Greenrock blasts Budget as ‘unsustainable’

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  • Greenrock executive director Jonathan Starling

    Greenrock executive director Jonathan Starling

Environmental group Greenrock has blasted last week’s Budget, calling it “unsustainable and unimaginative”.

Jonathan Starling, the charity’s executive director, praised an increase in funding for recycling and composting programmes, but the organisation said the Budget raised questions about the Government’s commitment to sustainable development.

“Perhaps the most striking element of this year’s Budget is the complete failure to address anything remotely environmentally friendly in the Budget statement,” the organisation said.

“There is no mention of sustainable development, energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste management, marine sustainability, green jobs or even climate change.”

After reviewing the full Budget Book, Mr Starling said that there were some welcome elements, although their impact would have to be seen.

“We welcome the increases to the Recycling Budget — this is a $453,000 increase on last year’s budget,” he said. “What, exactly, that would mean for increasing the throughput of recycling of course isn’t clear, but we certainly welcome the increased support for it.

“We also note the 12 per cent increase to the Composting Programme and, in particular, the increases for Water & Sewage Administration and Sewage Collection budget. I’m not sure how much that will affect issues related to greaseballs. However, it’s certainly welcome.

“The increases to Public Transport look promising. There appears to be $2.5 million allocated in capital acquisition for new buses and a 19 per cent increase for Repair & Servicing, presumably for buses. Combined, we would hope that this ensures our bus fleet is running well. Shifting towards a greater use of public transport would go a long way to reducing Bermuda’s overall carbon footprint, so we welcome anything that could support that.”

However, the organisation raised serious concerns about sustainable development in the wake of the Department of Sustainable Development being merged with the Central Policy Unit.

“I believe we raised some concerns at the time about this, especially the dropping of the name ‘sustainable development’,” Mr Starling said. “While this didn’t necessarily mean that the Government was abandoning its commitment to sustainable development, the concern was there — that this wasn’t simply a symbolic name change.

“Looking at the performance metrics for this, it’s not clear to me what the situation is with sustainability impact assessments, sustainable development indicators, embedding sustainable development principles within Government policies and programmes or public outreach on sustainable development including the Sustainable Development Round Table.”

And while the organisation said it welcomed increases in funding to the Ministry of Education, it was unclear if such investment would include efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of schools.

“Investing in this would reduce the overall long-term costs to the public purse over time, through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Greenrock said in a statement.

“Similarly, this could be expanded throughout all government-owned buildings — smart investments to increase energy efficiency and even add renewable energy infrastructure to these buildings, could considerably reduce the overall long-term costs to the taxpayer, while at the same time reducing Bermuda’s carbon footprint.

“The Budget is, ultimately, unsustainable and unimaginative. There are lost opportunities for positive returns in renewable energy and encouraging a shift to electric or hybrid private vehicles. While the proposals regarding tax reform are of interest, we are disappointed at the lack of ‘green taxes’ such as a carbon tax.

“We would hope that the Government would investigate the potential for innovative fiscal instruments to encourage a more sustainable Bermuda. We believe that fiscal instruments are potentially among the most effective, and cost-effective, options for making Bermuda more sustainable — and note the success that Mauritius has had in reforming its tax system to promote environmental objectives.”

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Published Mar 1, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 1, 2017 at 12:35 am)

Greenrock blasts Budget as ‘unsustainable’

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