Conservation advocates urge government to endorse fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty

Conservation advocates urge government to endorse fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty

 NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Conservation advocates are calling on the government of The Bahamas to join Pacific Island nations, as well as Antigua and Barbuda, among other jurisdictions, international entities, and prominent individuals, in endorsing the groundbreaking initiative for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This petition comes as The Davis Administration is representing the country at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference (COP28), beginning this week in Dubai. OIOF’s Chris Wilke and Rashema Ingraham are attending as well. 

OIOF reiterated its praise for Prime Minister Davis’ statement two years ago following COP26 that he was “not minded” to allow oil drilling in Bahamian waters. The group urged Mr. Davis to announce his government’s endorsement of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative to the world before the end of COP28.

This global civil society initiative aims to stop fossil fuel exploration and expansion and urgently phase out existing production while supporting a just transition to renewable energy. Its objectives are in line with the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The treaty has been endorsed by the Vatican, the World Health Organization, the European Parliament, Nobel laureates, academics, researchers, activists, and a growing list of governments and individual lawmakers. Closer to home, Antigua and Barbuda is the first island nation in the region to endorse the treaty.

Our Islands, Our Future (OIOF), a grassroots coalition advocating for a permanent ban on oil exploration activities in The Bahamas, urges the Bahamas government to endorse the treaty and claim a place at the forefront of this progressive conservation movement. The Coalition maintains that this leadership is in the best interest of The Bahamas in countering the existential threat of climate change to our islands and waters.

“The Davis Administration has made several commendable commitments to environmental protection and resource conservation in the face of climate-driven threats to the local economy and our way of life,” noted Casuarina McKinney, Executive Director of BREEF, a founding member of OIOF. “It’s difficult to imagine a better way to solidify this dedication than by declaring support for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to protect our precious natural resources and preserve our coastal communities.”

Rashema Ingraham of Waterkeepers Bahamas, another OIOF founding member, said: “This treaty is crucial for the future of The Bahamas, a coastal nation where the various threats from oil exploration and extraction could have a catastrophic impact. We have already seen this with the terrible Equinor oil spill in Grand Bahama and the recent spill in Exuma. The country also dodged a serious bullet when a recent attempt to drill an offshore oil well failed. We call upon our government to do everything possible to ensure that such a situation never arises again.”

Chris Wilke of Waterkeeper Alliance, also an OIOF founding member, noted that the Treaty’s focus on renewable energy dovetails well with the government’s recent signing of an agreement with the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for the development of an Integrated Resource and Resilience Plan to aid in the efficient integration of renewable energy across the country.

“OIOF commends the Davis Administration for its Climate leadership and commitment to renewable energy goals,” he said. “We believe the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is the perfect next step, and we encourage the Government of The Bahamas to take its rightful place among world leaders in protecting global waterways and communities from climate disaster.”

OIOF says the agreement is in line with the government’s stated National Energy Policy targets, which include transitioning to non-oil and renewable energy, including sourcing 30 percent of its energy needs through renewables by 2030, providing financial incentives for household solar, and transitioning directly to solar on less populated islands.  

OIOF’s overarching aim in The Bahamas is to encourage the government to announce a permanent ban on all oil drilling within the jurisdiction. The coalition researched Bahamian law and published a Pathway Toward an Oil Drilling Ban in 2022, identifying a temporary moratorium and a permanent ban as the best pathway forward. This strategy calls for a moratorium to be declared immediately as part of ministerial policy, followed by a Parliamentary Act to codify the policy into law, making the policy permanent. OIOF cited similar moves in other countries, such as New Zealand, Costa Rica, Greenland, and Wales. Florida recently extended their moratorium on offshore oil drilling to protect their valuable tourism and fishing industries.