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Environmental Protection Documents

Cuba's Environmental Concerns Grow with Prospect of U.S. Presence

By Erica Goode (New York Times, July 1, 2015)

Photo credit: NASA | Public Domain

As relations between the U.S. and Cuba have warmed and as the renewal of trade seems more of a possibility, the Cuban government faces pivotal economic choices that will have environmental repercussions. Over the last two decades, Cuba has taken steps to preserve its natural resources and promote sustainable development. Yet its commitment to environmental protection will be tested forcefully should the trade and travel barriers with the U.S. fall.

Link to full text via New York Times

Cuba's Wildlife on Notice

By Constance Casey (New York Times, April 5, 2015)

In this op-ed, Casey discusses threats posed to Cuba's birdlife by the pending increase in tourism and investment that will result from the loosening of U.S. travel restrictions. She describes how wildlife has been protected because of the relative isolation caused by the embargo, keeping Cuba more thickly forested and unpolluted than other Caribbean islands. However, the island's birdlife has already been dwindling due to forest clearance for food, tobacco and sugar cane production.

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What Becomes of Cuba After the Embargo Is Lifted?

By David Guggenheim (EcoWatch, October 2014)

In this article the author argues that the U.S. embargo against Cuba has had the unintended benefit of protecting Cuba's environment because the travel ban has kept tourist numbers down and limited the development of resorts on the island. Guggenheim points out, however, that Cuba's strong environmental laws and comprehensive national system of protected areas also help to explain its record on environmental protection. The article expresses concern that the burgeoning privatization movement in Cuba, the possibility of an end to the economic embargo, and a possible increase influx of tourists all threaten to increase pressure on Cuba's natural resources, ecosystems, and maritime waters.

Link to full text via EcoWatch

As Cuba Plans to Drill in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Policy Poses Needless Risks to our National Interest

(Center for Democracy in the Americas, 2011)

Faced with the possibility of Cuban drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, this document considers the environmental and economic importance of easing tensions with the island nation. Without U.S. backing, Cuban drilling would threaten the viability of a healthy Gulf while also limiting American access to energy resources. The author calls for engagement with Cuba to prevent both of these possibilities.

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Hearing on North American Offshore Energy, Statement by Vice Admiral Salerno

(House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, November 2, 2011)

Vice Admiral Salerno presents a contingency plan that includes training and exercises as a fundamental tool for the U.S. to respond to oil spills. Concluding, Salerno restates the idea that "any spill…will require unity of effort across all levels of government, industry, and the private sector."

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North American Offshore Energy: Mexico and Canada Boundary Treaties and New Drilling by Cuba and Bahamas, Statement by Daniel J. Whittle

(United States House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, November 2, 2011)

Daniel J. Whittle, Senior Attorney and Cuba Program Director Environmental Defense Fund, testifies about U.S. policies regarding Cuba that were impeding cooperation on environmental protection. The statement includes actions that the administration should take in order to negotiate with Cuba and other countries in the region.

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U.S.-Cuba Conference on Hurricane Cooperation

By Elizabeth Newhouse (Center for International Policy, January 2011)

This report summarizes the findings of CIP-sponsored delegations and conferences with officials of U.S. and Cuban hurricane, civil defense and medical emergency services on hurricane preparedness, and possible areas of collaboration. The document also summarizes a series of meetings that culminated in a well-attended November 2009 conference in New Orleans to review lessons learned. Both U.S. and Cuban participants found the exchanges informative and worthwhile and expressed interest in continuing to share ideas and best practices.

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Cuba: The Accidental Eden, A Brief Environmental History

(PBS, April 7, 2011)

This production describes Cuba's unique historical development, which has led to the island's exceptional biodiversity. The island nation and its archipelagos support thousands of plant and animal species, making Cuba the most naturally diverse Caribbean nation and a destination for biological scientists and ecotourists. Both the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S. embargo have made "accidental" contributions to the survival of Cuban wildlife by limiting Cuban development. Now, the same wildlife will need protection from the impact of renewed trade and tourism.

