The motion proposed by WWF France calling for a moratorium on oil drilling along the Guianas offshore region was adopted after votes came in overwhelmingly in its favour as the curtains start to come down on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea.

In terms of government votes 85 said yes to the motion, 17 said no, while 67 abstained. For NGO votes, 440 of them said yes, 19 said no and 82 abstained.

This newspaper asked Nicole Leotaud, a Caribbean member of IUCN and Executive Director of the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) what she thought the impact of this development would be and whether the passage of the motion had any teeth.

She responded, “No teeth as I understand, but could be used by NGOs to lobby for this, as it was recognised and called for by the biggest conservation organization in the world, with big support from governments and others.”

She continued, “As this was called for by the French stakeholders, I suspect that they will use this to help them lobby the Guyana government for a multi-country protected area.”

She said too that it may also mandate IUCN itself to help with lobby of the Guyana government.

Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud said recently that he was not too concerned by the motion, stating that Guyana will ensure that all environmental safeguards are in place. The motion cites the potential for oil drilling to have disastrous consequences for the environment.

He said Guyana will continue to drill in its national territory adhering to all international safeguards. He noted that the country’s most recent track record “is testimony to our commitment to drill in a manner that is environmentally-sound but attractive to the investors.”

The motion referred to the ecological fragility and the socioeconomic importance of the coastline of the Guianas; the place with the highest concentration of migrating and wintering waders in northern South America, and the fact that the beaches are sites of international importance for the laying of sea turtle eggs.

It said that the Guiana Shield is an area frequently visited by delphinids such as the common bottlenose dolphin and by certain cartilaginous fish such as the manta ray.

It stressed that the local population on the coasts of French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana depend directly on fishery resources.

The motion in its resolve clause calls on the governments of France, Suriname and Guyana to adopt a moratorium on deep-water oil extraction in the three countries in the Guiana Shield; strengthen the energy conservation policy and support for renewable energy sources, compatible with biodiversity conservation.

By Johann Earle

Stabroek news

Statements and opinions expressed in this article does not reflect the opinions of UNDP.