Archive | December, 2015

Leading Environmental Lawyer, Consultant Warns ‘Climate Change Granddaddy of all Risks,’ Urges ‘Radical action before it is too late’

Romi Ferreira, leading environmental lawyer, consultant and a director of environmental movement Save The Bays served as moderator for the intensive one-day Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Energy Sector Security Forum at the British Colonial Hilton. (Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry.)

Romi Ferreira, leading environmental lawyer, consultant and a director of environmental movement Save The Bays served as moderator for the intensive one-day Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Energy Sector Security Forum at the British Colonial Hilton. (Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry.)

With The Bahamas recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet to face dire consequences from rising seas that could swallow up to 80% of the land mass of the islands by the end of the century, a leading environmental consultant and attorney is calling for ‘immediate radical action’ to stem the tide of climate change.

“We no longer have the luxury of talking about the environment as if it is something to worry about in the future,” said Romi Ferreira, a regional expert and a director of environmental movement Save The Bays. “At the current rate of sea level rise, we stand to lose 80% of our country. And our leaders don’t get it. They are just paying lip service to it, talking about climate change while letting BEC continue to burn fossil fuels and allowing wetlands to be destroyed and disappear.”

An impassioned Ferreira, who worked in the energy sector for more than a decade prior to studying law, is taking his academic background, legal expertise and his wake-up call about the harsh realities of climate change to venues from talk radio to business forums. As moderator for the intensive one-day Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Energy Sector Security Forum at the British Colonial Hilton last week, he urged incentivizing renewables, including solar power, to replace fossil fuels at levels greater than the 30% named in pending legislation. And he noted that many of the Family Islands can be self-generating with renewables including solar, totally eliminating the need and expense of being supplied by the BEC plant at Clifton which the Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis acknowledged at the same forum had been polluting Clifton Bay for 40 years.

On a recent radio show, Ferreira said nothing posed as much danger to the future of The Bahamas as the threat of climate change, a gradual warming of the seas that causes ice caps to melt and the sea to rise, creating fewer but far more powerful hurricanes that can form in the middle of the ocean and barrel toward populated areas with little warning, harm marine and wildlife, cause surges and if unchecked, lead to flooding and the swallowing of islands.

“Climate change is the granddaddy of all risks,” Ferreira told listeners to Let’s Talk Live with host Carlton Smith on November 27.

“The UN cites our country as one that has the most to lose – that’s 80% of our land mass,” he said, noting that despite warning signs rushing at The Bahamas fast and furiously, little has changed. BEC continues to burn fossil fuels using, he said, more than 60% of its revenue for purchasing those fuels while it continues to distribute to small settlements in islands like Acklins and Andros that could easily be self-sustaining with renewables.

“The way we prepare for hurricanes has also not changed,” he told the radio audience. “The reasons we have not seen that type of change is there has not been a generational change in leadership.”

Lack of action, Ferreira said, will result in a Bahamas for our grandchildren that looks very little like the Bahamas we know today. But action takes new and courageous leadership, he believes, that looks at old problems with new eyes and is not afraid of change.

“There must now appear a group of Bahamians who are prepared to challenge the status quo. In the last 60 years, there has been little change in the governance of The Bahamas,” he said. “This is that pivotal moment in our evolution, true change must be a matter of the heart. The leadership must want to see the people prosper. Climate change is real. We must take radical action now before it is too late.”

As a director of Save The Bays, Ferreira is part of a legal team that continues to hold government accountable for actions impacting the environment and transparency. The organization with nearly 9,000 Facebook friends and followers has called for a strong Freedom of Information Act, an end to unregulated development, accountability for oil pollution and has said repeatedly that it welcomes development that is done in an environmentally conscious manner.

Louis Bacon’s Moore Bahamas Foundation Announces Major Donation to BREEF for Re-supplying Schools in the Southern Bahamas

Moore Charitable Foundation Founder Louis Bacon Official Photo

Louis Bacon’s Moore Bahamas Foundation announced today that a substantial share of its $250,000 commitment to the islands of the southern Bahamas devastated by Hurricane Joaquin would go to helping children and teachers return to the classroom and begin to regain a sense of normalcy by supporting the replacement of destroyed school supplies.

“In the weeks following the hurricane, it became apparent that to regain any sense of normalcy it was critical to get children back into classrooms,” said Bacon. “While the Government of The Bahamas was and is doing all it can, one of our long-time partners in the conservation movement, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), proposed assisting officials by providing chests of supplies and we are very proud to support them in this effort.”

The Foundation will award $50,000 to BREEF to re-equip students with individual supplies and re-stock classrooms in Acklins, Crooked Island, San Salvador, Long Island and Rum Cay with collateral including marine-related posters, books and information intrinsically linked with lives on islands where fishing and the surrounding waters are critical to livelihood and at the core of the island culture.

Some schools were totally destroyed, others suffered roof damage or windows blown out. Even in school buildings still standing and in need of basic repairs, almost all equipment was flooded or washed away.

Casuarina McKinney-Lambert

“There are approximately 125 teachers in 19 schools on the affected islands,” said BREEF’s Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert. “Most schools need to replace all supplies and other educational content, particularly related to marine conservation. BREEF has had a long-standing relationship with teachers and schools in these island and previous grants from The Moore Bahamas Foundation in support of BREEF’s Field Education Programme have contributed to providing supplies and resources to these special remote communities over the years. Due to the hurricane, many of these supplied and educational resources have been completely destroyed and we propose to assist with replacing them to get the schools and communities back on their feet.”

The contribution to BREEF follows last week’s announcement of a $120,000 grant to the Rotary Clubs of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation for REBUILD BAHAMAS, a long-term project for the restoration of commerce and provision of clean drinking water.

Announcement of the final recipient of the $250,000 pledged by the Foundation is expected to be made within the week.

Local environmentalists at Paris climate change talks

Attendees at last year’s COP in Lima, Peru. This year’s Bahamas delegation to Paris includes local environmentalists Darville and Haley-Benjamin, along with Minister of Environment Kenred Dorsett and other experts and officials. Participants will seek solutions to one of the biggest threats currently facing small-island developing states like The Bahamas.

Attendees at last year’s COP in Lima, Peru. This year’s Bahamas delegation to Paris includes local environmentalists Darville and Haley-Benjamin, along with Minister of Environment Kenred Dorsett and other experts and officials. Participants will seek solutions to one of the biggest threats currently facing small-island developing states like The Bahamas.

Representatives of Bahamas NGO join top international scientists and conservationists at historic summit in the French capital

  

Representatives of Waterkeeper Alliance Bahamas have arrived in Paris, France, where over the next several days they will participate in a key global summit on the threats posed by climate change.

Joseph Darville and Vanessa Haley-Benjamin are part of the Bahamas delegation to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), Conference of the Parties (COP) 21. The summit will see world leaders come together to chart the course for a global response to the continuing rise in temperatures and sea levels.

“This country, like many small island developing states, is extremely vulnerable to the dangers of climate change because of its low-lying geography and tourism dependence,” said Darville. “We must make it a national priority to work with the rest of the world to find solutions before it is too late.”

COP21 is the second international meeting on climate change attended by the pair in recent months as they work to help educate and engage Bahamians on the realities of this enormous threat to the geographical, social and economic fabric of the country.

In October, Darville and Haley-Benjamin attended a high level training workshop in Miami led by former U.S. vice president Al Gore. The Climate Reality Leadership Training Corps gathered scientists, conservationists and climate experts from around the world to discuss the way forward.

“The relevance of such events to The Bahamas was tragically heightened following the passage of the devastating category-four Hurricane Joaquin,” Darville pointed out.

“Climate change threatens our continued existence as a country and a people. As a small island developing state (SID), The Bahamas is uniquely vulnerable to the risks that climate change will create, such as intensified hurricanes and rising sea levels, as was recently demonstrated in the southern Bahamas with such tragic consequences.”

Haley-Benjamin said: “The Bahamas must begin taking mitigating action now if we hope to reduce the impending threat climate change poses to everything from our tourism sector to basic necessities such as our fresh water supply.

Darville and Haley-Benjamin at a high profile climate change event in Miami in October

Darville and Haley-Benjamin at a high profile climate change event in Miami in October

“A key to this will be building resilient communities across our archipelago of islands. Uncertainty is an inherent part of the climate change problem; we cannot know when and in what form severe challenges will arrive. Therefore, we as a country must develop locally-led response strategies as well as plans to deal with long-term effects.”

A first in over 20 years of UN negotiations on climate change, COP21 aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. It is one of the largest international conferences ever held in France and has attracted nearly 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

“Waterkeeper Alliance Bahamas is part of a global network dedicated to protecting the planet’s waterways from pollution and degradation,” Haley-Benjamin said. “The manmade threats to our coastal resources also lead to accelerated temperature change and higher sea levels. As such, we believe our organization has a great deal to offer The Bahamas as it works to do its part in mitigating the effects of what the United Nations has called one of the most serious threats to life and livelihood facing the world.”

Save The Bays Declares: ‘We don’t want war, we want peace. Issues are much greater than Nygard but offer has to be legitimate’

FRED SMITH ON ISSUES OF THE DAY WITH WENDELL JONES

Declaring ‘we don’t want war, we want peace,’ Save The Bays director of legal affairs Fred Smith, QC said today the hundreds-strong environmental group would be willing to talk with fashion mogul Peter Nygard to end battles over land and marine environmental issues “if and only if he abides by the law.”

Smith’s comments came during a sometimes fiery hour on the midday talk show, Issues of the Day, with host Wendell Jones on Love 97.5. Several times during the show, the heated debate turned to what is often mistaken for a personal battle between neighbours, the successful designer Nygard and Louis Bacon, a decorated conservationist who is one of several well-known directors of Save The Bays, an organization that has nearly 9,000 Facebook fans and hundreds of members.

Smith repeatedly brought the talk back to the issues of unregulated development and government accountability, especially at the executive level.

“I don’t want war. Save the Bays doesn’t want war. Save The Bays wants peace,” said Smith. “The issues are much greater than Mr. Nygard but the offer has to be legitimate. Save The Bays only wants government and an international investor to abide by the law.”

The show was sparked by a November 30 surprise proposal by Nygard offering to settle with all parties and offer financial assistance in exchange for all legal actions against him being dropped. The proposal, published in local papers, drew a response the following day by Save The Bays.

“As 2015 draws to a close and we approach the holiday season,” the Nygard letter said, “let us bring this fighting to an end and reach a global resolution under which Mr. Bacon and I will each contribute a significant and mutually agreed upon sum of money to aid the disadvantaged and better the islands. In this spirit, I am writing to invite all of you and/or your representatives to participate in a settlement conference to explore a resolution to all outstanding disputes, including legal actions, to take place as soon as possible in Nassau or wherever is most convenient.”

Smith used the popular radio medium to accept the invitation with conditions – among them, that Nygard return the land to the condition it was when he purchased the property known as Simms Point in the mid-1980s and as he was instructed to do by the former FNM government. Save The Bays has alleged that Nygard violated the law for decades, acting without permits and exceeding permits that were granted, doubling the size of his property by illegally dredging Crown Land, building structures on illegally gained property and negatively affecting the marine environment and coastline, including Clifton Heritage Park and Jaws Beach. The Supreme Court has granted Save The Bays the right to proceed with the judicial review.

But that is far from the only legal action Save the Bays is engaged in and Smith invited Nygard to join the fight against pollution.

“Again, I extend an invitation to Mr. Nygard to join as a co-applicant and help fund the judicial review against BEC,” said Smith, referring to a legal action filed by Save The Bays against BEC for allegedly polluting Clifton Bay where local and visiting swimmers and divers have photographed massive oil slicks and it is believed that oil is seeping into the water daily.

“The real issue is whether the extension of the olive branch is legitimate and whether or not Mr. Nygard is being hypocritical in the offer,” said Smith. “Our beef is not with Mr. Nygard and it is not with development. Save The Bays is not opposed to regulated, lawful development. We applaud it. Our beef is with government. The only reason Mr. Nygard is involved is because he is involved in one judicial review.” And Smith reminded the radio audience that Nygard was invited to an all party meeting in June, but declined to show

16 Graduate from Save The Bays International YEA Leadership Training Program

Solid Success, Thumbs up – 16 Bahamians graduated last week from an intensive and  unique course combining environmental information with leadership training by the  internationally acclaimed Centre for Creative Leadership. It was the second time the program  preparing facilitators for the Grand Bahama arm of the Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA)  was made possible in part by a grant from RBC. The popular YEA program is operated by  environmental movement Save The Bays. Pictured in front row with graduates are Save The  Bays Chairman, educator Joseph Darville (far left), and CEO Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, M.Sc.  Lead facilitator  Rashema Ingraham is pictured 2nd row, far right.

Solid Success, Thumbs up – 16 Bahamians graduated last week from an intensive and
unique course combining environmental information with leadership training by the
internationally acclaimed Centre for Creative Leadership. It was the second time the program
preparing facilitators for the Grand Bahama arm of the Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA)
was made possible in part by a grant from RBC. The popular YEA program is operated by
environmental movement Save The Bays. Pictured in front row with graduates are Save The
Bays Chairman, educator Joseph Darville (far left), and CEO Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, M.Sc.
Lead facilitator Rashema Ingraham is pictured 2nd row, far right.

On the eve of the opening of the largest gathering ever assembled for an environmental conference, the Paris conference on climate change, 16 Bahamians joined the ranks of those equipped to teach leadership and the environment. They are the graduates of this year’s Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA) training, a cooperative effort between the growing local environmental movement Save The Bays and the internationally acclaimed Center for Creative Leadership, Financial Times Top Five Worldwide in Executive Education. The training sessions were made possible in part by a grant from RBC to Save The Bays.

“These are critical times in the life of this nation and its people, especially the young,” said Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville. “It is based upon that realization that we have developed this model that allows us to work with internationally renowned experts instilling in these very special young people knowledge about critical ecosystems and the kind of personal development that will pave the way for them to serve in leadership roles going forward.”

The newly-minted graduates who underwent intensive leadership skills training will not have to wait long to test their strengths.

From mid-January to May, they will lead up to 40 junior high school students in Grand Bahama on semi-monthly environmental education sessions delving into sensitive and sometimes threatened ecosystems. The program, which includes immersion in six ecosystems, moves from the classroom to the field and has led students in past years to places as diverse as the expected like coral reefs to the unexpected, including the Grand Bahama Power Company and the Grand Bahama Shipyard to better understand the industrial pressures on fragile environments and what measures are being implemented to mitigate against those pressures.

Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville congratulates Natasha Turnquest for earning  certification as a facilitator in the popular Youth Environment Ambassadors program that  combines environmental experiences in six ecosystems with leadership skills development.  Turnquest was one of 16 who graduated following an intensive course in Grand Bahama.

Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville congratulates Natasha Turnquest for earning
certification as a facilitator in the popular Youth Environment Ambassadors program that
combines environmental experiences in six ecosystems with leadership skills development.
Turnquest was one of 16 who graduated following an intensive course in Grand Bahama.

This will be the third session of the YEA program operated by Save The Bays. The first session was so popular that nearly twice as many students ages 12-14 showed up to register as the program could handle. Save The Bays is hoping to extend YEA to Nassau and at least two Family Islands in the coming years.

“As awareness of the importance of the environment builds and becomes a part of the national conversation in a country so vulnerable to climate change and other influences that can change our way of living and threaten our very survival, I believe one of the most valuable roles Save The Bays can play is to enable the training of persons who will become dynamic leadership stewards for our future.”

Since its launch in April 2013, Save The Bays has grown with its Facebook page attracting nearly 9,000 friends and fans and a petition to government urging comprehensive environmental legislation and an end to unregulated development gaining close to 5,000 signatures. Its voice in bringing attention to matters like oil pollution in Clifton Bay has rung out in the highest offices with Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett, now a delegate at the Paris conference, last week decrying the fuel he said was leaking daily from BEC into Clifton Bay.

Re: Mr. Peter Nygard’s letter dated 30 November 2015

As you are aware we act for the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay, also known as Save The Bays, in the judicial review proceedings that are currently before the Supreme Court.   We write in relation to Mr Nygard’s letter dated 30 November 2015 which purports to suggest a settlement process involving, inter alia, a dismissal of all litigation; agreement on a ‘solution’ for Nygard Cay; and envisaging financial contributions to aid the less fortunate in The Bahamas and to clean up oil and industrial pollution at Clifton Point.

 

Save The Bays is a non-profit, charitable organisation incorporated for the purpose of taking action to preserve and protect the Bahamian environment through policy change, education, advocacy and legal action.   The Supreme Court has recognised that Save The Bays is acting in the public interest in this respect in giving it permission to bring these proceedings.   The directors of Save The Bays have the authority to compromise these proceedings if doing so would further or achieve these public interest goals. Clearly it is not in Save The Bays’ interests to continue to pursue litigation unless it is necessary in order to fulfil the public interest goals of preserving and protecting the Bahamian environment. These are the parameters within which our client operates.

 

The short answer to Mr Nygard’s letter is therefore that Save The Bays will welcome any settlement proposal on his behalf that involves the following:

 

  • A commitment to give up his claim to the Crown land that he has illegally reclaimed from the sea by his unauthorised activities;

 

  • A commitment to cease and desist from further illegal dredging and land reclamation activities;

 

  • A commitment to return Nygard Cay to the condition it was in before he carried out his illegal development activities (such restitution would need to be completed without causing further environmental degradation and would require an environmental impact assessment and the agreement to fully comply with its recommendations as part of any settlement).

 

The type of ‘settlement’ that Mr Nygard’s letter appears to envisage however is problematic in a number of respects:

 

  1. Mr Nygard’s letter treats the litigation as a private dispute between two entities who can just agree to bury their differences.  In fact the litigation is between an environmental group and the government the subject matter of which is Mr Nygard’s activities at Simms Point.  The legal proceedings Save the Bays has brought are brought in the public interest and against Government agencies not against Mr Nygard (who was joined only for the purposes of the interim injunction). They are brought to address a wrong, namely, government failure to enforce against Mr Nygard the legislation and regulations in place in The Bahamas to protect the environment and regulate development.

 

  1. A settlement that brushes this wrong under the carpet and does not insist on the government fulfilling its various statutory duties and acknowledging that they have been breached will mean that the government can continue to ignore the law in this area and allow its funders and friends to flaunt it.

 

  1. Mr Nygard’s letter also suggests that as the litigation has “taken on a life of its own and could last for years to come” it should be brought to an end. However, it is the actions of Mr Nygard and those who work for him that have caused the delays and substantially complicated otherwise straightforward legal actions. Mr Nygard cannot now try to use these issues, which he is responsible for creating, to try to justify that the litigation be brought to an end without him taking any action to remedy his illegal dredging and land reclamation that are the basis of the legal actions.

 

  1. The attempt in Mr Nygard’s letter to link his own illegal development activities at Nygard Cay (and the litigation that has arisen as a result of it) with entirely unrelated pressing environmental issues and poverty in The Bahamas is disingenuous and disappointing.   Mr Nygard is proposing that he can make this public interest litigation go away by making financial contributions to other worthy causes whilst he retains illegally reclaimed crown land that rightfully belongs to the Bahamian people.

 

Mr Nygard has not explained why he cannot both make those contributions and remedy his illegal activities given that the two matters are completely unrelated. If Mr Nygard genuinely cares about poverty and environmental degradation in The Bahamas and wishes peace and goodwill to prevail, there is nothing to prevent him from making these financial contributions right away AND making the commitments set out above to cease his illegal activities and repair the substantial environmental damage he has caused .

 

  1. Save The Bays, itself a charity, is already making its own contribution in these areas (for example, it has today filed a judicial review application against BEC and the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Prime Minister and others in relation to the ongoing oil pollution at Clifton Pier) and does not need to compromise on its public interest objectives and principles (with regard to Mr Nygard’s activities) in order to continue to do so. If Mr Nygard wishes to support the action being taken to protect the Clifton area he can donate to Save The Bay’s charitable work in this area and we can assure him that it will be directed at the Clifton Pier oil pollution issue and not at the issues of environmental destruction at Nygard Cay.

 

If Mr Nygard wishes to make a serious proposal with regard to how he can rectify and mitigate the substantial environmental damage caused by his illegal activities, Save The Bays will give such a proposal all proper consideration. We trust that you will ensure that any such proposal and indeed all future correspondence in relation to these proceedings (whether or not settlement related) is conducted between counsel on the record for the relevant parties as is the proper practice.

 

Save The Bays reserves all its rights and this letter is without prejudice to any of Save The Bays’ actions.

 

 

Kind regards

CALLENDERS & CO.

 

 

Frederick R. M. Smith, QC

 

 

 

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