Link to full production via PBS

Coping with the Next Oil Spill: Why U.S.-Cuba Environmental Cooperation is Critical

By Jorge R. Piñon and Robert L. Muse (Brookings Institution, May 2010)

After the major Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it became evident that environmental protection standards are vastly different between the United States and Cuba. This article claims that as Cuba becomes more open to oil and gas drilling, the U.S. must cooperate and encourage similar environmental regulations to protect shared coastal waters.

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Engaging with Cuba: Hurricanes, Medical Students and Trade

By Elizabeth Newhouse (Center for International Policy, December 2010)

This report presents the difficulties the U.S. and Cuba encounter while attempting to engage environmental issues. The document stresses that although the number of Cuban and American travelers to both countries has increased due to the Obama's administration liberalization of policies, little has been done to further levels of collaboration.

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Evaluating the Prospects for U.S.-Cuban Energy Policy Cooperation

By Benjamin Alvarado (Brookings Institution Press, 2010)

Jonathan C. Benjamin-Alvarado assesses the possibilities for cooperation between the United States and Cuba concerning energy policy. He also presents an ideal strategic energy policy and critical considerations that should be taken into consideration.

Link to the full text via the Brookings Institute

A New Era for U.S.-Cuba Relations on Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation

Transcript: Steve Hamburg, introduction; Vicki Huddleston, keynote address; Scott Edwards, moderator (Brookings Institution, April 2009)

Emphasizing the importance of preserving biodiversity off the Cuban coastline, this keynote address offers environmental and economic reasons for improving communication among scientists and government agencies from the United States and Cuba. It calls for action to ensure the conservation of marine life, which is important to the ecosystems of both nations.

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Disaster Relief Management in Cuba: Why Cuba's Disaster Relief Model is Worth Careful Study

By Jonathan Keyser and Wayne Smith (Center for International Policy, May 2009)

This report discusses what the United States can learn from the Cuban model of successfully predicting storms and implementing disaster relief initiatives. The authors argue that the country would benefit from enacting policies that reflected Cuba's emphasis on protecting property, providing uninterrupted social services, engaging the population in hurricane preparation and relief. They encourage further collaboration with the Cuban government on issues of mutual importance.

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Facing the Storm Together: CIP Convenes First U.S.-Cuba Hurricane Conference

By Wayne Smith and Jennifer Schuett (Center for International Policy, August 2007)

Smith and Schuett argue that although the U.S. and Cuba have bantered for decades, there are issues - such as the environment - that should be of mutual concern. The authors encourage both states to engage in a bilateral understanding and dialogue through a Hurricane Convention in Mexico.

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Protecting Cuba's Environment: Efforts to Design and Implement Effective Environmental Laws and Policies in Cuba

By Daniel Whittle and Orlando Rey Santos (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006)

In the early 1990s, when Cuba was in the thick of its severe economic crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban government indicated that protection of the environment and natural resources would henceforth be top policy priority. As a consequence, the government amended its constitution and initiated a sweeping series of reforms aimed at redressing past environmental harms and minimizing future degradation of air, water, and land resources. This article examines the efforts of the new Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA), in conjunction with other agencies and bodies to design and implement a comprehensive vision for environmental protection and sustainable development.

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Environmental Law in Cuba

By Oliver A. Houck (Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law, 2000)

Environmental law in Cuba rises from these roots: a long history of land abuse, successive waves of revolution, and a late-day awakening led by the scientific community, no less sudden in its appearance than the awakening of the United States a few decades before. After centuries of neglect, environmental policy is now on a fast track in Cuba. The instruments of this policy, in turn, are sowing seeds of law that could have major impacts on Cuban governance.

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The Environment in U.S.-Cuban Relations: Recommendations for Cooperation

(Inter-American Dialogue, January 1997)

The Inter-American Dialogue documents their efforts to organize a workshop with Cuban and American officials and leading environmental experts in New York City in September 1994, and a meeting in Havana in June 1995. The objective of the meetings was to promote exchange on environmental issues between the United States and Cuba.

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Environmental Defense Fund Website

The Environmental Defense Fund works to preserve natural systems and address critical environmental problems through economically viable methods. They have built strong local relationships with Cuba to protect the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico and foster partnerships between American and Cuban scientists.

Environmental Defense Fund