Minister for Community and Cultural Affairs Wayne Perinchief has said that BELCO’s plans for more ‘heavy-polluting generators’ is ‘the cheapest option it can get away with’. Photo by Ras Mykkal
Minister for Community and Cultural Affairs Wayne Perinchief has said that BELCO’s plans for more ‘heavy-polluting generators’ is ‘the cheapest option it can get away with’. Photo by Ras Mykkal
The PLP has been accused of taking electioneering to "a new low" after a "scurrilous" attempt to use a worldwide environment treaty as a political football.

The Government announced yesterday that it intended to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, the historic 170-country agreement designed to diffuse global warming and so avert a global catastrophe.

A central plank of the Kyoto Protocol is that the developed countries involved pledge to meet legally-binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

However, within hours of the PLP's announcement it became clear that the Government had set no such targets nor devised any strategies for reducing the island's reliance on heavily-polluting fossil fuels.

In fact, critics said, the announcement comes at a time when the Government has overseen a huge rise in gas emissions from vehicles, businesses and households.

Yesterday's Government statement read: "The Government of Bermuda today announced plans to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Bermuda will join the international fight against climate change and demonstrate to the world its commitment to the reduction of the emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases."

In a further embarrassment for the Government, legal experts yesterday said that Bermuda has no power to ratify the Protocol under its constitution.

Stuart Hayward, chairman of the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), called the developments "a new low for electioneering."

He said: "This is a scurrilous attempt to use a very important issue to promote a Government which has a questionable environmental record.

"This is a Government that has overseen the adoption on the island of bigger, higher fuel-using cars, trucks and motorcycles; which has failed to carry out the promised environmental impact assessments with regard to development and which has failed to honour the environmental promises it has already signed with the U.K.

"This Government has absolutely no operational energy policy. I would not be surprised if Bermuda had the highest energy use per capita of anywhere in the world. And now the Government is pretending to take an environmental lead on a world stage. This is despicable opportunism."

Yesterday's announcement came at a time when many public figures have been calling for the Government to draw up a Comprehensive Energy Plan.

BELCO has recently submitted a request to the Planning Department to build two new fossil-fuel power stations on its existing Serpentine Road site. Critics say the plan will reduce Bermuda's air quality and increase its production of greenhouse gasses at a time when it should be looking for greener ways to generate electricity.

The latest critic to add his voice to the debate is one of the Government's own ministers. Wayne Perinchief, minister for Community and Cultural Affairs, said the current plans will decrease the quality of air and drinking water for hundreds of families in his Pembroke Central constituency

He said Bermuda must "become more creative" on the issue. He said: "In China, they are building power stations that run on far lighter fuels and pollute far less. BELCO is planning more heavy-polluting generators. This is old technology. BELCO is just sticking with what it knows - the cheapest option it can get away with."

Mr. Perinchief continued: "With all due respect to this administration and past administrations, no one has taken a lead on this. Governments have looked only as far ahead as the next election. That is a very short timescale."

Mr. Perinchief said that the Government, BELCO and independent experts needed to urgently form a committee to work out a long-term energy strategy.

BELCO has previously said that it is investigating all possible alternative energy solutions but that at present only more coal-fired generators are suitable for the island.

The U.N.-led Kyoto Protocol, named after the Japanese city where it was drawn up in 1997, came into force in 2005 and now involves over 170 countries. The U.S. - the world's biggest polluter - has attracted worldwide criticism for failing to join.

Developing countries who have signed have agreed only to monitor and reduce greenhouse gasses, but developing countries have set binding targets to reduce emissions.

The U.K. appears on course to meet its target - a reduction of 12.5 per cent on 1990 emission levels by 2008-11. However, many other European countries have failed to stop rising emissions.

Retired lawyer Bill Cox said last night that Bermuda could not make a "unilateral decision" to join the Kyoto Protocol. He said: "There is no question under our constitution that the Governor is responsible for foreign affairs."

Acting Governor Mark Capes said that he could not discuss specifics of the affair until he had studied Bermuda's intention in full. However, he said: "The British government welcomes Bermuda's intention to have the Kyoto Protocol extended to Bermuda."

Following pressure from the Bermuda Sun to clarify its position, the Government last night issued a second statement, saying that an emissions target would be established by technical officers at a later date.

In relation to the procedure of signing up, the statement said: "The U.K. would have to extend the Protocol on our behalf, and we would have to ask them to do so. The point is that Bermuda is willing to have the Protocol apply to Bermuda - whatever the process is to make this happen."