Greening the Overseas Territories

 

‘Perhaps in no other setting than a small island is the connection and dependence between the environment and man so explicit’

 

These are the words of Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier of the British Virgin Islands, speaking atGovernor Mc Cleary and Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith at the ‘Greening the Economy’ seminar in the BVI, February 2012. the ‘Greening the Economy’ seminar organised by JNCC.  Dr Pickering added: ‘We depend on finite or limited and fragile resources and we have the capacity to fundamentally impact our environment and the impact we have on our environment eventually has an impact on us.’

 

Encouraging an understanding of these dependencies was a key objective of the Overseas Territory environmental mainstreaming pilot projects which JNCC managed last year on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Determining the economic value of the natural environment, appreciating the threats posed and identifying options available for managing these threats are key prerequisites for integrating environmental issues into strategic decision making. Overseen by groups in the Falklands and the British Virgin Islands the pilot projects were designed to facilitate discussion among government and non-government stakeholders to capture the views and aspirations of people living and working in the two Territories.

 

The Territories chosen for the pilots offered contrasting insights into the perceptions and realities of threats posed to the natural environment in radically different biogeographical and social settings. The British Virgin Islands, with an economy highly reliant on mass tourism, and with a growing permanent population, is facing clear and present threats relating to human pressures, most particularly associated with waste management and effective planning of infrastructure development. The marine biodiversity of the British Virgin Islands is under particular threat. With a low and stable population, and a pristine marine environment, threats to the natural environment in the Falklands may seem more remote but nevertheless exist.

 

Governor Nigel Hayward addressing the environmental mainstreaming seminar in Stanley, Falkland Islands, March 2012.Although highlighting different perspectives and priorities for action the pilots revealed two common issues: the role of environmental economic assessment, and the willingness of Overseas Territories decision makers to act to protect the environment. Whether the threats faced are imminent or distant, more to do with management of people rather than wildlife, it was clear that a good understanding of the value of the environment was fundamental to good decision making and effective policy development. As a result, economic evaluation projects are now being initiated by JNCC in both Territories. The projects also suggest decision makers are increasingly willing to listen to environmental arguments. Informed speeches by senior politicians and the governors of both Territories at the concluding seminars of both projects highlighted a willingness to act in defence of the environment.

 

As Kedrick Pickering pointed out ‘While the pathway to a truly green, sustainable future is a long one, where we fully integrate the environment in all of our decisions .... it is also one full of opportunity and excitement’.

 

Contact File

 

Tony Weighell

Global Impacts & Overseas Territories Programme Manager

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866852