We begin the New Year with great uncertainty. As we reflect on the overhang of a COVID year and a COVID Christmas, New Year resolutions are conflicted by the simultaneous images of who are we and what are we becoming, tumultuous beckoning of justice and injustice, fundamental values of humanity against dehumanization, affirmation of mature communities based on trust or those based on extremism leading to chaos. 2021 was indeed the year that was. It was a year that established the challenges to be overcome. The most popular GOFAD blogs last year listed below on the basis of our readers choices foretold many. We choose to highlight Democracy, COVID-19, and Climate Resilience.
Prospects of Reversing the Fatal Weakening of U.S. Democracy
Exactly one year ago, a violent mob broke into the United States Capitol in an effort to halt the certification of the electoral vote and overturn the 2020 election in favor of Donald Trump. While the insurrection was, thankfully, unsuccessful, its echoes continue to reverberate. One of the best illustrations of the dilemma is presented by Thomas Homer-Dixon "The American polity is cracked, and might collapse- Canada must prepare" in Canada’s Globe and Mail January 2, 2022. He may as well have inferred that the democratic world must be prepared. It is important to note that in November 2021, 150 professors of politics, government, political economy and international relations appealed to Congress to pass the Freedom to vote Act, to protect the integrity of US elections. The problem to be tackled is Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. This falsehood that nearly 70 per cent of Republicans now accept as true is such potent anti-democratic poison. Homer aptly describes the "big lie" amplified in outlets such as Fox News and Newsmax as “ the cracks have steadily widened, ramified, connected and propagated deeply into America’s once-esteemed institutions, profoundly compromising their structural integrity".
The implication is that political extremism feeds on itself, pushing polarization toward an irreversible tipping point. As a result, the January 6 storming of the U.S. capitol must be understood in the context of a series of factors . These include the rapid changing demographics that have reduced the percentage of non-Hispanic white Christians in America and inflamed the fears of right-wing ideologues that the traditional U.S. culture is being erased and whites are being replaced. The renowned Harvard Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology Dr. Theda Skocpol in her recently edited volume puts it even more starkly, “The GOP has become a radicalized marriage of convenience between anti-government free-market plutocrats and racially anxious ethno-nationalist activists and voters”.
These factors are compounded by two major factors. First, elite selfishness with the wealthy and powerful in America broadly unwilling to pay the taxes and invest in “build back better” public and social security services to reduce inequities. Second, Trumpism increasingly resembling European fascism in its contempt for the rule of law and glorification of violence. The biggest danger stems from the fact that the people involved didn’t think they were attacking U.S. democracy – although they unquestionably were. Instead, they believed their “patriotic” actions were needed to save it.
COVID's Public Health Response; Get the Vaccine
New COVID infections and new restrictions have curtailed social life, effected trade, the supply chain, commerce, tourism and sport. The cancellation of flights made Christmas 2021 a misery for tens of thousands of travelers and subdued New Year’s Eve festivities, many of which were cancelled.
When the RNA vaccines became available just before Christmas 2020 they were hailed as the most striking technological achievement predicted to bring the pandemic under control within months. Instead a series on unpredictable consequences, including the reticence of developing countries to share in the distribution and access of vaccines together with an upsurge in anti-vaxxers, revealed that biomedical advances -- testing and vaccines -- are only half the battle. Those breakthroughs, along with genomic sequencing that can identify new variants and the promise of powerful antiviral pills, represent a revolutionary assault on the coronavirus. Yet , a year later, little more than 60 percent of the U.S. population are fully immunized with two RNA shots or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson product. In many developing countries that figure is less that 25 percent. What this means is that the vaccines are providing huge benefits to individuals while failing to fulfill their public health potential of protecting the entire population. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the case of tennis star, Djokovic, seemingly caring more about his anti-vaccine stance and shattering Grand Slam records. The deportation of Djokovic by the Australian Government as we write is a stain not only on Djokovic’s legacy, but also on the Australian Open and for tennis in general. One sports commentator puts this in perspective when he said “if he goes home with a new understanding that the world doesn't bend to his will just because he’s great at hitting tennis balls, maybe Australia will have ultimately done him a favor.” It may also have disseminated a meaningful lesson to the world.
Saving our Planet: A Clarion Call
In her end of the year Report, WTO President, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called for changes to ensure developing nations are resilient to the effects of extreme weather and pledged the removal of trade barriers around the world to help tackle the climate crisis, enable a “just transition” away from fossil fuels and make developing countries more resilient to the impacts of global warming. At the same time, many are skeptical of including climate issues, and fear that “environmental” standards insisted on by some developed countries would be used as a cover for raising barriers to cheap imports from the developing world. Green campaigners have at the same time claimed that the WTO has encouraged high-carbon trade.
Hon. Gaston Brown, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Chair of the Small Island Development States (SIDS) and the Caribbean Community during COP 26 highlighted six key demands for World Leaders that, if met, should ensure developing countries like those in the Caribbean are not entirely submerged by rising sea levels. They include:
• Decarbonize by rapidly phasing out fossil fuel extraction and ending subsidies.
• Commit to climate finance for small island states to mitigate and adapt.
• Ensure international institutions push harder for cooperation.
• Cancel developing countries debt so they can deal with the impacts of climate change.
• Implement a climate damages tax to make corporations compensate countries for climate related damage.
• Commit to limit global heating by 1.5°C.
Honoring the Legacy of our Heroes and Ancestors: Remembering Desmond Tutu
As we beckon hopes of a Happy New Year, we give thanks to the front line workers, the real heroes during these COVID times. It is with sadness that we mourn those family members, colleagues and friends who died during the past year and over the festive season. We think and care for those who continue to suffer as climate or political refugees. We therefore must contribute to, pledge and pray for peace and happiness especially for those “left behind”.
GOFAD is particularly saddened by the passing of the prince of a man, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an advocate and believer in humanity, a truly fearless moral figure who spearheaded the tortuous journey from apartheid to democracy in South Africa. He understood that justice is not simply a concept to be grasped but a challenge to be lived. In his words so relevant as we contemplate New Year's resolutions: "Indifference to oppression victimizes the oppressed, comforts the oppressor and grieves the very heart of God."
ELEVEN (11) MOST POPULAR of 50 BLOGS FOR 2021
During this year, GOFAD has received poems from a number of its readers. It occurred to us that we should share these from time to time, since some among you may find them a diversion from the trials and tribulations of the COVID era and indeed soulfully fulfilling.
