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Press Release

Overseas Territories are custodians of environmental assets of global importance, due to the fact that over 90% of the UKs biodiversity is in the territories with many endangered species.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Published 4th December 2018, 9:3am

LONDON, UK – As President of the Political Council of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA), The Premier, Hon Alden McLaughlin, opened and hosted the first UKOTA Environment Workshop in London on Monday 3 December. The workshop was organised by UKOTA, and participants included leaders of Overseas Territories, Departments of Her Majesty’s Government as well as NGOS, Organisations and charities in the environment sector.

The Premier was able to share the good news of the procurement of 634 acres of protected land in the Cayman Islands; this has now increased the protected land area in Cayman to 4,111 acres, equivalent to 6.3% of Cayman’s total landmass.

The Premier highlighted to those present that Overseas Territories are custodians of environmental assets of global importance, due to the fact that over 90% of the UKs biodiversity is in the territories with many endangered species, also that the territories hold a third of the world’s albatross, a quarter of the world’s penguins and the largest coral atoll on earth. Lastly, the territories make up over 70% of the UKs marine estate in the world.

He went on to highlight on behalf of the Overseas Territories the need to ensure that assistance by way of specialist technical advice as well as funding for environmental research and protection remains available particularly post Brexit when access to funds from the EU will no longer be available. This was a matter of significant importance to several organisations participating in the workshop.

Speaking as President of the Political Council of UKOTA, the Premier noted that “as Overseas Territories we fall between the cracks, we are unable to access some international funds but are also unable to access UK domestic funding. Working with NGOs, universities and charities may mean that we will be able to unblock this.”

The topics discussed at the workshop included environment funding, ocean conservation strategy and the inclusion of Overseas Territories in the UK Government’s “The Green Future -25 year plan to Improve the Environment.”

The importance of the role of universities in helping protect the environment through research and funding education was discussed. The University of Exeter has sponsored several overseas territories students including a Caymanian student to obtain Masters Degrees in environmental studies.

Also discussed were pioneering new innovations that can assist with monitoring and protecting the environment, even within those smaller territories with little access to technology.

The UK Government support for the Oversees Territories efforts in organising this environmental workshop was demonstrated by the attendance of Ben Merrick, Director of the Overseas Territories Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who commented on the important role that the territories play in preserving such a significant amount of rich global biodiversity.

Nadia Hardie, Executive Director of the Cayman Islands National Trust attended the workshop, she commented “It has been a fantastic opportunity to network with NGOs and Organisations to review funding possibilities; it has also been worthwhile meeting and discussing these issues with our own Premier here in the UK.”

One of UKOTA’s recent achievements in the area of the environment and climate change is the direct representation of Overseas Territories for the first time at the COP24 Global climate change meetings, a very significant milestone for Overseas Territories.

The workshop was chaired by Colin Clubbe, head of Conservation Science, Kew Gardens and included presentations from eight panelists; Hon Prof John Cortes, Minister for Education, Heritage, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Gibraltar, Ben Merrick, Director, Overseas Territories Directorate, FCO, Thea Edwards, Deputy Head, Wildlife, Natural Environment, DEFRA, Fiona Charlesworth, Darwin Plus, DEFRA, Hugh Raven, Chair of John Ellerman Foundation, Tara Pelembe, Deputy Director, SAERI, Professor Brendan Godley, Chair in Conservation Science, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Jonathan Hall, Head, UKOTs team, RSPB.