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    CARICOM To Enter Environmental Policy Arena

    By Keith R | June 11, 2008

    Topics: Environmental Protection | No Comments »

          
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    One of the downsides of being so long away from regular blogging is the tremendous backlog of things I wish to cover. This is one. The meeting referred to in the press release below happened in the latter half of April, but given its potential significance, I still wish to highlight and discuss it even though I’m tardy in doing so.

    The collective Environment Ministers of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) recently agreed on a mandate not only for a full-fledged work program on environmental protection, but also for a CARICOM agreement on it to be known as the Environmental and Natural Resource Policy Framework (CENRPF). The CENRPF is to be ready for debate and approval within 12 months.

    So what, you may ask. CARICOM is not exactly a stranger to environment issues. After all, it helped launch both the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI) and the Caribbean Climate Change Centre (CCCC), it worked with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the German technical cooperation agency GTZ on the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Project (CREDP), and it helped organize the Caribbean bio-energy initiative. True, but the first two were essentially spin-offs (so that CARICOM did not take on these functions directly), and in the fourth CARICOM played a supportive role to the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) lead.

    This is different. This would not only give CARICOM a broad and ongoing role in environmental policy, it could create a regional accord that would guide national environmental policy among its members. There is a precedent (beyond trade law harmonization, of course): Part VI (Consumer Protection) of Protocol VIII of the Treaty Creating CARICOM, which is shaping consumer law among the CARICOM member states.

    In the environmental law/policy field, the impact might be even more profound. Among CARICOM members, only four (Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Suriname) have (minor) constitutional provisions on the environment, several still do not have a framework environment law, and among those that do, most have only basic and/or skeletal ones.

    Why the enhanced role for CARICOM in the environment field? My (educated) guess is that the answer lies with the press release line saying that Ministers agreed on the step “after expressing concerns that Member States were adopting individual responses to environmental problems which were not yielding satisfactory results.” The concern, I strongly suspect, is that their individual efforts of small (in some cases, micro) nations will not suffice, that they need to band together. I also suspect that, as with many member states in the European Union (EU) have found (and some told me privately off-the-record back when I worked on EU issues), it is sometimes easier to get national legislation adopted in a field like environmental protection if you tell your constituents and political opposition that it is necessary to do so as part of your nation’s international commitments.

    My principal concern about this new step is not that they are taking it, but what they might do with it. The CENRPF has to be meaningful, flexible, not too difficult to implement and enforceable — a difficult balance to strike in any forum. It makes me a bit uncomfortable that the CARICOM meeting cited the OECS’ St. George’s Declaration as one of their possible source documents. That Declaration is fine as a collection of general principles on environmental management, but it has left much to be desired in terms of a concrete instrument with a significant, verifiable impact on either policy or practice.

    ________________________

    From the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM):

    COMMUNITY APPROACH TOWARDS ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT

    Ministers of the Environment have given the green light for a Community approach to tackle environmental and natural resource management and have mandated the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat to coordinate consultations with national and regional stakeholders to develop the proposed CARICOM Environment and Natural Resource Policy Framework (CENRPF).

    The Secretariat is also to mobilize resources to develop the Draft Community Policy for approval and develop the first communication on the CENRPF to Member States within 12 months.

    Agreement on the community approach was one of the major outcomes of the Twenty-Fifth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on the Environment which concluded Friday, 18 April, at the Guyana International Convention Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, Guyana.

    The Ministers on Thursday agreed that the St. George’s Declaration should be considered in the formulation of the CENRPF and emphasized the importance of ensuring that the proposed Framework was consistent with existing and emerging sector and other specific frameworks being developed in the Region. The St. George’s Declaration Of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is a guide for undertaking management of their environment, individually and collectively. The commitment to the guide was made after recognition and acknowledgement that environmentally sustainable development is essential for the creation of jobs, a stable society, a healthy economy and the natural systems on which this depends.

    Regional officials had earlier called for the community approach after expressing concerns that Member States were adopting individual responses to environmental problems which were not yielding satisfactory results.

    In the area of energy, the Meeting endorsed a CARICOM Secretariat proposal to the United Nations Development Programme for the extension of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Project (CREDP) for another year. The project was scheduled to end on 26 April 2008. The endorsement was made after the Ministers acknowledged the progress CREDP had made in the development of capacity building for renewable energy in the Region.

    The Secretariat is to undertake an independent review of the CREDP to assess its achievements and shortcomings, and ensure that in the implementation of its energy work programme, CREFP’s achievements are built upon.

    With regard to agro-energy, the Secretariat now has a mandate to conduct a regional assessment of the renewable energy, including the bio fuels potential of CARICOM. After urging Member States to assess their own national situations on the way forward on national bio fuel policies, the Meeting mandated the Secretariat to provide support to Member States which have agro-energy potential to further develop the capacity to exploit that potential.

    On the fringes of the Meeting were an exhibition at the GICC which focused on the myriad aspects of the environment, and the launching of the quarterly journal `The Caribbean Environment’ at the Red House, Georgetown. Among the agencies that participated in the exhibition mounted by the Secretariat were the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), World Wild Life Fund (WWF) (Guianas), Conservation International (CI), Iwokrama, Liana Cane Manufacturers, Ministry of Agriculture, and North West Organics.

    In addition to Member States, attendees at the COTED Meeting include representatives of organizations including the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI), the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation (CMO), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNECLAC, the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

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