Highlighting the work of three poets: Pearl Williams, Maralyn Ballantyne and Kevin Isaacs
I have chosen three poems among many from the GOFAD Collection. The first “The Mirage” by Pearl Williams. It is one of the 40 odd in her first publication, of poetry, The Spaces between the Dots. The second is "Pandemic" by Carmen Maralyn Ballantyne, one from a collection that is currently in process of being produced as a book of poems. The third is a haunting rendition of “Before You Go” by Kevin M. Isaac, High Commissioner of St. Kitts and Nevis to the United Kingdom, who has just launched Chasing Footsteps, his fourth collection of poems which according to the Director of the Commonwealth Foundation is “as complex, compelling and intriguing as his others works”. The poem is being presented in his trade mark podcasts that he labels 'verbal photography to take readers on a journey of discovery, love and renewal'.
Before sharing these three poems, I take the opportunity to pay two tributes.
Saluting two amazing young poets
We recognize how the inspirational messages of these two young poets resonate. First, is Amanda Gorman’s electrifying and historic poem “The Hill We Climb,” read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, at the beginning of the year and her newly released book of poems on December 7, 2021 titled Call us what we Carry. This was preceded in September 2021 by a lyrical picture book Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem. The other, Cyndi Celeste a young Barbadian poet , my new acquaintance. Her performance of an imaginatively profound poem, “We ain’t Done”, at the event to celebrate Barbados’ Republican status on November 30, 2021. It was absolutely as brilliant as Amanda Gorman's. Its refrain -- we ain't done -- is about passing the baton of change from Bussa (slave rebellion leader) to Barrow (Prime Minister of Barbados at Independence) to ‘WE’. It is a charge especially but not exclusively to the youth. Oh how we need to hear that rendition about the true meaning of being a Republic over and over again. Cyndi Celeste certainly conjures up great expectation. -- About Cyndi Celeste: http://barbados.loopnews.com/content/cyndi-celeste-using-her-poetry-inspire-others-and-challenge
Congratulating Guyanese Grace Nichols: 2021 Recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry
In announcing the award on Friday December 10, 2021, poet laureate, Simon Armitage chair of the Poetry Medal Committee, said “Over the past four decades, Grace has been an original pioneering voice in the British poetry scene. Her poems are alive with characters from the folklore and fables of her Caribbean homeland [Guyana] and echo with the rhymes and rhythms of her family and ancestors. They are also passionate and sensuous at times, being daring in their choice of subject and openhearted in their outlook.”
This University of Guyana Alum is being honored for her body of work, in particular her first collection of poetry I Is a Long-Memoried Woman, her prose, and several books for younger readers. https://newsroom.gy/2021/12/11/guyanese-poet-wins-queens-gold-medal/
NOW LET THE POETS SPEAK
"The Mirage" by Pearl Williams
Positively decked out
Seeking untold fame
Do they know the pitfalls
As they forge ahead
Can they see the dangers
So they’re not misled
What if every twist and turn
Another challenge brings
Will they have the stamina
To cope with life’s stings
What about those folks
Who do not wish them well
Who go about their business
Decrying them like hell
Will they spend a lot of time
Scheming to harm them
Or will they spend a lot of time
Seeking to disarm them
Interestingly you look around
Not quite sure what their game is
But you vow to press ahead
Determined to confound them
"Pandemic" by Carmen Maralyn Ballantyne
Pungent Bay Leaf aromas
Bless and enjoin the salty sea air,
Each silky green leaf
An earth-born message of fervent hope, healing, rebirth
Gifted to all, seekers and non-seekers alike
Who in sweet communion grasp nature’s offerings
Regarding them as superior to any material momento
Of the pre covid world.
And a woman’s smiling eyes speak to us
Over-ruling the vital mask,
Poignant reminder of the difference
Between just being and complying.
And if we didn’t know
Now we know!
Covid demolished hypocrisy,
Covid stripped bare the burning inequities,
The disparities endured for too long.
Covid provided the bulletin board that tells us how not to do it.
Covid reminds us that challenges
Are not to be hoarded on the dusty shelf
But must be dealt with head on
With great urgency!
Covid made us not only see but feel deep in our gut
The issues that really matter.
Unveiling the truth,
It laid disparities and social injustice bare.
As the pandemic unfolds
Active demons are let loose.
With our thought process dominated
By the real issues on replay,
Tigress Mia Motley calls for strategic global governance.
Some uncertainty as to where solutions lie,
No uncertainty as to the need to
Search conscience in every village
In every boardroom
In the corridors of power.
Mankind’s threads of interconnections, interdependence,
Like finest tightly hand-woven tapestries of intricate patterns,
Represent the permanent backdrop to our global agenda.
As the stage curtain is drawn
There stands our world population,
Players gasping for an opportunity to breathe.
In dual roles, as audience, as actors, may we keep the backdrop in view.
May its symbolism fire our collective imagination crater,
Eject streams of 'laval' creativity
Stir a boiling cauldron of resourcefulness.
Essential ingredients for global reconstruction.
"Before you go" as verbal photography by Kevin Isaacs
About the Poets
Pearl Williams is a writer of poetry and short stories. In the last two years, her poems have appeared in Canadian Stories print magazine (Toronto) and as part of David Hamilton’s Behind the Willow: a poetry collection. She is a member of the Ottawa Independent Writers (OIW) group and contributed to the Ottawa Ethnic Media Forum’s, Covid-19 Chronicles, a collection of stories, poems and articles published in 2020. A former Canadian diplomat, she is currently working on a travel memoir for publication in 2022. Find Pearl and other writers at https://www.ottawaindependentwriters.com/
Carmen Maralyn Balantyne LLB is a Vincentian, educated at universities in the Caribbean, England and USA with extensive experience in freelance radio, newspaper journalism, private sector management, tourism, teaching, law and working at the UN. Now semi retired, she devotes a tremendous amount of time to poetry writing and has joined her daughter in carrying on the philanthropic work of the late Sir Frederick Ballantyne, cardiologist and Former Governor General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. .
Kevin Isaacs is the St Kitts and Nevis High Commissioner to the UK. He is no stranger to GOFAD whose readers were introduced to his poetry in the blog Enjoy Verbal Photography with Kevin Isaacs (9/24/2021). While being a Diplomat is his designated occupation, he has a passion for poetry and is quite accomplished. On November 15 Chasing Footsteps his fourth book of poems was launched in London. His previous works include Whispers of Silence, Memories in Serenade and Breakfast with my Fathers.
Human Rights Day is the anniversary of the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The aim of the Declaration of Human Rights is to establish a common standard of living for all people across the planet that everyone is entitled to. Although these rights are seen as more declarative than legally binding, they are commonly acknowledged to have had an impact on how human rights are perceived to be a force for good. Although the fulfilment of human rights is the legal responsibility of nation states, other actors at local, national, regional and international levels play an essential role in ensuring that their aspirations are fulfilment. In this blog we take a glimpse at the connections between human rights and topical issues such as gender based violence , the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, slavery and critical race theory. In so doing we are reminded that in celebrating Human Rights Day we must be mindful as much about what solidifies as what subverts its aspirations.
