Dear Secretary General Patricia Scotland & Prime Minister Boris Johnson:
On behalf of our Bahamian-led Our Islands, Our Future coalition, we respectfully write to request your urgent assistance in protecting the sensitive and irreplaceable waters of The Bahamas and to help us prevent a dangerous ill-conceived offshore oil drilling project that would fuel global climate chaos for decades.
We are at a critical inflection point in this struggle and your assistance would be most valuable.
This exploratory drilling project by a British company is in its earliest stages and can still be stopped.
We are extremely heartened by the United Kingdom’s policy to divest national resources from fossil fuel extraction. Along these lines, we seek The Commonwealth’s counsel and hope it will exert any influence it has to assist The Bahamas in transitioning to a clean-energy future.
We hope that the Secretariat and all member countries will stand in solidarity with the thousands of Bahamians and global citizens to impress upon our national government that sound climate policy is incompatible with unleashing a new crude oil reserve of up to 1.4 billion barrels on the global climate.
As you know, The Bahamas is an island nation which faces some of the most immediate and severe impacts of sea level rise, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and intensifying super storms fueled by the climate crisis.
The active oil drilling project in The Bahamas today puts our entire nation, and indeed our entire economy, at risk. The Bahamian economy is inextricably tied to the sea.
More than 50 percent of our country’s GDP comes from tourism and fishing — our national treasure is in fact the allure of our pristine waters and the potential for sustainable ecotourism as we rebuild from the dual impacts of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.
However, if we go the route of oil drilling, we would simultaneously place ourselves at risk of a crippling oil spill disaster like Deep Water Horizon, and further secure a future as the unfortunate subject of the worst long-term effects of climate change.
The Bahamas is not prepared to respond to an oil spill disaster.
The Bahamas is not an oil-producing nation and our government is neither equipped to regulate this industry nor respond to a disaster.
We do not have the equipment or expertise to mount a response. We would be completely dependent on the goodwill of our neighbours and the responsiveness of the oil company that seeks to risk our economic, cultural and food security on a money-making scheme for foreign investors.
Commonwealth leadership is needed to stave enormous climate change impacts that would undermine the fragile progress under the Paris Accord.
Beyond the immediate realities of an oil spill, projects like this are also completely counter to our government’s own commitments to the Paris Climate Accord.
We deeply appreciate that commitment to The Commonwealth’s efforts to advocate “for international policies, mechanisms and rules to be more responsive to the development needs of Small Islands Developing States (SIDs) and other vulnerable countries.”
We encourage you to urgently discuss these matters with the government of The Bahamas.
Urgent action is needed as the oil drilling leases are up for renewal at the end of June 2021.
As with many fossil fuel exploration efforts in the history of The Commonwealth, the deals struck many years ago between the Bahamas Petroleum Company (registered in the
Isle of Man) and the government of The Bahamas, severely lacks in transparency and accountability to the citizens of The Bahamas.
As such, we request that The Commonwealth invoke its successful record of promoting good governance and transparency among member nations in assisting the government of The Bahamas to align their public statements opposing oil drilling (our prime minister has repeatedly stated that he is totally against oil drilling), with action against oil drilling.
We simply cannot allow an investor-driven company to run roughshod over the best interests of the Bahamian people.
Thank you for your careful consideration. We look forward to discussing a way forward on this matter of national and global importance.
Sincerely on behalf of Our Islands, Our Future,
Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation