Ministers and senior officials from UK Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) travelled to the Isle of Man last week to discuss the future of the environment in their jurisdictions. This was the third Council of Environment Ministers of UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and took place in Douglas, on 6th and 7th February. Previous meetings took place in Gibraltar in 2015 and continued in Alderney in 2017.
The meeting was hosted jointly by Geoffrey Boot MHK, the Isle of Man’s Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, and Professor John Cortés, Gibraltar’s Minister for Education, Heritage, Environment, Energy and Climate Change and coordinated by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF), a non-governmental organization.
The agenda for the meeting focused on sustainability in the terrestrial and marine environment, climate change, the impact of natural disasters on communities, environmental resilience and the Isle of Man’s designation as the first entire nation UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Common opportunities and challenges were discussed on issues such as the role of the environment in growing the economy, energy efficiency, sympathetic development, enforcement and the impact of plastics. Delegates also discussed the opportunities resulting from, and challenges posed by, the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.
Minister Boot said: Although very different in character, our islands all boast beautiful environments that are important to our economies and our way of life and that we wish to retain and maximize the benefit from.
The meeting was an excellent opportunity to share good practice and discuss common concerns and we learned a lot from meeting that we can put into effect in our islands.
It was especially useful to discuss with the UK’s Environment Minister, Dr Thérèse Coffey, how our jurisdictions can work together, and more closely with the UK, to ensure a coherent approach on matters such a plastic waste, ocean acidification and warming. Minister Coffey invited the group to join the UK’s discussions on these matters.
Professor Cortes said: The way our diverse territories work together in mutual support and for the protection and improvement of the environment and quality of life is our main strength and an example to others.
We are looking at a sustainable future within our territories but have also recognized our responsibility beyond our shores. Most of us are islands and so we are also championing the future of our oceans by joining the stand against plastic pollution and working towards improvement of the biological status of the many kilometers of sea that are the responsibility of the United Kingdom.’
Hon. David Osborne, Montserrat’s Minister for Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and Environment, said: By working as a group, we are much stronger in being able to achieve certain goals. Many of us are facing similar problems and, because of Brexit, much uncertainty remains. However, if we come together we can put forward ideas for ways to overcome these challenges, much can be achieved.
Dr Mike Pienkowski, Chairman of UKOTCF, commented We have for over 30 years brought together groups of practitioners, decision makers and civil society across the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to share experiences and encouraged collective endeavor. This is now more relevant than ever, given the unique set of challenges faced by them especially in the face of climate change and some of the consequences of the UK’s departure from the European Union. The meeting heard about the work of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture to meet its international commitments and to support its fishing communities, which is huge interest to other jurisdictions.
Ministers and representatives of the Falkland Islands, MLA Teslyn Barkman, Portfolio Holder for the Environment, Falkland Islands, Pitcairn and St Helena, joined the meeting via Skype or other remote means.
Following the formal business, Minister Boot escorted Ministers on an excursion to Tynwald, Milntown in Ramsey and the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture’s headquarters in St John’s, giving them the opportunity to see the Island.