Human Rights and Gender Equity - a Pervasive Scourge
International Human Rights day follows the 16days of activism against gender based violence which since 2011 begins on November 25. It has been designated as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women This year's theme Orange the World : End Violence Now is an appropriate reminder of the gravity of the situation . Recent data show that in some countries 7 out of 10 women are beaten, raped, abused or mutilated in their life time This therefore is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. Valiant efforts through numerous campaigns are to be noted. They include the UN Secretary General Every Woman Every Child Initiative, the Global Civil Society Social Mobilization , Say No-Unite to end violence against women platform , the Spouses of Caribbean Leaders (SCLANS) Every Caribbean Woman Every Caribbean Child Programme and the UN Trust Fund to support these endeavours. Yet the problem remains a pervasive scourge . The UN UNITE Campaign in support of Goal 5 of the 2030 SDGs is a proactive attempt for global actions to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts , share knowledge and initiate innovative approaches.
Human Rights in the COVID 19 Pandemic - repulsive
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a major crossroads The choice has been either take the route of collective action and concretely address the inequalities that have risen across the globe, or continue on the route filled with deep-rooted injustices and pervasive inequities. What has been termed "the vaccine apartheid" is a repulsive illustration of human rights abuse where some countries hoarded and others lacked access. This has no doubt contributed to the continuing variants according to many scientific studies.
During the pandemic, many city authorities became frontline responders—managing food distribution, organizing testing stations, and enabling the large-scale burials and cremations that were needed. In each case, city authorities and local communities had deliberately applied human rights principles, which enabled them to respond to COVID-19 impacts as they are shaped by social inequality. It is clear that “localizing” human rights will be crucial to the post-pandemic recovery, as the groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic – such as women, persons with disabilities, migrants, and other marginalized groups – must be the focus of targeted recovery efforts.
Human Rights and Climate Change - regressive
The International Human Rights Council has emphasized the importance of a healthy environment and has appointed of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for the Environment and Climate Change. This is an attempt to accelerate the fulfilment of SDG Goal 13 and the overall pledge to “leave no one behind.” Yet the decisions at the COP 26 in Glasgow provided grounds to suggest that they instead contribute to the regression of human rights principles. Nations will still have much more to do on their emissions cutting goals to ensure the 1.5 limit. The truth for the Planet is that the majority of the 20 largest countries contribute to 80 percent of the global emissions . Consequently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that if all the current long term commitments were fully followed through, the world would limit heating to 1.8 degrees in the long term. However the gap between the long term ambitions and countries' crucial short term targets for 2030 would result in heating of 2.4C.
This is far removed from the six key demands put forward by Small Island Development States (SIDS) and Climate Justice advocates — decarbonizing, climate financing international cooperation, debt cancellation, taxes for climate related damages commit to global heating of 1.5°C. This failure to respond will contribute to small countries like the Caribbean that contribute least to the problems suffering most including being "entirely submerged by rising sea levels".
Placing a Positive Spin on Slavery - an educational gag order
The 2021 New Hampshire bill requires teachers to put a positive spin on slavery. Between January and September 2021, 24 legislatures across the United States introduced 54 separate bills intended to restrict teaching and training about slavery in K-12 schools, higher education, and state agencies and institutions. These bills appear designed to chill academic and educational discussions and impose government dictates on teaching and learning. In short: they are educational gag orders. Legislators who support these bills appear determined to use state power to exert ideological control over public educational institutions. Further, in seeking to silence race- or gender-based critiques of U.S. society and history that those behind them deem to be “divisive,” these bills, are likely to disproportionately affect the free speech rights of students, educators, and trainers who are women, people of color, and LGBTQ+. What is being promoted is actually a push to censure truthful information about American history. A new "teacher loyalty" bill introduced in New Hampshire would, among other things, prohibit "teaching that the United States was founded on racism." See link https://popular.info/p/new-hampshire-bill-would-require
Human Rights and Critical Race Theory - the Ultimate Subversion
New Hampshire however is mainly one dimension of the subversion of human rights. The distortion of Critical Race Theory is the ultimate subversion. It is not a coincidence that these trends have manifested themselves in the legislative onslaught following the mass protests that swept the United States in 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. This was pervasive long before. Many Americans and U.S. Institutions have distorted the true reckoning that race and racism have played in American history and society. They have opposed the cultural changes surrounding race, gender, and diversity and have pushed back ferociously, feeding into a culture war. According to several scholars , their framing of “Critical Race Theory” has been applied with a broad brush, to targets as varied as The New York Times’ 1619 Project, efforts to address bullying and cultural awareness in schools, and even the mere use of words like “equity, diversity, and inclusion,” “identity,” “multiculturalism,” and “prejudice.” all elements of human rights.
Historian and writer Jelani Cobb in his new book The Essential Kerner Commission Report starkly described how Donald Trump and his allies skillfully manipulated the notions of Critical Race Theory to be “the perfect villain” and a useful “brand category” to build opposition to perceived dominance of progressives to American educational institutions. Accordingly, “the attacks on critical race theory are clearly an attempt to discredit the literature millions of people sought out last year to understand how George Floyd wound up dead on a street corner. The goal is to leave the next dead black person inexplicable by history.” history.” https://youtu.be/FglqvMDWJ0s
Eleven bills were introduced explicitly prohibiting schools from using materials from the seminal The New York Times’ 1619 Project, a journalistic and historical examination of the modern impact of slavery in the United States. Similar bills prohibit private funding for curricula in public schools, which—given the context in which they were developed and introduced— aimed at blocking specific educational materials that deal with racial justice and sexism.
There was much anticipation that this would have been a two pronged approach to the celebration of Human Rights Day. However it turned out differently. Examining human rights in relation to gender equity is deemed a scourge; in relation to the COVID 19 pandemic - repulsive; to Climate Change - regressive; placing a positive spin on slavery - an educational gag order; and distorting critical race theory - the ultimate subversion . Hopefully others would view the issues with different lenses and project an image of solidarity.
On November 30, 2021 , Barbados officially removed Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State to become the world's newest Republic. The Queen was replaced by an outstanding Barbadian woman, The Most Honorable Sandra Mason who transitioned seamlessly from being the nation's Governor General representing the Queen to President in her own constitutional right. This signified a watershed moment for the Caribbean nation that will officially set its own course without consulting the monarch. It was preceded and followed by a world class production of song, poetry dance, memorable speeches of reflection and aspiration and of a discipled and colorful display of military precision that defies description. Magnificent! Awesome! Soulful! Creative! Massive! are all acclamations that when applied collectively would still not do justice to the magnificence of what the world witnessed -- the excellence of the Barbadian Spirit.
