The British Virgin Islands has embraced the Paris Agreement endorsed by one hundred and ninety five countries at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The conference was held in Paris from November 30 to December 12. Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering, who is responsible for the climate change portfolio locally, represented the Virgin Islands at COP21 on December 7 and 8. He was assisted by Benito Wheatley, Director and United Kingdom/European Union Representative of the BVI London Office.
The Virgin Islands had a continuous presence at COP21 through a display in the Caribbean Pavilion which included a looping video and a brochure showcasing the Virgin Islands Climate Change programme and partnership opportunities.
Honourable Pickering noted the outcome as a major and unexpected victory for places like the Virgin Islands in particular. Dr. Pickering said, “Scientists consider 1.5⁰C as the maximum rise that can still support life and economies on small islands which often depend on very fragile and temperature sensitive ecosystems like coral reefs. Countries went into the conference with a 2⁰C rise target, but successful negotiations saw language of 1.5⁰C introduced into the final text, something lobbied for by small islands for many years.”
The Paris Agreement aims to limit global rise in temperatures to well below 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels. In order to achieve this, the Agreement requires carbon emission reductions from all countries, developed and developing, including major emitters like China and India, another first in the life of the Convention. The deal came at a crucial time necessary to avert a future committed to the worst impacts of climate change.
Minister Pickering delivered addresses and presentations at two of the conference’s formal side events, including those hosted by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). He said was able to announce and promote the Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund established by law this March for the first time on a global stage. He added that COP21 represented a key opportunity for raising support for the Trust Fund from the international donor community and presented a plaque to the CCCCC for its support in developing the Trust Fund.
Honourable Pickering said the Trust Fund is an entity independent of Government established to raise funds to support actions by the local private sector, NGO community, academia and Government to respond to climate change across a wide range of impacted sectors including the environment, tourism, agriculture, fisheries, health, infrastructure, water, energy and insurance. He added that the Trust Fund Act will come into force on January 1, 2016 and will trigger a number of actions to operationalise the Fund including the establishment of a Board through a public nomination process.
In his address at the event hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Dr. Pickering advocated for the full inclusion of Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and Outermost Regions (ORs) into the finance, technology transfer and capacity building support mechanisms under the Convention from which they have historically been excluded.
Minister Pickering said he was able to draw attention to the multiple regional and wider partnerships that The Virgin Islands is engaged in to respond to climate change and to develop along a sustainable pathway.
The Virgin Islands Government continues to work to adapt to climate change and reduce its carbon emissions through the work of the Climate Change Committee, implementation of the 2012 Climate Change Policy and operationalisation of the Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund. More information about the Trust Fund and the Climate Change Programme can be found at http://www.bvi.gov.vg/climatechange.