Forest carbon accounting allows Guyana to stay net zero while pumping oil

(Climate Home News, 8 Apr 2024) The densely forested South American nation of Guyana is fast becoming the world’s newest petro-state, allowing fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil to hunt for what researchers have referred to as “carbon bombs” on its seabed.

International oil companies, led by US firm ExxonMobil, plan to extract 11 billion barrels of oil from Guyana’s ocean floor and sell it abroad to be burned, thereby worsening global warming. The country pumped its first oil in 2020.

Despite this, late last month Guyanese president Irfaan Ali defended his country’s green credentials in a heated interview with the BBC’s Hardtalk programme, which went viral on social media. “Even with our greatest exploration of the oil and gas resources we have now, we will still be net zero,” he said, referring to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The case of Guyana shows how countries with large forests can use unclear rules on counting national carbon emissions to justify fossil fuel production.

Michael Lazarus, a scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), told Climate Home it is “absurd” to claim that capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) in forests offsets the emissions impact of oil production, as “they have nothing to do with each other than geographic proximity”.

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Climate Home News, 8 Apr 2024: Forest carbon accounting allows Guyana to stay net zero while pumping oil