Landmarks in the Journey from Slavery to Independence and to a Republic
In December 1966, Errol Barrow stood before the United Nations as the first Prime Minister of a newly independent Barbados. In his speech before the body, which had just admitted Barbados as a member, Barrow famously declared, “We will be friends of all, satellites to none.” In the long road to independence Barbados originated as one of England's first slave colonies and a hub for the transatlantic slave trade. Then its sugar plantation economy thrived by bringing in enslaved people from Africa and transferring profits to its English masters. Reflecting on this ignominy in his speech before receiving the Order of Freedom , the highest national award, Prince Charles representing The Queen, spoke of the "appalling atrocity of slavery" which he said "forever stains our history".
With the change to a Republic as outlined by the Constitution (Amendment) Bill passed earlier this year, Barbados officially sets its own course for self-determination. It was revealing to note that a collage of its political history at the Road to Republic celebration, depicted the contributions of previous Prime Ministers. Besides Errol Barrow were Grantley Adams before him, and after him, Tom Adams, Owen Arthur and Erskine Sandiford whose presence at the event was recognized. It also paid homage to the local but world renowned writers, George Lamming and Kamau Braithwaite; the professionals and ordinary people many of whom representing public, private and civil society received various national awards including for invaluable contributions to the fight against the COVID -19 pandemic https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-59470843
The Essence-of the Watershed Moment
Prime Minister Motley puts the watershed moment in perspective in her November 2020 announcement of the Government’s intention to become a Republic, stating that the decisions of the country’s Parliament and its executive, should no longer be signed off on by “those who are not born here, who do not live here, and who do not appreciate the daily realities of those who live here.” In advocating that Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State she continued by advocating that ‘this is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.” Two months after, the bronze statue of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, the British naval commander and a slavery sympathizer which was erected in 1813 by Barbados’ ruling class to commemorate Nelson’s victory over the Franco-Spanish forces, was dismantled from its prominent location in Bridgetown.
While the Republican Constitution has become the supreme law of Barbados there is no guarantee that it would bring the elements of self governance or the desired transformation of civic virtue for the common good. What is necessary is a consolidation of national identity of the citizens with historical and cultural traditions; and moral values, ideals, beliefs with national sovereignty. These become meaningful manifestations when individuals or groups come to believe that they belong to a country as a political community. The psychological basis of identity politics lies in the feelings of humans that they possess an inner worth or dignity which the society around them recognizes. These revolve around issues of equity and access to opportunities; diversity with inclusion; social protection and security. The philosophical aspects of this discussion have already been introduced in GOFAD's Blog that highlighted the profound thoughts of English philosopher, Isaiah Berlin's "Two concepts of Liberty" Inaugural Lecture, Oxford University (October 1958); America's philosopher John Rawls A theory of Justice (1971) and 1998 Nobel Prize winner for contribution to welfare Economics Amartya Sen's Nobel Lecture, "The Possibility of Social Choice" (December 1998). Their varied portrayals of identity, nationality and sustainable development have relevance for the future of the Republic of Barbados and for the Caribbean.
See GOFAD Entombing Moments of Humiliation with the Ashes of a Disastrous Presidency 7/1/2021”
We ain’t Done the refrain from Cindi Celeste
This vision of a national identity that frames the context and prospects of the Republic of Barbados was fully articulated wittingly or unwittingly by Ms. Cindi Celeste in her profound and prophetic poem, “We ain’t done.” Delivered with youthful vigor and passionate commitment, it was appropriately scheduled and performed following the announcement by Prime Minister Mottley that Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Felix, the internationally renowned Barbadian singer and philanthropist was recommended for the award of National Hero, joining Sir Garfield Sobers the only other living National Hero. Ms. Celeste looking to the future espouses in rhythmic expressiveness a few takeaways that I recall:
Conclusion: Unravelling Identity
Ms. Celeste’s poem is worth reproducing in its entirety. Its message “we ain’t done” is a refrain especially but not exclusively for the youth. It however has left us to ponder what happens when multiple identities emerge. For me, the major issue is - as Barbados forges ahead with consolidating its national identity, whither the CARICOM community?. A wise and most revered colleague and friend provided a possible and plausible answer. He pointed out that consideration be given to the assumption that compatible or parallel identities are more likely than conflicting identities to coexist and achieve positive results for the new Republic. I interpret this and the received wisdom from many writers on this subject to mean that:
As the spectacular fireworks illuminated the early morning skies over the island in the finale to an indescribable Republic Celebration, my soul like those of many others was bursting with pride and my mind imagining what the future holds. I said a prayer giving thanks for this awe inspiring achievement of Barbados to trigger lessons learned from its Road to becoming a Republic sparkling rays of hope for a mature CARICOM project to indeed become a "Community for All".
Mythology will have us believe that this year is the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving in the USA, commemorating a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. However Prof David J Silverman, George Washington University historian contests this interpretation. In his 1999 book, This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving. He illustrates both the power and diplomatic skills of the indigenous Wampanoag Indians, and “ how all that the Pilgrims ultimately achieved came at the expense of native peoples."
The mythology of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving continues to be taught in schools passed down from one generation to the next by politicians, artists and TV and radio commentators. But Silverman questions the authenticity of this perspective. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, he deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 when the Pilgrims in the Mayflower landed at Plymouth and lasted long after the devastating war of 1675. These events trace the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day. The unsettling history reveals why some modern Native people in the USA hold a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, a holiday which to them celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States. This Land is Their Land shows that it is time to rethink how as a pluralistic nation, Americans tell, understand and celebrate the true history of Thanksgiving.
A glance at received wisdom reveals that:
While recounting these essential elements in the history of Thanksgiving, Silverman offers an eye-opening and vital reexamination of what he calls “America's founding myth." 400 years after that famous meal between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, he sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation and bloody dissolution of this alliance. It is as revelation of fact vs. fiction as well as the complex relationship between the Wampanoag Indians and Pilgrims, their declared friendship, and the commitment to mutual defense that became a war just one generation after the so-called “First Thanksgiving.”
