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Throne Speech: BEST outlines ‘wish list’

Stuart Hayward, chairman of BEST(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Climate change, controls on pesticide and a sustainable tourism strategy would be worthwhile elements in the 2016 Throne Speech, according to the environment group BEST.

While the Bermuda Government has thus far kept the contents of Monday’s Throne Speech to themselves, BEST has expressed hopes that it will contain promises of action for environmental issues.

Climate change came on the top of the charity’s “wish list”, which is “ripe for serious attention in Bermuda”, said a BEST spokesperson.

“We would be justified in expecting that the Climate Change Task Force set up by the Government would have proposed practical steps for the public to either play our part in reducing contributions to climate change and/or in preparing our island for the likely consequences of it.

“Our hope is that this Throne Speech will introduce a Climate Change Act that will set clear targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the role of renewable energy and preparing our infrastructure for the effect of climate change.

“Small island states like Bermuda are at the leading edge of the climate crisis, and we would do ourselves a favour by facing this reality, and including public consultation and input on the topic.”

The charity is also hoping for a commitment to protect the local bee population through better controls on pesticides which potentially threaten bees and human health.

Meanwhile, amendments to planning legislation to ensure environmental impact assessments and sustainability impact assessments are mandatory.

“Bermuda’s density of population and development demand that we give more attention to the localised and overall impact of development now and into the future,” the spokeswoman continued.

“The increasing demand for marine and submarine development points to the need for marine planning legislation. We believe this is crucial for the future welfare and use of our near-shore marine environment. BEST hopes this Throne Speech revives the development of a near-shore marine spatial planning policy.”

The group also expressed some concerns about “development creep” in public spaces such as the island’s beaches, saying: “BEST can support the BTA’s development focus being unleashed on five public beaches, provided the promised pristine status of the remainder is retained. However, we have observed extensions beyond these, which have caused us concern, noticeably at Admiralty House Park where locals, toddlers to adults, have been nudged aside.

“We would like to see the 2016 Throne Speech intensify the support for a sustainable tourism strategy for Bermuda.”

The charity further called on Government to address noise pollution and reiterated its longstanding hope that Southlands will finally be named a national park.

“We have had years of promises,” the spokeswoman concluded. “We hope that the 2016 Throne Speech will signal this promise kept.”