The World Daily
Residents in Guyana challenge drilling action

Vessels carrying supplies for an offshore oil platform operated by ExxonMobil at a wharf south of Georgetown. Photo:Reuters


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | MAY 31st 2021


Two citizens of Guyana have decided to take the country’s government to court over the excessive offshore drilling that has been happening in Guyanese territories, thus worsening both pollution and the global climate crisis.

This is first reported climate action taken against the extraction of fossil fuels on human rights grounds to be taken in the Caribbean. The majority of the drilling is being done by the American multinational oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil, alongside several other drilling and oil firms, thus perpetuating the climate crisis.

Behind the filing of the case are Dr Troy Thomas, a university lecturer as well as the former president of the anti-corruption organisation ‘Transparency Institute Guyana,’ and Quadad de Freitas, an indigenous guide for tourists.

They took the Guyanese government to court on the grounds that the government’s legal duty to protect both their rights, as well as the rights of all future generations to a healthy environment are being ignored by their act of permitting the offshore drilling to continue.

Guyana has a duty not only to its own citizens, but to those of the world, as it had previously agreed to the Paris Climate Accords, swearing it would aim to go 100% renewable under the condition that it would have the funding to do so.

“There’s absolutely no reason it should now be trying to produce oil at a time when everyone’s moving away from fossil fuels,” said Melinda Janki, the lawyer currently representing the claimants in court.

Campaigners in Guyana had challenged the government and their approval of drilling licenses in the past. This was one the grounds that only one of the companies granted a license was in possession of an environmental permit, but the campaigners lost the case when the judge had ruled against them, though the case is currently in the court of appeal.

There was a second case from campaigners that followed, this time challenging the length of the environmental permits that had been granted to the exploration projects of drilling companies. This case turned out to be a success for campaigners, meaning that instead of 2040, companies such as ExxonMobil will have to renew their licenses in 2021. 


This most recent case is aiming to get the Guyanese government to accept their duties and deny any and all future activities, from drilling companies or otherwise, that would end up causing harm to the local environments or oceans, be it in the form of sea level rise or acidification.

“This is a classic public interest case,” said Janki. “In 2001-02 I lobbied the Guyanese government very hard to put the right to a healthy environment in the constitution. It’s in the interests of everyone to know what the law means, whether this oil production amounts to a violation of the right to a healthy environment. It’s then going to be up to the government to decide what actions to take.”

Janki further stated that a lot of pressure has been put on Guyana under the guise that the amassing of oil and fossil fuels would lead to it accumulating a far greater sum of wealth, “which is not borne out by the facts.”

She added: “You end up with a great disparity between rich and poor, massive environmental destruction, serious human rights abuse. You only have to look at Venezuela next door to see what happens.” 


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021