Inventing the Truth
The Thanksgiving myth suggests celebration of the first thanksgiving feast in 1621 was an initial encounter between English and the Wampanoag Indians which ended with the war between them in 1675. Yet historical records show encounters between the two groups dating back to 1500s. Silverman points out that it is convenient to demarcate 1621 -1675 because it allows for a counter narrative of white American triumphalism and manifestations of white nationalism to propagate the conversion of native Indians to Christianity and underestimate the prominent role of the Wampanoag leader Pumetacom and the native Indians who fed the Pilgrims at Plymouth , taught them farming techniques that saved their lives from the ravages of diseases. At the same time it fails to describe that the resistance of the Wampanoagians collapsed because native Indians surrendered and joined the English in 1675; that contrary to promises made, the English seized all Wampanoag property, made them bound labourers, held massive executions and sold them into the horrors of Caribbean slavery.
Silverman illustrates that throughout 17th Century to the early 19th Century Thanksgiving bore no actual association between Indians and pilgrim. The link between the holiday and history is propagated in a book, Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers by Rev Alexander Young which mythologized the first Thanksgiving as the first harvest festival in what Silverman describes as the most famous footnote ever as it was subsequently disseminated by authors, lecturers, artists until in it was taken for granted. The 'gift of citizenship' to the Wampanoag that contributed to them surrendering in the 1675 war was indeed a trojan horse that robbed them of their remaining land. According to Silverman, “White Americans reduced Indians to bit parts. Pilgrims emerged as founding father at the time of cultural anxiety that the lands were being overrun by immigrants especially Catholics from Ireland and Germany".
A most vital contemporary exposure of the myth of Thanksgiving identified in the book is that of Frank James a Wampanoag, born in Martha's Vineyard 1948 who became Director of the Conservatory in the North East. He condemned what was supposed to be the 350th anniversary of Thanksgiving in 1976, as Plymouth’s manufactured history, a contribution to perpetuation of slavery and the betrayal of the native people who helped the Pilgrims to survive. Thanksgiving Day is therefore a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. It was advocated as a Day of Mourning. James' Thanksgiving speech was a pertinent eulogy: “Participants in this National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression that Native Americans continue to experience.”
As we celebrate Thanksgiving day in the USA and elsewhere in the world and even at different times, especially in this COVID 19 era, it is useful to reflect on the religious interpretations and draw on the two pillars: gratitude and thanks. In a programme on NBC Today (November 24, 2021) Michael Curry the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church of the USA, described gratitude as an attitude and giving thanks as an action. In other words gratitude appreciates the blessings in one's life, but on its own, is insufficient. Christians to whom Lincoln appealed in his thanksgiving proclamation in 1863 are called to be doers of the word (James 1:22). They are required to go beyond being grateful and be intentional about giving thanks.
What are the implications for us. In a most basic sense we need to be grateful for being alive and sharing in the blessings of this life. More concretely we need to give thanks that children and more people are getting vaccines; for a world hopeful about the end of COVID 19 ; for a global wave that is becoming more aware and taking action (even slowly) on climate change to save the planet; and most of all, that we have an opportunity to reimagine and take action toward a different way of living based on social justice for all. Silverman teaches us that in celebrating Thanksgiving "we do ourselves no good by hiding from the truth."
What's The Caribbean Response to the Legacy of COP 26 in Glasgow
In presenting the outcome document from COP26, Alok Sharma, President of the Conference pronounced"We kept 1.5 degrees alive but its pulse is weak. This is the moment of Truth for the planet". John Kerry softened the embarrassing disappointment by saying "Glasgow was not the finishing line and was never going to be. Nations will still have much more to do on their emissions cutting goals to ensure the 1.5 limit" The truth for the Planet is that the majority of the 20 largest countries contribute to 80 percent of the global emissions . Consequently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that if all the current long term commitments were fully followed through the world would limit heating to 1.8 degrees in the long term. However the gap between the long term ambitions and countries' crucial short term targets for 2030 would result in heating of 2.4C.
This is far removed from the six key demands put forward by Small Island Development States (SIDS) and Climate Justice advocates. As Hon. Gaston Brown, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of both SIDS and the CARICOM Community puts it: these six key demands for World Leaders that, if met, should ensure our nations are not entirely submerged by rising sea levels. They include:
As Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley so emphatically and persausively pronounced at the opening plenary : ‘1.5°C is what we need to survive, 2°C is a death sentence... We do not want that dreaded death sentence, and we've come here to say, try harder.’
In the final analysis, not one of these key demands by SIDS was met in its entirety. While pondering the discussions on the mixed results of Glasgow, few may recall that "1.5 degrees to stay alive" was the clarion call of the Caribbean at COP15 in Copenhagen, 2009 based on research by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. More immediate however, are the implications for the Caribbean of two interrelated concerns: (a) Is CARICOM paying heed to the results of related research from our Universities and Scientists? Are our Universities maximizing the benefits of a collaborative approach to public education and dissemination of their research findings?
A Vibrant Ecosystem of Research: Keeping Hope Alive in the Caribbean
COP26 left no doubt that the world is in a race towards renewable energy sources. Even before Glasgow, this was fully recognized in the seminal work, The State of the Caribbean Climate by The Climate Studies Group at UWI Mona, UWI, led by Professor Michael Taylor in collaboration with The Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology led by Dr. Cedric J Van Meerbeck and funded by CDB, April 2020. ( See link) It is important to note a companion Report by the Organization Eastern Caribbean States Climate Trends and Projections for the OECS Region which presents the OECS Climate Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (April 2020).
Like the UWI study, it advocates for adaptation of climate services involving preparation and delivery of climate information to meet users' needs with partnerships among providers, researchers and users of climate services.
The UWI study however is more expansive in advancing policy options, which can in turn play a key role in facilitating the Caribbean's transition to a resilient future. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires far-reaching transformations across power generation, buildings, industry, transport, land use, coastal zone management, and agriculture, as well as the immediate scale-up of technological carbon removal and climate finance. Accordingly, it promotes decarbonizing by focusing on Power. It presents the case that wind and solar power generation technologies which are already available at scale, would be the quickest sector to decarbonize. The demand for power would double as other sectors switch to electricity and green hydrogen, requiring renewables production and storage capacity to be rapidly scaled up. Similarly for transportation, the trend to carbon neutrality in the next decade is based on adoption of electrical vehicles and for agriculture, using more efficient sources of energy. The policy guidance from these two studies but particular UWI's, revolves around three pillars of functional' cooperation:
The directives from these studies identify underlying conditions that enable adequate responses to climate change. They include supportive policies, innovations, strong institutions, leadership, and shifts in social norms. It is interesting to note that The Watchdog Climate Action Tracker (CAT) states that global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will still be roughly twice as high as what's necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees — a threshold scientists have said the planet should stay under to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. The net-zero goals of 40 countries account for 85% of global emissions cuts, but the group found only 6% of those emissions were backed up by concrete plans. At this rate Finance for climate action, one of the major demands from SIDS, for example, must increase nearly 13-fold to meet the estimated need in 2030.
