Several months after his ministry started the Brandywine Bay Beach project on Tortola, Minister of Natural Resources and Labour Dr Kedrick Pickering is expressing concern that the project is among those that may be devastated by sea activities, especially those associated with the increasingly worrying phenomenon known as climate change.
He therefore suggested that a pond located in the Brandywine Bay area should be restored to better protect the investment.
Dr Pickering made the suggestion yesterday (July 17) during his address at the inaugural meeting of the first board of trustees of the Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund.
He told the Board members: “I could make a suggestion to you right away. With all the work that we have done on the beach at Brandywine Bay, the destruction of the pond over the years now puts the beach that close to destroying all of the hard work that we have done.”
“So I can see a project sitting there waiting for the restoration of the pond in that area if we are going to realise the benefits of the developments that we envisioned for Brandywine Bay,” added Dr Pickering.
The Brandywine Bay project, which Government said is estimated to cost more than $1.5 million, comprises activities such land reclamation, landscaping, and the establishment of vending conveniences.
‘We simply do not have a choice’
Dr Pickering, in the meantime, made it clear that the British Virgin Islands does not have a choice regarding its response to climate change – a phenomenon that may have serious implications for the local economy.
“Climate Change is an existential threat globally, but particularly for small, highly vulnerable islands like ours,” Dr Pickering noted. “How the [British] Virgin Islands responds to climate change will literally determine whether we sink or survive under the new and evolving global climate regime.”
He explained that, according to ‘reputable global studies’, the impacts of climate change are expected to cost governments 4 percent to 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if action is not immediately taken to address climate change risks.
“We simply do not have a choice,” Dr Pickering declared. “It is imperative that the Virgin Islands acts to protect against the many direct threats associated with climate change – such as the rising temperatures, stronger hurricanes, changing rainfall patterns resulting in more frequent flood events and a great propensity for droughts, and of course the problem that small island developing states will have to face more than any other is the issue of rising sea level.”
According to Dr Pickering, the impacts of climate change are far reaching. He said the Virgin Islands Climate Change Adaptation Policy has identified 12 affected sectors, which range from tourism and financial services to food security, infrastructure, and the environment.
Big bucks needed
Dr Pickering, in the meantime, said the board of the Climate Change Trust Fund should press ahead in strengthening the three critical pillars in the fight against climate change.
He said the pillars are a strong institutional framework, a comprehensive policy, and a continuous level of financing amounting to millions of dollars annually.
“That is the job that you the Board of Trustees now have standing in front of you. [It is] a mountain to climb, but I am sure we will climb it, and we will be able to conquer any limits that are set to us.”
“I am pleased to report that, in less than 10 years, the [British] Virgin Islands has not only managed to put in place the three pillars of comprehensive climate change response, but it has carved out a reputable space for itself in the regional and global climate change landscape in the process,” Dr Pickering said.
He further stated that the journey towards formally appointing the climate change board yesterday has been ‘a long gestational period’.
”The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund will be the single most important vehicle to ensure a sustainable flow of financing from local and international sources to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Virgin Islands,” added Dr Pickering.
“We don’t access funds directly [under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change umbrella]; we don’t get funds directly. But this framework [that has been established] should put us in a position to be able to start accessing the funds that will then help us to do the work that is necessary to mitigate against the effects of climate change.”
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