural gas ashore and provide a reliable source of electricity to its citizens.

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