Information Officer II
Department of Information and Public Relations (GIS)
MESSAGE BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE, ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL RESOURCES AND CLIMATE CHANGE
DR. HON. NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE APPOINTMENT OF THE MEMBERS OF THE SECOND BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
CLIMATE CHANGE TRUST FUND
TUESDAY, JUNE 6TTH, 2023
A pleasant good morning to you all. I’m extremely pleased that we are gathered today to mark the re-establishment of The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund Board. I’d like to recognize the presence of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry responsible for Natural Resources and the Financial Secretary as ex officio members of the Board. I also recognize and warmly greet the non-Government members of the Board, including the Chairman Mr. Edward Childs, Deputy Chairperson Mr. John Klein, Dr. Shannon Gore and Mr. Ronnie Lettsome.
I don’t have to tell any of you about the grave challenge of climate change and the Territory’s position on the global frontlines. We are literally feeling the heat, and as we start June are reminded of some of the severe mal-effects of climate change, like stronger hurricanes.
I also don’t have to tell you the powerful role The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund stands to play in shaping this Territory’s climate change adaptation story. It is the financing vehicle that will ensure that we can attract large-scale funding from a myriad of sources, including international donors, and strategically and equitably distribute those funds to ensure that we are more resilient to the warmer temperatures, stronger hurricanes, more severe floods and droughts, rising seas, novel viruses and more that climate change will bring.
There are no shortage of great and urgent local projects and programmes that would benefit from funding support through the Trust Fund. I think of:
Schemes in partnership with financial institutions to make low-cost financing available to help homeowners and business owners invest in measures to make their homes more resilient to stronger hurricanes and floods;
Similar partnerships to make renewable energy accessible and affordable to the average homeowner and business owner;
Environmental restoration projects to help our critical natural ecosystems recover and thrive, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, salt ponds, forests and beaches;
Support for local scientists and entrepreneurs to research and explore viable applications of sargassum seaweed that is blooming in mass in part as a result of climate change;
Investment in climate-smart infrastructure and community facilities, including roads and health facilities;
Projects to diversity and green the tourism industry;
Projects to help the agricultural sector adapt to more severe drought and heat stress for livestock;
and the list goes on and on.
When I met with the environment team a few weeks ago, I indicated to them that the environment and climate change will be high on the Government’s agenda under my leadership. I want to take this opportunity to personally apologise to you for the previous disruption in your service as members and assure you that you will have this Government’s full support and respect as you fulfil your mandate on the Board. This commitment of support includes providing the Trust Fund with the necessary seed funding to ensure that you can make significant strides towards operationalization this year.
As members of the Board, you have an important charge and you will lead the Trust Fund through the critical stage of its operationalization – moving the Trust Fund from an institution conceived in law to a functional entity ready and able to deliver for the people of The Virgin Islands.
This ceremony will be broadcast, so I think it only fitting to take this opportunity to publicly commend you for the tremendous dedication you exhibited in your previous service and the many accomplishments made despite being faced with difficult circumstances, including the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma and the absence of seed funding. In particular, I’d like to highlight:
Development of the Trust Fund’s Operational Manual at a standard to meet the requirements for accreditation by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the largest source of international climate funds. While we are still not eligible to directly access the GCF, achieving this standard sends a clear signal to all international donors that the Trust Fund is an independent, credible entity that they can safely contribute funds to with the guarantee that they will be well managed in accordance with the highest international standards and applied for the intended purposes.
Development of a draft website;
Creation of a logo and seal for the Trust Fund; and
Draft of the Trust Fund’s First Annual Report in keeping with the requirements of the Operational Manual.
I think it is also important to highlight to the public that you all served without compensation and even gave of your personal funds to ensure that basic things could be put in place to further the operationalization of the Trust Fund.
The Virgin Islands is fortunate to have such a committed group at the helm that is not only extremely passionate about the future of the Territory in the face of climate change, but possesses varied and expert skill sets to which we can safely entrust the successful operationalization of the Trust Fund.
I’m aware that the two other former members of the Board, Dr. Katherine Smith and Ms. Shelly Bend would have very much liked to have continued serving as members of the Board but their current circumstances do not permit. As such, I’d like to also take this opportunity to personally thank them for the contributions made during their tenure and look forward to their continued support of the growth and development of the Trust Fund through other avenues.
I wish you a very successful first meeting and term as members of the Board and eagerly anticipate the Trust Fund’s first public call for proposals in the not-too-distant future.