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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has put in place a number of measures to tackle the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, should some countries become directly affected by it.
This involves laying a legal claim, Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Hon. Bruce Golding told a closing press conference on the final day (July 7) of the 31st Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government at the Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St. James.
The oil spill began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.
“Our taxpayers cannot be asked to pick up the cost of cleaning up the neglect, negligence, or recklessness of multi-national companies…we believe that there are some legal rights that we must claim, and we are positioning ourselves in the event that we have to take those steps that we can do so,” Mr. Golding outlined.
“There are certain technical measures that we have identified we would need to put it place, but what we want to make sure is that we identify who is going to pay for it. I don’t think it would be fair to the government of the Bahamas who are the most exposed, but then you have Turks and Caicos that are not far away, and Haiti that could also be affected.I don’t think it would be fair for them to have to find fiscal space now to accommodate something that they have no cause in creating,” Mr. Golding continued.
He disclosed that in regards to putting in place arrangements to make a claim should it become necessary, CARICOM is also being assisted by the United Nations. “Jamaica has indicated to the Bahamas that we are prepared to (provide) our own technical capability through the National Environment and Planning Agency, and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, to help them,” Mr. Golding informed.
The oil spill was among the priority environmental issues that the Heads discussed, along with those related to climate change. “We recorded our disappointment on what we regard to be the failure of Copenhagen to achieve what we thought what a necessary consensus on mitigation measures (and) emission caps,” Mr. Golding said.
He added that the Heads were seeking to bring together the strength of the CARICOM, particularly with the efforts of St. Lucian Prime Minister, Hon. Stephenson King, who has lead responsibility on climate change issues, “to see how we can combine those efforts to have a stronger voice, and to make that voice heard to secure some acknowledgement of the peculiar vulnerability of our states”.
Mr. Golding said CARICOM had agreed on a number of initiatives in order to make this case before going to the next summit on climate change in Mexico later this year. “We don’t expect to reach an agreement there, but we hope to advance that cause further, and hope that next year, we are able to convince the powerful countries that small island states have to be saved,” the CARICOM Chairman said.