Glimmers of Hope through Coalitions of the Willing
There are however glimmers of hope that even the watered down commitments from Glasgow will reshape the Global Agenda as coalitions of the willing continue to work on critical solutions. It is apparent that the net-zero imperative is no longer in question. Among the limited successes for SIDS to be built on are that more than 130 countries that represent more than 85% of the planet's forests pledged last week to end and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030, and more than 25 countries have so far signed on to an agreement to stop financing fossil fuel projects abroad but no mention of doing so at home.
Many of the net-zero commitments made in Glasgow came from coalitions of the stakeholders—governments, financial institutions, companies, multilateral organizations, civil society, youth and others. This is a major shift in gears among coalitions since Paris, who must participate if systemic problems are going to be solved. How can Caribbean Countries tap into these sources and/or create necessary coalitions in the region and globally are to be found in a very useful analysis of McKinsey Sustainability Report (November 12, 2021) that published a summary of five key priorities coming out of Glasgow:
Conclusions: Reimagining Climate Resilience - Building on the work of Caribbean Scientists
The big questions of financing adaptation and mitigation remain critical for SIDS and CARICOM. To what extent is the Caribbean Agenda totally dependent on external sources? Are carbon credits and carbon taxes (raised in a previous blog) viable options for reducing dependence of SIDS/CARICOM? What's to be done? .
GOFAD has previously advocated for a greater level of cooperation among Caribbean Universities to advance the Region's achieving 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Capability for intellectual leadership in these endeavours is clearly illustrated in several ways. These include the UWI Climate Studies Group referred in this blog; the Green Environment Workshop of the University of Guyana Green Institute; the UWI Resilience Network established to contribute to the sustainable and resilient development of the Caribbean; the Centennial Legacy of Agriculture at UWI St Augustine to mark 100 years of the establishment of the Imperial College Tropical Agriculture August 30, 1921, which became known as the University College of the West Indies St Augustine in 1960, the University of Guyana (Berbice) Campus Microbiology Training Workshop; and the Human Heredity Environment and Health in the Caribbean (H3EC) Initiative involved in genomics research. In addition, Vidia S Roopchand, a UG graduate lead researcher for the Pfizer COVID- 19 vaccine is an outstanding example. More than ever GOFAD reaffirms its "Random thoughts on Universities in the post COVID 19 era: Time for a regional conversation" (GOFAD Blog 4/29/21)
The 2015 Paris agreement (COP25) provides a useful benchmark by which to judge the results of COP26 in Glasgow which comes to an end the day after this blog has been posted. However, from all reports and our judgement having been part of the virtual audience at several of the main sessions and side events, the reviews of COP26 are mixed. While Greta Thunberg mocks the failure of the conference to offer concrete results as Blah, Blah, Blah, Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission and a key negotiator at COP26, optimistically pronounced that “the glass is half full”.
Recall that the 2015 Paris agreement adopted by 197 countries aimed to reduce carbon emissions and limit the increase of the global temperature to well below 2°C . Then countries committed to decarbonize their economies and build climate resilience. While Small Island Development States (SIDS) continue their chant “1.5°C to stay alive”, the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports their view that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century is still possible, but will require rapid, immediate, and economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, as well as the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. The conclusion to be drawn is that near-term actions to halve GHG emissions by 2030 must be pursued alongside longer-term strategies to achieve deep decarbonization by 2050.
According to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) of the 123 countries that submitted new national determined contributions (NDC) targets by October 2021, twenty two (22) including the European Union (EU) as a block submitted stronger targets while 12 did not increase ambitions. As many as 89 countries that are not analyzed by the CAT submitted NDC targets. Among them are many Caribbean, Pacific, African, South East Asian and Eastern European countries all of whom contribute minimally to GHG emissions. According to research published in Glasgow (November 9), the world is on track for disastrous levels of global heating far in excess of the limits in the Paris Climate Agreement, despite a flurry of carbon-cutting pledges from governments at the UN Cop26 summit. Temperature rises will top 2.4C by the end of this century, based on the short-term goals countries have set out.
China and USA, the world’s two biggest emitters unveiled a joint declaration for close cooperation on emissions cuts that scientists say are needed in the next 10 years to stay within 1.5C. According to the declaration, the two countries will “meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade,”
At the same time India, the world’s third largest carbon emitter and one of the few countries is yet to announce a timeframe to reach net zero emissions. Surprisingly, because of the dominance of its coal industry, India is likely to exceed two key commitments of the Paris Agreement. First, according to Environmental Research India looks likely to reduce emissions by as much as 45 percent by 2030, far surpassing its Paris target. This is due to its pledge to increase the share of power-generation capacity from renewable, hydroelectric, and nuclear sources. The other commitment is to reduce carbon emissions by 33 to 35 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030. Today, India is claiming the moral high ground by pointing out its per capita emissions are much lower than comparable nations and that the same rich nations that polluted their way to riches in the 19th and 20th centuries are now scolding developing countries when they follow the same route. Interestingly Vivek Wadhwa writing in Foreign Policy (October 22 2021) illustrates from empirical data that India is already far exceeding its renewable energy goals.
Climate Technology and Climate Finance Critical Indicators
These issues are indeed critical and need to be explored in greater depth than this Blog will permit. Suffice it to say that limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires far-reaching transformations across power generation, buildings, industry, transport, land use, coastal zone management, and agriculture. It also requires an immediate scale-up of technological carbon removal and climate finance.
In an interesting side event by the Commonwealth Foundation, the point of departure was that an ever-shrinking carbon budget does not accommodate delay. To reach a net-zero future, it is imperative to ignite fundamental change across nearly all systems, from how we move around the world and build cities to how we grow food and power industry. These systemwide transitions will depend on the massive scale-up of finance, technology, and capacity building for countries that need support. That the G20 countries have reneged on their pledged contribution of 100B per year since Paris erodes the trust required to propel the world’s system toward Climate justice and equity. Uncertainty about the availability of financing for innovation will limit capital formation and slow scale-up. Integrating most climate technologies into existing infrastructure, hardware, software, and operational systems is critical.
Conclusion: Changing Mindset
As COP26 enters its closing stages it is to be hoped that the chasm between aspirations and policies will narrow and that governments will change their mindset by putting global interests before national interest, thereby saving this planet from destruction. A most sanguine expression of this aspiration is provided by ,” William Nordhaus argues. “Why Climate Policy Has Failed And How Governments Can Do Better” Foreign Affairs, October 12, 2021
Greta Thunberg and the young activists took a stand with a massive demonstration in Glasgow last Friday (November 5). They continue to nudge and advocate for governments to do better After all the futures of their generation and the generations to come are high stakes.
