Premier: COP28 meeting will bring benefits to Bermuda
Government efforts to forge closer ties and business links with potential partners in the Middle East are coming to fruition, according to the Premier.
David Burt, who is also the Minister of Finance, made the claim in a statement to MPs in the House of Assembly on Friday.
Mr Burt returned last week from a trip to the region, during which he attended the Abu Dhabi Finance Week and represented Bermuda at the United Nations Conference of the Parties — COP28 — in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
On Friday, Mr Burt told MPs that a “significant milestone” was achieved on his travels with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Bermuda and the Emirates Family Office Association.
The agreement will open the door for the EFOA — an independent non-profit association providing a platform for educational programmes and networking opportunities — to set up an office on the island next year.
Mr Burt said: “This MOU advances Bermuda's initiative to attract additional high-net-worth family offices, in line with the Government’s Economic Development Strategy.
“Under the terms of the MOU, the EFOA will establish a physical branch in Bermuda within the next 12 months. This commitment signifies the strengthening ties between Bermuda and the Middle East, both in the public and private sectors.
“Furthermore, we anticipate family office delegations from the Emirate Family Office Association to visit Bermuda next year.”
The Government first revealed its intent to explore business opportunities in the Middle East earlier this year after appointing Alexia Hefti to the newly created post of Strategic Adviser on Middle East Affairs.
Ms Hefti’s $20,000-a-month contract was criticised by the opposition One Bermuda Alliance, but on Friday Mr Burt said that her work, alongside that of Jason Hayward, the Minister of the Economy of Labour, was crucial in securing the agreement.
In a long and detailed statement to the House, Mr Burt went on to catalogue a series of engagements he held with dignitaries and world leaders at COP28.
He described the conference as “the largest and most important environmental event of the year and also a diplomatic event where government leaders, business leaders, innovators, scientists and more gather in one location”.
He added: “This provides the opportunity for valuable meetings, both scheduled and unscheduled, that are of great benefit to the governments or organisations represented, which emphasises the need for the Government to ensure that Bermuda is well represented throughout the duration of this annual meeting.“
The Premier then rattled off a roll call of royalty and world leaders that he met during his stay in the oil-rich country.
“Following the signing of the MOU, I was invited by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, to attend a reception with His Majesty the King, highlighting Women Climate Leaders and Small-Island Developing States organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office,“ the Premier said.
“At the event, I was pleased to share with His Majesty and Baroness Scotland the work that Bermuda has done to promote our island as a hub for climate finance.
“The reception also allowed me to meet and have an extended discussion with Lord Cameron, the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary.”
Mr Burt also met with “key stakeholders with a significant presence in Bermuda”, including the president of Aon Global, for “a frank exchange on matters related to Bermuda’s insurance industry and how to advance the climate risk finance goals of Bermuda”.
The Premier took time out to be interviewed by UAE media about Bermuda's “commitment” to decarbonising the island through the electrification of vehicles, aiming for the net zero target by 2050 in alignment with the Paris Agreement.
The conference also featured a “Bermuda Day” seminar, in which the island’s “commitment to sustainability and contributions to the global fight against climate change” were highlighted.
Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Premier, gave a keynote address at that presentation.
Mr Burt concluded: “Bermuda’s visit to the United Arab Emirates surrounding COP28 was a success, marking significant advancements in Bermuda's global partnerships and our ongoing leadership in environmental initiatives.
“We forged new partnerships, strengthened existing relationships, and showcased Bermuda's dedication to sustainable development and climate action on the global stage.“