Last Chance! Concerned Bahamians call upon PM Davis to be “brave” in confronting the climate crisis and to reevaluate plans for Disney Cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point

There has been a lot of discussion on social media regarding political leaders who make grand speeches at the ongoing Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), while on the ground actions at home seem to belie their comments. This does not only apply to the developed countries, who are by far the most responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps surprisingly, these criticisms are being leveled at a number of developing countries, including some small Caribbean nations like Jamaica – and, in this case the vulnerable islands of the Bahamas (which suffered the devastating Hurricane Dorian in 2019). You would think they would know better, as countries literally on the frontline. But what are they doing at home to mitigate the impacts of climate change on their own countries? Mining? New tourism developments?

Our coastal areas (including our coral reefs) are particularly vulnerable to climate change; they are also home to migratory birds and nurseries to fish and marine life. We wring our hands over our disappearing beaches (for example, Hellshire in Jamaica, although some of that erosion was due to human activities on the now essentially defunct beach). And yet, we are demolishing our protective mangrove forests in western Jamaica to build a mega-hotel and casino; and here, in the Bahamas – why not a brand new cruise ship port to boost the tourism coffers?

It seems that some Caribbean islands are in a great hurry to sacrifice their environment in a kind of post-COVID, mass-market frenzy, seeking to make up for time lost during the pandemic. What a tragedy.

According to Birding Around the World” travel blog, Lighthouse Point is a wintering ground for the migratory Kirtland’s Warbler, which is “arguably the rarest warbler in the world with only about 3,600 individuals in the wild.” (Photo: Henry’s Birding/Travel Blog)

This press statement dated October 28, 2021 is a desperate last-minute plea from campaigners in the Bahamas, just ahead of COP26, to stop a cruise ship port and development at Lighthouse Point on the island of Eleuthera. This link gives you drone footage of this exquisitely beautiful area.

You can find the Bahamian Prime Minister’s speech at COP26 here. “Action requires courage,” said the Bahamas’ very new Prime Minister Philip Davis (who was elected on September 17, 2021) on November 2 at COP26. He also talks about rebuilding for resilience. A good speech, but… is opening up this fragile, pristine marine environment for the development of a cruise ship pier the right kind of action?

If “action requires courage,” campaigners are asking the Prime Minister (whose government only gave citizens 14 days to respond to a very long, technical document earlier this month) to “be brave and be the true leader we and the world need to deal with the climate crisis.”

Please, judge for yourself. And please do sign the petition, which I have been circulating. Please do it today! The matter is urgent.

The pristine coastal landscape at Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera, Bahamas.

The Stop Disney: Last Chance for Lighthouse Point campaign is issuing this sobering public statement in anticipation of the Prime Minister’s travel to Glasgow next week to join with other world leaders at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26).

We expect that Prime Minister Davis will again call climate change “a clear and present danger” to The Bahamas. He may say again that The Bahamas cannot survive the “new normal” of climate-charged hurricanes like Dorian. He may issue the same warning he did at UN General Assembly on September 25th: We are here to say that big and radical change is the only response that can save our country. We are out of time.

These are powerful words, but they may be rendered meaningless by the actions of the government’s own action. The Davis Government appears to be continuing the last Government’s rush to grant environmental approvals for the highly-controversial Disney cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point on Eleuthera. The new Minister of the Environment Vaughn Miller has not yet responded to our September 27 letter asking for a reevaluation of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which, among its many serious flaws, ignored and downplayed the climate risks and impacts.

The Bahamas is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to sea-level rise. Yet Disney’s EIA does not does not include any analyses of the potential impacts of the resulting more severe flooding driven by more powerful hurricanes.

A key tool to make the oceans more resilient to climate change are Marine Protected Areas (MPA). The last Government declared the 18,000 acres of the biologically rich seas around Lighthouse Point an MPA this summer. The Davis Government should now determine if in fact the proposed construction of a cruise port and facilities which could draw up to one million visitors a year is compatible with the designation as a supposedly protected area. The Davis Government must also insist that Disney accounts for all of its carbon emissions and to consider alternatives that could reduce emissions while providing more jobs and economic opportunities for Bahamians.

Our September 27th letter recalls the strong criticisms of the Disney deal by PM Brave Davis, Minister Glenys Hanna Martin, and Minister Chester Cooper. Other Davis Government Ministers including Obie Wichcombe and Alfred Sears raised concerns about the Disney project when they were in opposition. The fundamental questions they raised about whether this is a good deal for the Bahamas have not been answered. They must insist that these questions be answered and the secrecy around Disney’s plans they decried while in opposition is no more.

The press has reported that the Davis Government would be undertaking a review of pending investment projects, but there has been no information from the Government about the process to be followed nor the results of such reviews to date. We ask that the Government involve all concerned stakeholders, including our Campaign partners, in this review process.

Assuming the Government was “pausing” approvals of such projects, we were disappointed, and indeed shocked, to see the October 15th public notice from the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) of the availability of Disney’s Environmental Management Plan for the proposed construction of its half-mile long cruise ship pier and on-shore facilities. The public was given just 14 days to file comments on this highly technical 400+page document.

This is business-as-usual, not the “ big radical change” the Prime Minister said was needed. PM Davis can choose NOT to ram through approval of the cruise port project. He can pause the DEPP review and declare instead that his Government will carefully consider the climate risks and other major concerns about the proposed project that have been brought forward by the Campaign on behalf of some 450,000 Bahamians and the people worldwide.

It is not too late for Prime Minister Davis to change course at Lighthouse Point and announce a full re-evaluation of the Disney deal with meaningful engagement of the public. Prime Minister Davis then can go to Glasgow with one signal that The Bahamas is taking action to deal with the “new normal” of climate change and a worthy recepient for international finance and support. PM Davis, be brave and be the true leader we and the world need to deal with the climate crisis.

Stop Disney: Last Chance for Lighthouse Point is a campaign undertaken by leading Bahamian organizations – BREEF, reEarth, Save the Bays, and Waterkeepers Bahamas and their international partners – Waterkeeper Alliance and Friends of the Earth US. For more information and quotes, please contact: Sam Duncombe, reEarth, +1 (242) 445-7807 Joseph Darville, Save the Bays, +1 (242) 727-0212 Rashema Ingraham, Waterkeepers Bahamas, +1 (242) 373-7558 Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF, +1 (242) 327-9000

Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera, Bahamas, is threatened by a planned Disney cruise ship port.

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