Guyana has an excellent opportunity to be one of the best resource-rich countries. However, it needs to reorganize creative institutional approaches, while establishing and adhering to accepted principles, values and norms for achieving sustainable development. The big picture should focus on What’s the future for Sustainable Development should look like in Guyana and the Caribbean? My response assumes a long term 20-50 year perspective with emphasis on the acceleration of a low carbon and climate resilient agenda aligning oil and gas and a green economy. It straddles three areas: Governance and Institutions; Social Justice and Sustainable Business Approach.
Governance and Institution Strengthening
The overall focus ought to be on a broader sustainable development approach including the economic, social and environmental. Therefore legislative, administrative and institutional reforms are critical to effective governance towards Guyana becoming a model for climate change.
The Necessary Enabling Conditions
The development of reforms is one dimension. However, their effective implementation requires a series of enabling conditions, among them access to resources: equity, diversity, inclusivity
Greater participation and inclusion would also reduce management conflicts by fostering multi-stakeholder participation in the development of international investment agreements, not necessarily on the details but on the broad components which can include various stakeholders, for example civil society. In this regard, Canada provides a good example of devising and implementing environmental protection policies.
Sustainable Business Approach
A sustainable approach to business and investment is critical. It will need to focus on integrated policies, strategies, and programmes in the economic, social and environment approaches to sustainable development. Lessons to be learned exist in some private sector examples. These include the Business Roundtable which consists over 200 top corporations in the United States formed in 2019; United Nations Global Compact. Most appropriate however, is the CARICOM option for an energy partnership between Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. (Please see link https://villagevoicenews.com/2021/10/28/proposed-guyana-trinidad-and-tobago-and-suriname-regional-energy-partnership/)
My response to the question -- What would you like to tell Caribbean leaders and their delegations to COP 26-- is that emphasis should be placed on:
About the author Ms. Audreyanna Thomas is Managing Director - Global Perspective Inc. (GPI) in Guyana and former steering committee member of the SIDS Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). She has been engaged in research in foreign direct investment, cross sectoral governance, the rule of law, human rights and gender in Oil and Gas/extractive industries with special reference to Guyana’s economic transition. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communications from UG and a post graduate degree from Loyola, University Chicago and post graduate attachment to and University of Cambridge, UK.
GOFAD is pleased to bring this special report issued on the day that the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties. (COP) 26 begins in Glasgow, UK. Various forms of Carbon Taxes have been part of the discussion among academics, policy makers, media commentators and executives in the Oil and Gas sectors globally. Most recently, the topic has engaged participants at the UN General Assembly (September 2021) and the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings (early October 2021). The Green Economy Workshop at which Dr. Thomas Singh presented a paper on the upstream carbon tax provided a point of departure from many of the other contributions on this issue and is worth the consideration of our readers. This is especially the case given the thrust of Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali’s statement last week to the UN Preparatory Session for COP 26, including over 200 civil society organizations from more than 40 countries that called for an end to international public financing for fossil fuels. President Ali pointed out that Guyana, a low-lying country which is engaged in a major offshore oil exploration push with ExxonMobil—already uses seawalls to protect its coastal cities. https://www.theenergymix.com/2020/03/08/hope-for-stability-fades-as-guyana-becomes-nascent-petro-state/ President Ali aptly highlighted the situation when he said “climate emergency will kill far more people than the COVID-19 pandemic” , adding that “We hold out hope that the world’s worst emitters of greenhouse gases that are affecting the welfare of all mankind will also come to the realization that, in the end, it will profit them little to emerge king over a world of dust”
At the Green Economic Workshop, an interactive panel considered another perspective by engaging participants in a discussion, Can Guyana be a Model for Climate Resilience: Aligning Oil and Gas with a Green Economy. At the same time CARICOM Climate Change Ministers this week issued a call for Climate Justice in a Declaration ahead of COP26. These among others form the context for the Report that follows.
The Background to a Game Changing Proposal
A carbon tax is one way of “putting a price on carbon”, the other being to establish a carbon emissions trading system (ETS). Carbon pricing causes economic agents who are transacting in a market to recognise third party costs as part of their production costs. As such, an explicit carbon tax that leads to a reduction in crude oil production is associated with a certain amount of “avoided emissions.”
The Upstream Carbon Tax at the Wellhead (UCTW), discussed on Day 1 of the 2021 Green Economy Workshop is a game-changing one that will in fact address all four objectives of COP26: Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, Finance and Cooperation. A “Pigouvian tax” [meant to equal the cost of the negative external effects] that will be set equal to the best measure of the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), will achieve the climate mitigation objective by ensuring that oil producers internalise the full cost – including the “third party cost” or negative externality imposed on all of us when CO2 emissions are released on combustion - of their activities. As it is a tax the UCTW will also generate revenues, which could be earmarked for climate adaptation, in the jurisdictions that adopt it. In other words, the UCTW will achieve enhanced ambition in the Guyana-Suriname Basin, but without the usual concerns about a reduction in revenues. Cooperation as envisaged in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement will therefore be “incentive compatible” for Guyana and Suriname, which could be seen as achieving enhanced ambition as a regional climate club, an idea that has been promoted by Economics Nobel Laureate, William Nordhaus.
Distinguishing between Up Stream and Down Stream versions
The carbon tax is administratively simple, but one must distinguish between an upstream and a downstream version. The downstream version of the carbon tax is one that is levied at the petrol pump. It has become a focal point for the global effort to reduce emissions from fossil fuels, receiving strong support in the US from the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), which calls it the "bipartisan climate solution”; and wider support from Leaders around the world from government, private sector, academia, and civil society organised as the Carbon Pricing Leadership Council. Both the World Bank and the IMF have endorsed carbon pricing, the Managing Director and staff of the latter even being more specific in their advocacy of a minimum carbon price floor to be adopted by the full G20.
Timing, however, is of the essence, and not just because the imminent COP26 will probably finalise the Rulebook for Article 6. Rather, if a developed country were to adopt a carbon tax first, then it will no doubt impose a border adjustment on oil imports from countries that do not have a carbon tax, ultimately causing those latter countries to pay their carbon tax, without being able to earn any revenues from it. This could well be the fate of crude oil extracted from the Guyana-Suriname Basin if the UCTW is not adopted first. On the other hand, countries that import oil from the Guyana-Suriname Basin will be penalised by having to pay higher, UCTW-inclusive prices and losing the opportunity to earn corresponding revenues unless they themselves adopted a higher carbon tax. Because carbon taxes cannot be successfully challenged either under WTO rules or international investment dispute settlement mechanisms, the adoption of the UCTW in the Guyana-Suriname Basin will provide an important nudge to the process of putting a price on carbon. Universal adoption of carbon pricing, which seems inevitable, would itself ensure that there will be no significant loss in the competitiveness of crude oil produced in the region, nor would there be any carbon leakage due to the transfer of oil production to other regions.
