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Climate change omission concerns charity

Jonathan Starling

Government has pledged to look into the environmental issues of plastic waste, according to the Throne Speech.

Other elements of focus will be to tackle illegal fishing, based on the results of satellite data, and continuing the move towards renewable energy.

However, Jonathan Starling, executive director of environmental charity Greenrock, said: “Perhaps more important than what was in the Throne Speech is what wasn’t.”

And he said he was disappointed that there was no mention of climate change.

The Speech, delivered by Acting Governor Ginny Ferson, noted that the Environment Ministry was working to maintain Bermuda’s “pristine environment”.

“This means taking measures to protect the environment against local and even global sources of pollution — a threat convergence that has become more common in recent decades.

“Accordingly, the government will introduce a Green Paper to identify ways to reduce the use of, and the toxic effects of, plastics on the island as well as in the surrounding waters.”

Also on the subject of the marine environment, the Throne Speech noted: “The Ministry will act on a study of illegal fishing within 200 nautical miles of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The work, which will be conducted by the UK-based Satellite Applications Catapult and which has been funded by a Bermudian-based fund management company, will analyse three years of satellite data to determine the scope of the problem and help develop strategies to investigate and stop illegal and unauthorised activities.”

The government also said it would continue its work to reform the energy sector to increase competition, lower costs and increase the use of renewable energy.

Referring to climate change, Mr Starling said: “We feel this is the most important challenge facing Bermuda in the 21st century and the longer we collectively fail to address it, the harder it will be for Bermuda to adapt going forward, or to have the moral authority to appeal for assistance with adapting to it if we have failed to take any steps regarding that.

“We will continue to advocate for action on climate change for example and hope that something may be introduced to address it, and other issues, over the present session.”

Other notable omissions included recycling, sustainable development and near shore marine spatial planning.

“This is crucial to developing offshore renewable energy, tourism and conservation — without it we are limited in how we can manage our immediate marine area or look to develop offshore wind generation for example,” he said.

“We are, however, excited about the mention of addressing the issue of plastics on the island and our surrounding waters. We’re not entirely sure yet what that will involve. However, we are hopeful that it will see a charge on single-use carrier bags, like those in the various devolved UK jurisdictions.

“These have proven to be extremely successful in reducing the amount of plastic bags entering, particularly, the marine ecosystem. We will look forward to reviewing the details of these proposals — we will look to review the proposed Green Paper at the earliest opportunity.

“The proposal to improve the management of our marine economic exclusive zone (EEZ) through conducting a study of illegal fishing is certainly welcome and a first step to improving the protection and conservation of the area.”

He added that the group was unsurprised by Government’s intention of developing fuel policy and legislation, and continue to support the solar finger, but expressed concern about the plan for the “economic” beach tourism strategy.

“The strategy identified five beaches for development, while keeping the rest of our beaches pristine and natural,” he said. “However, we’re concerned about the potential for this to have what I guess you could call ‘mission creep’, incorporating additional beaches over time, or going beyond what was initially proposed for the five beaches in question.

“So that does set alarm bells off for us, and I’m sure we’ll be working closely with our sister NGOs to consider the potential ramifications of these proposed amendments once we have the opportunity to review them.”