Roban warns climate change pledge vital to protect small islands
The future of island nations such as Bermuda depends on the world meeting its climate goals, a government minister warned at the weekend.
Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, told an audience at COP26 – a global climate summit held in Glasgow, Scotland – that the lives and livelihoods of islands around the world were threatened by a rise in global temperatures.
He was speaking as he led an event at the UK Pavilion at COP26, “Our Vision for Healthy Oceans”, organised as part of Nature Day.
The conference renewed a pledge to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5C degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Mr Roban said: “The reality is that if this world doesn’t reach the 1.5 degree goal, our existence as a place to live, as a place to exist and to survive as people will disappear.
“It is as simple as that.
“We need the world to commit and to get on the path of the Paris Agreement has outlined, and we need for everyone to go back to their respective jurisdictions and compel your governments to act.”
Mr Roban highlighted that the UK Overseas Territories were in the front line of climate change and were the caretakers of invaluable natural resources.
He said: “Together, the UK Overseas Territories represent the world’s fifth largest marine state and over 90 per cent of the UK’s biodiversity.
“That cannot be underestimated or given minimal consideration.”
Mr Roban added that the Overseas Territories were “saddled with great obligations and a considerable amount of work”.
He was joined on the stage by Quincia Gumbs-Marie, the Parliamentary Secretary for Economic Development, Tourism, Natural Resource and Information Technology for Anguilla, who said investment in climate change initiatives was vital.
Ms Gumbs-Marie said that island nations struggled to balance economic challenges faced today and the need to protect the environment for the future.
She added: “Our house is on fire and we are trying to avoid having to choose between ourselves and our children.”
She added: “We cannot continue to shoulder the responsibilities of the rest of the world’s negligence all while scrambling to survive on piecemeal handouts.”
Vincent Wheatley, the minister with responsibility for the environment in the British Virgin Islands, said stronger hurricanes were a serious threat to coastal nations and singled out the massive impact of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
He said: “2017 was a wake-up call for us. Climate change is real.
“What we experienced at that time was the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic.
“We are still rebuilding from that catastrophe.”
Joseph Smith Abbott, the Permanent Secretary in the BVI’s natural resources ministry, said the country had worked to be “stronger and greener” in the wake of the storm and launched several environmental programmes.