Region prepares for oil spill effects

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says it has put measures in place to combat the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, should some countries become directly affected by it.

Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, says preparations include laying a legal claim. He made the revelation at the closing press conference for the 31st Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government last week.

The oil spill began with an explosion on April 20 and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, leased by BP. Oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a ruptured undersea well ever since.

“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. There are certain technical measures that we have identified we would need to put in 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,” said Golding.

Golding announced that CARICOM is also being assisted by the United Nations in putting arrangements in place to make a claim, should it become necessary.

The oil spill was among the priority environmental issues that the Heads discussed, along with those related to climate change.

Golding said the leaders also recorded their disappointment about the failure of the December 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen to achieve necessary consensus on mitigation measures and emission caps.

Golding said the Heads were seeking to bring together the strength of CARICOM, particularly with the efforts of St. Lucia Prime Minister 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”.

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.

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