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Climate change continues to be a primary focus for the Virgin Islands, a sentiment also echoed by other Overseas Territories (OTs) at the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC), according to Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew A. Fahie.
On Wednesday, 17 November, the final day of the JMC, Premier represented the Virgin Islands in discussions focused on the environmental impact that climate change is having on OTs and the valuable contribution that OTs make to the discussion, understanding and tackling of climate change.
Following the meeting, a reception to close the JMC was held at Lancaster House, which the leaders of the OTs were joined by HRH The Duke of Cambridge and young people representing the OTs.
In his speech to delegates HRH The Duke of Cambridge addressed the acute problems posed by climate change in the OTs, “You are all on the front line. Your contributions to global emissions are negligible, and yet you face the dire consequences of rising sea levels, changing weather patterns and the destruction of coral reefs. Climate change is threatening the very survival of the territories, your ways of life and the future of all your people.”
The young people were invited to the event in recognition of the vital role they play in protecting the environment and were selected on the basis of their interest and studies on the subject.
Virgin Islander Ms. Sheoma Richards, who recently graduated from Newcastle University in Geographic Information Science (GIS) represented the Virgin Islands at the reception.
Ms. Richards chose this field because she felt that it would enable her to give back to the Virgin Islands.
In being selected to represent the Virgin Islands, Ms Richards said, “Unfortunately, the Virgin Islands experienced two category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, just as I was about to leave the country to attend university in September 2017. Not only did these hurricanes cause severe physical damage to the country, but they also left residents emotionally distressed as many persons were now homeless or severely injured.”
She said for a very brief moment, these events discouraged her from attending university. However, she reminded herself of how resilient Virgin Islanders were and used this opportunity to motivate herself to complete her studies in order to gain the knowledge needed to prevent something like this from happening again.
Ms. Richards added, “GIS can be used for environmental impact analysis, flood modelling, disaster management and mitigation and many other environmental applications. Therefore, it was obvious that I needed to complete my studies for my country. Not only was I able to complete my degree, but I also consecutively remained the top student on my course each academic year.”
The Government of the Virgin Islands congratulates Ms. Richards and look forward to her continued success and return to make a positive impact in the Virgin Islands.