Statement of Support for the Enactment of the Cayman Islands National Conservation Bill 2013
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The introduction of comprehensive environmental legislation is long overdue. The Government and people of the Cayman Islands owe it to current and future generations to enact this meaningful legislation that will contribute to a sustainable and prosperous future for all.
Cayman’s quality of life for its people and its visitors is greatly enhanced by our unique and beautiful natural surroundings. These surroundings are currently highly at risk due to a severe lack of legal protective measures. This current absence of environmental protection devalues Cayman as a jurisdiction for tourism and development.
The National Conservation Bill (NCB) was developed over 10 years ago to address major gaps in our environmental protection legislation and ensure that Cayman’s future development was sustainable. Cayman’s existing environmental legislation is basic and inadequate. We were recently ranked poorest amongst the British Overseas Territories for environmental legislation. The introduction of the National Conservation Bill would simply bring us up to an acceptable global standard for development and environmental legislation and enhance our image as a sophisticated modern business-friendly jurisdiction. The NCB has been carefully refined over the last decade to take account of the intricacies of Cayman’s economy and culture and development and land ownership interests. In providing the legal framework to protect Cayman’s unique biodiversity, the National Conservation Bill ultimately protects the people of the Cayman Islands and their economic interests.
‘The proposed National Conservation Law is not about valuing plants and animals above people, it is about recognizing that human life is wholly dependent upon a functional environment: the interests of one cannot be protected without protecting the other.’ – DoE Cayman
The National Conservation Bill (NCB) 2013 in summary:
1. The NCB introduces the legal framework to create a national system of protected areas. It creates a mechanism for Crown land to be designated a Protected Area, subject to public consultation and Cabinet approval (Part II). Additionally, private landowners of environmentally significant land may voluntarily enter in to an agreement with Cabinet to have their land designated a Conservation Area (Section 13 & 14) whereby they agree to their land being protected, while retaining ownership, and with the possibility of payment in exchange for the conservation of their land.
No private land will be designated a protected area. There are no mechanisms within the law that will allow the Government to forcibly acquire private land. Once the NCL is enacted there will be opportunities for private landowners to sell their land to the Government for conservation purposes however this will be purely voluntary and is outside of the NCB.
2. The NCB lists threatened native and endemic plants and animal species that are to be protected (Section 15 & Schedule 1). Currently, there is no legal protection for most animal species and no protection for trees or plants in the Cayman Islands, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The National Conservation Council will be charged with developing conservation plans for each protected species including identifying the critical habitats for each species, and these again will be subject to public consultation and Cabinet approval (Section 17).
3. The NCB requires all government agencies, prior to taking a decision that will adversely impact the natural environment, to seek input from the National Conservation Council, and to take into account the likely environmental impacts of its decisions on the natural environment (Section 41.3). Where there is likely to be an adverse impact on Crown owned protected areas or areas designated as critical habitats for protected species, Government entities must seek the approval of the Council (41.4). Section 42 introduces a requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) to be undertaken for most large-scale developments that are likely to adversely impact the natural environment. However it should be noted that most small-scale development projects will not be required to undertake EIAs.
4. The NCB establishes a diverse and representative National Conservation Council to oversee the implementation of the provisions of the law (Section 3). The Council is largely consultative and most actions under the NCB require both public consultation and Cabinet approval. All decisions taken under the NCB can be appealed to Cabinet (Section 39).
5. The NCB formally establishes and provides the Department of Environment’s Conservation Officers with the necessary powers to carry out the provisions of the law (Part 6).
6. The NCB provides for the formal establishment of the eligible criteria and the appropriate disbursement mechanisms for the Environmental Protection Fund (Section 46).
7. The NCB fulfills Cayman’s obligations with respect to a number of international treaties that the country has agreed to over the last 30 years:
The Rio Convention on Biological Diversity from 1992;
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 2007;
The Ramsar Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands 1975;
The Specially Protected Areas & Wildlife protocol (1990) of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region (1986); and
The Convention on Migratory Species from 1985.
The National Conservation Bill 2013 can be viewed at: http://www.doe.ky/laws/national-conservation-law/
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