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Cayman Islands Government

National Climate Change Workshop

The Premier, Hon. McKeeva Bush

Statistics suggest that small island states such as Cayman will be the most adversely affected by climate change.

—The Premier, Hon. McKeeva Bush

Opening Remarks from The Premier, Hon. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP

For the Third National Climate Change Workshop, Marriott Beach Resort, 3 December 2009

I'll begin by extending a warm welcome to all participants and thanking you for taking the time to participate in this two-day workshop.

Two days comprise a considerable amount of time to be away from the many challenges that doubtless confront you on a daily basis. But I believe you've made the decision to be here today because you understand the urgency that surrounds the need to sign off on a national climate change strategy.

Statistics suggest that small island states such as Cayman will be the most adversely affected by climate change. Our size, narrow economic base, limited natural resources and history of natural disasters make us especially vulnerable.

We have already experienced first hand the obstacles related to extreme weather developments such as hurricanes Ivan and Paloma and their associated storm surges, rising sea levels, beach erosion and warming ocean currents. If we are to add climate change into the mix, then future situations may indeed be dire.

As a government we understand the delicate balance which must be maintained between development and our natural environment. Our country has faced this issue repeatedly over the last 20 to 30 years, but more-so during the last decade which has witnessed exponential growth in population, services, and the accompanying infrastructure.

On the one hand, we cannot hope to grow further or remain competitive without continuously implementing developmental initiatives. Yet on the other, we must ensure that the natural environment -- upon which all development and our very lives depend -- is sustainably managed.

It is a challenge, but one over which I believe we can prevail, provided we adopt the correct approach.

I am doubly pleased therefore, to see that today's participants represent a wide cross-section of government agencies, and I do commend the Department of Environment for their effort in bringing everyone together.

I am confident that this diverse collection of individuals will help us identify our physical, social and economic vulnerabilities and plan a robust strategy to guide our adaptation and mitigation efforts.

I certainly hope that you'll have a productive workshop and I look forward to working with you all on the recommendations that you will develop during these two days.

Thank you!

Remarks for Minister of Environment, the Hon. Mark Scotland

Third National Climate Change Workshop

Good morning and welcome to Cayman's third National Climate Change Workshop.

Special greetings to our visiting experts: Dr. Neville Trotz, science advisor with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center - or '5 Cs' as they are better known; Judi Clarke, '5 Cs' public outreach specialist; George de Romilly, an environment law expert; and Ottis Joslyn, national coordinator of the Implementation of Adaptation Measures in Coastal Zones Project.

I doubtless have no need to remind anyone present that all too often, people take their environment for granted. Generally, we only start to pay attention when it is too late, as when houses flood because mangroves die off, or beaches disappear because of frequent and powerful storms.

And while today's workshop probably won't grab the headlines, the reasons for this gathering are certainly vital to our future.

It is unfortunately true that small island nations cannot have a major impact on the reduction of carbon emissions, but it is also true, as the Premier has just said, that we will be amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For this reason we must play our part in highlighting the plight of vulnerable nations such as ours and of course, in setting an example for the rest of the world with our actions and attitudes.

The impacts anticipated in the Cayman Islands in respect of climate change will present significant challenges for sustainable development. In fact, the effects of a globally averaged 0.74 degrees Celsius warming over the last century have already begun to place stresses on the physical resource base upon which critical economic sectors depend. For example, the localised coral bleaching event currently taking place on reef systems around the Cayman Islands is of a similar intensity to the global event of 1998 and is the result of sea surface temperatures elevated by less than 1 degree Celsius above the regional seasonal average threshold. Although the duration of the current event appears less than the 1998 event, coral mortality is still anticipated. Ocean acidification is expected to continue along with warming of sea surface temperatures, affecting calcification rates of major reef building structures, shellfish and marine ecosystems generally. The physical and biological resilience of coral reefs will be much reduced by the combined onslaught of ocean acidification and bleaching events, having serious implications for fisheries and food security. It is not simply the direct impacts of climate change on natural, human and built resources within these islands that are of concern. Equally worrisome are the effects of climate change on activities and economic sectors in other regions that will have indirect implications for the Cayman Islands for which we must also be prepared. For example, tourism is a highly climate-sensitive economic sector, not just due to the effects noted above but because of its susceptibility to climate mitigation policies outside the region. Of equal concern is food security as a result of the effects of climate change on domestic crop production as well as on reduced yields in other regions, particularly the grain belts of Canada and the United States. This is likely to increase the cost of food products imported and, like many countries within the region, the Cayman Islands is a major importer of food for domestic consumption as well as to supply the needs of the tourism sector.

These are merely a few issues climate change has in store for the Cayman Islands. While it is critical that we identify and implement appropriate adaptation measures across all sectors of our economy, it is also well established that ensuring that we take steps to protect our natural resources base and to plan development that is in harmony with and respects the limits of our natural environment makes good common sense from the climate change adaptation perspective.

This is why my Ministry and the Department of Environment are both working hard to get the National Conservation Bill back on track. I know the bill is applauded by some, and denounced by others, which is why we will go into 2010 with a vigorous public outreach campaign. This will once more give people a chance to understand, discuss and comment on the bill's provisions.

I give the undertaking today that we will make every effort to hear all parties and take onboard every concern. However, we in Cayman need to understand that the time has come to make sacrifices to protect our Islands for future generations.

But protecting the environment needn't equate to persecuting developers. It simply means that you give equal weight to both positions. Yes, our children do need growth, but they also need quality of life. I myself have two young children. And what I want for them, and for their children beyond, is the opportunity to walk Seven Mile Beach, kayak in the North Sound mangroves and catch their own lobster and conch.

Were it not for the vision and sacrifice of past generations, we would not have marine parks and protected areas today. Their foresight resulted in stable - and even in some instances growing - populations of conch, whelk and lobster.

Likewise, closing down the grouper spawning areas years ago was not necessarily met with joy, but because the bullet was bit and action taken, our children's children may yet be able to catch a fair- sized grouper in the future.

I therefore must reiterate: Protecting the environment is not synonymous with preventing development. It in contrast ensures that growth is in fact sustainable. For rest assured, unless we safeguard the integrity of our natural resources, we will certainly be sounding the death-knell for these Islands.

We simply must have comprehensive and updated environmental protection legislation. In fact, formulating modernized legislation does go hand-in-hand with preparing a climate change action plan for the Cayman Islands-which of course is precisely why this workshop is so important!

In particular, the National Conservation Bill undertakes to implement, in so far as is possible under the areas covered by the law, the provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. For example, the law will protect natural areas such as forests that are critically important to absorb the excess greenhouse gases produced by man. It will also provide a framework for relevant environmental impact assessments that will take account of climate change impacts.

But like all things meaningful, ensuring sustainable development for our Islands cannot be a unilateral effort. I therefore commend the Department of Environment for creating such an incredibly diversified working group.

What we need for this workshop - and for next year when we pursue new national conservation legislation - is to pool our experience, our vision and our knowledge so that we can find the golden middle ground.

I wish you a productive workshop.

Thank you