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Dr. Kalim Shah (front row, second from left) with a group of climate change stakeholders in Guyana.
Guyana is small developing country on a South America's North Atlantic coast and known for its dense rainforests and popularly called "land of many waters" by its original peoples. New oil discoveries are about to shift the economy however, when by the end of 2018, ExxonMobil announced its 10th oil discovery there, bringing the total recoverable oil reserves in the country to over 5 billion barrels. In context, this was among the largest discoveries globally last year. For a population of less than one million people and with virtually no oil and gas history, this is a potentially transformational development.
The government is well aware of global climate change and seeks to harness the expected largesse from the monetized oil returns to promote 'green' development strategies under the latest climate change forecasts and international climate policy. With this aim in mind, they have engaged Dr. Kalim Shah, assistant professor of energy and environmental policy at the Biden School to advise on the way forward.
Known for his extensive research on such issues in the Latin America and Caribbean region, Shah has been assisting with designing the policy architecture by undertaking nation-wide technical consultations aimed at developing Guyana's first national climate change policy. "Once completed and approved by government, the policy needs to be operationalized, and I hope to see that done effectively in the wider scheme of sustainable development," says Shah.
Guyana, with support from the international donor community, has also prioritized issues related to gender and indigenous communities in this climate change policy development processes. Shah's consultative workshops have been taking a special focus on equitable inclusion of vulnerable groups including; women, youth, and indigenous communities to ensure that their perspectives are considered.
"There is a strong consternation from the government that the country must avoid the 'resource curse' or 'Dutch disease,' where the focus on one economic sector can lead to the decline of other sustainable sectors such as tourism and agriculture," says Shah.
The commitment to a green development pathway to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change is expected to work hand-in-hand with optimizing Guyana's oil resource benefits in ways that make sustainable development workable over the long term. The final product of Shah's engagement in the process is expected to include specific recommendations and implementation modalities that tie the pieces together - optimize opportunities from the petroleum sector, meet international climate change obligations and build a sustainable economy.
Shah notes that apart from the scholarly opportunities to undertake unique, field-based research that is so critical to the area of energy and environmental policy, this opportunity also presents a chance to build networks globally, use knowledge in service and generate potential opportunities for students and the UD community to engage, learn, and explore our world.
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