The upstream carbon tax, levied at the wellhead in the Guyana-Suriname Basin, is notably superior from a national (Guyana or Suriname) perspective to the downstream version that is being advocated, the CLC downstream version applies to consumers in the US. Thus the tax revenues would increase in the US and other developed countries that adopt the proposal. This, of course, is in the nature of taxes: they are earned in the tax jurisdictions in which they are levied or implemented. The "irrelevance-of-who-pays the tax" logic would guarantee that the climate mitigation effect of the tax is identical, regardless of where it is levied - at the petrol pump in developed countries or the wellhead in the Guyana- Suriname Basin. What is wholly different is the "distributional effect”, because it is only in the case of the latter that Guyana and Suriname would earn revenues from the measure. Thus, if Guyana's oil production were to remain at 120,000 barrels per day, the Government of Guyana (GoG) will earn about USD750 Million annually if an average carbon price of say US$40/tonne of CO2 equivalent were to be assumed. And in Guyana’s case, this could be a simple administrative charge levied by the Guyana EPA, requiring no new legislation or regulation. Indeed, the very same provision Section 4 (4) (a) Environmental Protection Act 1996 that was used to introduce a charge on excess flaring emissions in the Stabroek Block, is available for the introduction on this UCTW.
Carbon Tax Climate in Guyana -Suriname Basin & Climate Financing for CARICOM
A key design element of carbon taxes - upstream or downstream - relates to the use of the revenues that would be raised by the tax. The general principle is that the revenues must be earmarked for activities that will not lead to a leakage, or an increase in CO2 emissions elsewhere; or may even reduce them further. In the case of the UCTW, the revenues ought to be thought of as self-generated climate finance, to be used for adaptation, and perhaps for loss and damage, and climate resilience; and also for immediately fulfilling the unconditional and conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) made under the Paris Agreement. Moreover, this self-generated climate finance will be controlled and distributed in an institutional framework that would allow countries that have generated the emissions reductions to have a say in the use of the funds. Finally, while the commitment by developed countries to US$100 Billion annually to climate finance seems as elusive as the quest to limit the average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the Guyana-Suriname Basin can generate enough climate finance for the region to even consider making subscriptions to start a Regional Climate Adaptation Fund to support other countries.
By adopting the UCTW, Guyana and Suriname will therefore be able to address the deep paradox of producing a commodity that increases CO2 emissions at the very time that net-zero has become critically important, while also being renowned for the positive externalities of rich biodiversity and significant carbon sequestration services it provides as part of the Guiana Shield. The development in the Guyana-Suriname Basin is also coming on stream at a time when the International Energy Agency (IEA) has issued a call for an end to new investments in fossil fuels, rather than making the phasing out of unabated power plants in advanced countries the priority. Beyond the mitigation it would achieve, the UCTW could, if adopted, be invoked for the role it will play in providing a much-needed nudge to the rest of the world to adopt carbon pricing, while providing a positive response to the IEA’s call in a way that respects the common but differentiated responsibilities to address climate change among countries.
Carbon Pricing Essential to Achieving net Zero Emissions
In contrast, the ETS is a 'cap-and-trade' scheme which requires the regulatory agency to set limits or caps on emissions, allocate allowances, and then let participants trade allowances in order to meet their regulatory requirements. A carbon price emerges from this trading. One key difference between the two forms of carbon pricing therefore is that with carbon taxes prices are known, while with the ETS, the carbon price is very uncertain. It is for this reason that even oil majors such as ExxonMobil have publicly announced their support for carbon taxes as the most effective way of stabilising the global climate. In fact, Exxon Mobil has even adopted the stance that carbon pricing is "essential to achieving net-zero emissions”.
The upstream version of the carbon tax, levied at the "wellhead," or on each barrel of oil produced in the Guyana-Suriname Basin, is superior to the alternative of establishing an ETS in which oil companies would participate. For one thing, unless allowances are sold or auctioned when being allocated at the outset, governments earn no revenue at all from the operation of emissions markets. Second, the ETS creates great uncertainty about the ensuing carbon price for investors, whereas carbon taxes give companies a chance to take stable and explicit carbon prices into account when making decisions. From a climate mitigation perspective, one should further point out that while the ETS and carbon taxes would, with the right assumptions, have the same effect of reducing emissions, it is far easier to get the carbon price "right" in the case of the carbon tax than in the case of ETS.
Conclusions: Carbon Tax and the Fundamentals of Social Justice
The upstream version of the carbon tax is also clearly superior to any of the voluntary "private-public" schemes that are now emerging. One such is the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance (LEAF) Coalition, which is itself a voluntary coalition that seeks to match buyers and sellers of carbon offsets. Its Call for Proposals indicates that these offsets are designed for "voluntary, not international compliance purposes”, and therefore should be seen as complementary to other measures such as the UCTW, and not an alternative to it. It should be emphasised that Guyana stands to earn revenues from carbon offsets generated by LEAF projects only in stage 5 or 6 of the LEAF cycle, after emissions reductions (ERs) have been verified, the credits have been paid for by a third-party agency, due diligence has been done, and so forth. Indeed, in posting an update that lists the jurisdictions “eligible for purchase agreement discussion with Coalition participants”, the LEAF Coalition states clearly that “This posting does not guarantee a transaction. LEAF Coalition transactions are conditioned on the ability of a jurisdiction to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of v2.0 (or other applicable version) of The REDD+ Environmental Excellence Standard (TREES) ... and the terms of the Call for Proposal issued on April 22, 2021.” This contrasts with the assured climate finance that could be generated from a UCTW, but it is important to point out that the two carbon mechanisms are not in any way mutually exclusive.
For all these reasons therefore, and because of the resounding climate justice that would finally be infused in a mitigation mechanism, the just-concluded 2021 Green Economy Workshop hosted by the University of Guyana GREEN Institute (UGGI) recognised the urgency and the importance of an Upstream Carbon Tax at the Wellhead in the Guyana-Suriname Basin, and by this statement, requests that governments of the region give serious consideration to it.
About the Author
Thomas Singh is currently the Director of the University of Guyana GREEN Institute and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics. He has worked in academia, the public sector and the private sector. His research interests are generally in applied microeconomics, particularly environmental and natural resource economics and the economics of trust and social interactions. He has a PhD in Economics from the University of Kent (UK), MA Temple University and B.Sc Soc SC UG. An active member of civil society, he is also President of the Epilepsy Foundation of Guyana. See UGGI Website: https://greeninstitute.gy/
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.